Oct 24, 2016

Crisis: Power, Spying, Inequality, On Trump
Sections                                                                                     crisis index

How Power Works
2. Private Eyes
3. Robert Scheer and Thomas Frank on Democrats’ Shift
    Away From Addressing Inequality

4. Donald Trump, Domestic Terrorist: The Man Who Tried
     to Kill Democracy—And Why We Had It Coming

This is a Nederlog of Monday, October 24, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges about power and the 1971 Attica uprising; item 2 is about an interesting and frightening article on spying (on everyone) on The Intercept; item 3 is about an interesting interview Robert Scheer had with Thomas Frank; and item 4 is about an article about Donald Trump, but it was disappointing (which I explain in part by reference to item 3, which wasn't).

-- Constant part, for the moment --

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: I do not know, but it may be you need to click/reload twice or more to see any changes I have made. This certainly held for me, but it is possible this was caused by the fact that I am also writing it from my computer. (It was OK on October 22, but not before.)

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: It now works again (!), but I do not know how long it will keep working. The Dutch site still is a mess.

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.


1. How Power Works

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
  • How Power Works

This starts as follows:
Heather Ann Thompson’s book “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy” is a detailed study of the inner workings of America. The blueprint for social control employed before and after the crushing of the Attica revolt is the same blueprint used today to keep tens of millions of poor people, especially poor people of color, caged or living in miniature police states. Thompson meticulously documents the innumerable ways the state oppresses the poor by discrediting their voices, turning the press into a megaphone for government propaganda and lies, stoking the negative stereotypes of black people, exalting white supremacy, ruining the lives of people who speak the truth, manipulating the courts and law enforcement, and pressuring state witnesses to lie to obstruct justice. Her book elucidates not only the past but also the present, which, she concedes, is worse.
In fact, this article is a review of "Blood in the Water" and indeed also an illustration of how power works, mostly by reference to the events in Attica, now 45 years ago.

And while I have not read the book, I think that it is a good approach to see how power works.

Here is one of the theses of the book:

“America by the early twenty-first century had, in disturbing ways, come to resemble America in the late nineteenth century,” Thompson writes near the end of her book. “In 1800 the three-fifths clause gave white voters political power from a black population that was itself barred from voting, and after 2000 prison gerrymandering was doing exactly the same thing in numerous states across the country. After 1865, African American desires for equality and civil rights in the South following the American Civil War led whites to criminalize African American communities in new ways and then sent record numbers of blacks to prison in that region. Similarly, a dramatic spike in black incarceration followed the civil rights movement—a movement that epitomized Attica. From 1965 onward, black communities were increasingly criminalized, and by 2005, African Americans constituted 40 percent of the U.S. prison population while remaining less than 13 percent of its overall population."
I agree with that (except that I think it is a mistake to say that excluding blacks from the vote because they are blacks is "exactly the same thing" as gerrymandering (<-Wikipedia): it is not "exactly" the same thing).

Here is something about the propaganda and the violence that were unleashed after the Attica revolt had been put down (and there is considerably more in the article):

The assault force, which had done all the killings that day, immediately began to hide evidence of its crimes. State officials told the press outside the prison that seven or eight of the hostages had died when the prisoners slit their throats. They claimed that the genitals of one of the guards were cut off and stuffed in his mouth. These reports were untrue, but they dominated the news coverage.

Meanwhile, inside the retaken institution, many prisoners were suffering from gunshot wounds that would not be treated for days. Some were stripped and made to run gantlets in which they were beaten by guards with ax handles, baseball bats and rifle butts. Those singled out as the leaders of the rebellion were marked with Xs on their backs, forced to crawl through mud, tortured and in few cases, it appears, executed.

There also were some exceptional persons who worked for the government:

A few within the governmental system exhibited rare moral courage. Among them were Dr. John Edland of the Monroe County medical examiner’s office, who refused to falsify autopsy reports and told the public that the hostages had been killed by state gunfire; Attica guard Michael Smith, who defied his own fraternity to speak the truth about state abuse; and government attorney Malcolm Bell, who exposed the state cover-up of the killings by the state troopers, sheriff’s deputies and prison guards. However, most who knew the truth remained silent.

In fact, this seems a human characteristic (bolding added): "most who knew the truth remained silent". There are many reasons for this, but four important ones are these: Groupthinking, conformism, egoism and stupidity. [2]

Here is one brief bit about the aftermath of the Attica uprising:

Though immediately after the Attica uprising there were minor reforms, these improvements were soon rolled back. Conditions in prisons today are worse than those that led to the 1971 revolt. Control of prison populations is more brutal, more sophisticated and more inhumane. It is doubtful that the press, unlike at Attica in 1971, would ever be allowed inside a prison during an uprising to air the voices of the prisoners.

Yes, indeed. Also, imprisonments (for the same crimes) are much longer than they were. And there is this on one of the most responsible figures for the enormous increase in prison populations: Bill Clinton:

Much of the worst damage was done during the Clinton administration. President Bill Clinton signed into law, with Republican support, the draconian 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. It provided $9.7 billion to build more prisons. By 1995 the prison population exceeded 1 million. It would soon double.

There is considerably more in the article, which is recommended. Also, for more on Bill Clinton see item 3.

2. Private Eyes

The second item is by Ryan Gallagher and Nicky Hager on The Intercept:
  • Private Eyes

This starts as follows:

It was a powerful piece of technology created for an important customer. The Medusa system, named after the mythical Greek monster with snakes instead of hair, had one main purpose: to vacuum up vast quantities of internet data at an astonishing speed.

The technology was designed by Endace, a little-known New Zealand company. And the important customer was the British electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

Incidentally, Medusa's face (<- Wikipedia) also was supposed to have the ability to turn anyone to stone who looked upon it. In other words, it was extremely powerful, and that is also what its makers promise its buyers.

In fact, Endace has this motto:

Endace says it manufactures technology that allows its clients to “monitor, intercept and capture 100% of traffic on networks.” The Auckland-based company’s motto is “power to see all” and its logo is an eye.

What Medusa's makers do not publicly say is that their technology promises all "power to see all" to the few tens that form governments everywhere, who then give all these powers to their professional and secret spies - and from that time on, a few thousands in any country that spies on computer users and cellphone users (which seems to be every country) know very much more about everyone than anyone ever did.

One Endace brochure explained how the company’s technology could help clients “monitor all network traffic inexpensively.” It noted that telecommunications networks carry many types of information: Skype calls, videos, emails, and instant message chats. “These networks provide rich intelligence for law enforcement,” the brochure stated, “IF they can be accessed securely and with high precision.”

And Medusa - all power to the very few - does promise this kind of access - and "forgets" to say that "law enforcement" = the enforcement of the rules of the government, whatever the goverment is for or against, while it also "forgets" to say that knowing all gives the very few who have access to the databases that contain all the information on anyone incredible powers absolutely no one ever had, including the capacities to abuse all these powers in completely secret ways.

Here are some data on the amounts of spying-on-anyone (with a computer connected to the internet) that the GCHQ (and only the GCHQ, in the following bit) does:

Many major international undersea data cables cross British territory, and according to top-secret documents from Snowden, as much as 25 percent of all the world’s internet traffic flows through the U.K. The country’s spies have worked to exploit this, with GCHQ tapping into as many of the cables as it can, sifting through huge volumes of emails, instant messages, social media interactions, and web browsing records as they are being transmitted across the internet.

As of 2009, GCHQ’s surveillance of undersea cables was well underway. The agency was measuring the amount of traffic it monitored in tens of gigabits per second (10Gs) — the equivalent in data of about 1 million average-sized emails every minute. The electronic eavesdropping agency was tapping into 87 different 10Gs capacity cables and funneling the collected data into its processing systems for analysis.

That is: The GCHQ can access 25 percent of the world's internet traffic; in 2009 (!!!) it tapped these at the rate of 87 million average-sized emails per minute, which means that in 2009 the GCHQ stole - for that is what they do [3] - every day 1440*87 million = 125.280 million emails each 24 hours, which means that in 2009 it stole 365*125.280 million = 45.727.200 * 1 million emails per year. This works out as 4.57272×10¹³ emails per year. (In 2009, though I hasten to add this is the maximum the GCHQ got in that year.)

Seven years later, their capacities will - at the very least - have doubled or  tripled or more.

Here is the last bit of information I'll give about Endace, the U.S., Europe, New Zealand other countries:

All telcos and internet companies in the U.S., Europe, New Zealand, and a number of other countries are required by law to have “intercept capable” equipment on their networks. When police or spy agencies want private data about a customer (with or without a warrant, depending on the country), it can be extracted easily.

So this happened to your privacy of communication:

The very few who had the governmental powers since 2000 have decided that (i) your privacy is worth exactly nought (and so are you, in actual fact), and they have established that "by law" [4]; that (ii) their very few spies and menials have "the right" to spy on absolute everyone in absolutely everything he or she does, for he or she may be "a terrorist".

As for me: I still think that what I thought and said in 2005 (for readers of Dutch: here) may very well be quite correct: "Terrorism" was and is the excuse of the very few to get all the powers they can get, which are far greater than any power any man ever had.

You may trust the very few; I am glad I have no children, for there are two things I am quite sure of in the society in which I live: Whatever can be abused, will be abused, and those in power tend to be the least worthy and are always the most dangerous.

And this is a recommended article.

3. Robert Scheer and Thomas Frank on Democrats’ Shift Away From Addressing Inequality

The third item is by Robert Scheer (<- Wikipedia), who interviewed Thomas Frank (<- Wikipedia):
  • Robert Scheer and Thomas Frank on Democrats’ Shift Away From Addressing Inequality
In fact, the present interview was first published on March 18, 2016. It's now repeated, and a considerable part of the conversation was about the following phenomenon, that I quote from the introduction to the article:
When Scheer suggests that Bill and Hillary Clinton may not represent a lesser evil—when compared to Republicans—but merely a “different kind of evil,” Frank responds: “You could make the argument that Bill Clinton did things in the 1990s that no Republican would have been capable of doing. ... Reagan couldn’t push bank deregulation as far as Clinton did. Clinton did things that Reagan would never have dared to do: welfare reform ... [and] NAFTA. George Bush couldn’t get NAFTA passed. ... So you start to think that the game that the Clintons play with us, where we vote for them because we have nowhere else to go. ... There’s a sort of political economics of how we the voters are manipulated in this situation, and they’re very, very good at playing that game. And so people like you and me who are on the left are captured, basically. We don’t have anywhere else to go. And they play us in a certain way.”
Yes, indeed.

And while I am not into assigning kinds or degrees of evil, I agree that Bill Clinton was a mock progressive, and not only because he signed welfare reform (which was an incredible decline in the incomes of the poorest) and NAFTA (which was essentially - like TTP, TTIP, TISA and CETA - a neofascistic attempt [5] to make the whole Western world nothing better than Texas, and with as little regulation and protection of the many poor, while giving all power to the rich CEOs after taking them from parliaments, judiciaries, governments and democrats everywhere), but he also insisted that socialism was impossible, that he was for capitalism, and that all social democracy that went beyond capitalism was mistaken (and evil). And this last bit again was mimicked by Tony Blair, Wim Kok and other rich traitors of the poor and the non-rich (for all ended up rich).

I think that is all true, and the main reasons I see for these events are (1) there are only two dominant political parties in the USA, and by now they are very similar, especially because (2) nearly all the leading American politicians are corrupted, lobbied, and bought by the richest, and therefore (3) nearly all politics in the USA, whether from the Democrats or the Republicans is pro rich and "neoliberal" [6].

Here is more from the interview:

RS: And a lot of what went wrong, in your eyes, with the Democratic Party, really is Clintonism. And—

TF: Yeah. Well, he’s the pivotal, he’s the pivotal figure in all of this, in the sort of great transition of the Democratic Party. It’s a bigger story than one man, though, of course; it’s a bigger story than even his little clique of friends, you know, the Democratic Leadership Council. It’s a story that goes way back to the early 1970s. But let me just say in broad outline, what I’m talking about here in the book is this problem of inequality that I think is the biggest problem we face as a society. And in fact, I think the word inequality is a euphemism for problems that are much bigger than that—you know, for the crumbling communities—like, they were debating in Flint, Michigan, you know, there is no better evidence for what inequality looks like than a place like Flint, Michigan, you know. De-industrialization, the withering of the middle class—all of these things happening at the same time. And you know, we call it inequality; it is the one great problem that we have.
I agree that Bill Clinton is a pivotal figure; I agree that there also is "a bigger story" - considerably bigger, also - than Clinton and his friends and associates; and I also agree that the fundamental problem is inequality.

Clinton is pivotal because it was during his presidency that major changes were made; there is a much bigger story, because he could not have made the changes he made without the support of many rich friends and associates, who also wanted these changes very much (which were all pro rich, and anti non-rich); and indeed the fundamental problem is inequality, and that problem simply cannot be fundamentally changed under capitalism. [7]

First, here is more on Clinton and the Democratic Party:

So what I looked at is, why has the Democratic Party—why haven’t they been more aggressive on the subject of inequality? Why do they do things like, you know, the Clintons’ welfare reform? By the way, he did that in 1996; this is simultaneous with the series of bank deregulations that he’s doing. So he’s cracking down on poor people—you know, they passed the big omnibus crime law in 1994—cracking down on the poor, and at the same time letting Wall Street do whatever it wanted. You know, giving them unprecedented freedom; the law is not going to be enforced on these people anymore. These are Democrats that did this, it’s not Republicans. And they did it wholeheartedly.
Hm. It was Bill Clinton who made these changes (all of them pro rich and anti non-rich), together with his government. Also, while I can - to a considerable extent, or so I think - explain Bill Clinton's motives, I think it is a mistake to presume that "the Democrats" can be rationally explained.

I will come to the Democrats after the next quotation. Here is my explanation of Bill Clinton's acts: He started out as a very intelligent but very poor guy; what he wanted was to get rich in a major way; and he found he could get rich in a major way, as president of the USA, by doing what the rich, and especially, in his case, the bankers, wanted him to do; he did what the rich wanted him to do; and from 2000 onwards he got $120 million dollars from the the bank managers for some speeches.

And I think that is an adequate explanation, although I am quite willing to grant more is involved. But at the bottom there simply is the poor guy who became president, and who saw how he could get quite rich quite fast, and who succeeded in doing so.

Now about the Democrats:
So the question is, why do they do things like that? And so you know, it’s a historical mystery. So I went back, and the answer that I finally came up with is, because, is that the Democratic Party itself has changed. And in particular, what’s changed about them is the social class that they answer to, that they respect, that they come from OK? And this is—the social class—you know, we used to identify Democrats with workers, with organized labor, with the sons of toil, blue collar— whatever you want to call it, right? But that changed, and beginning in the 1970s, Democrats began to identify themselves with the professional class.
No, I don't think you can explain the ideas, the values and the behavior of many thousands or tenthousands by a single cause, and I also do not think that a single cause of a change or orientation makes much sense:

Previous Democrats, while not always from "the professional class", mostly were from that class, but also were far more serious about maintaining some sort of an approximate equality (under capitalism) than Clinton and his team(s). This is also why they were for far more progressive taxes than Clinton etc. were - who were against them (it seems to me) fundamentally because they were bought by the rich.

There is also this, which I reproduce because it is quite important:

TF: By the way, there were more than just those two. I mean, the Clinton administration was, it was a parade of deregulation. There were many different bank deregulations. And the repeal of Glass-Steagall took years; it wasn’t just this one act at the end, it went on and on and on, first under Reagan and then under Clinton. But it was, they repealed it by bits and pieces in slow motion.
Yes, indeed. And the deregulations were made simply because they made the bankers a whole lot richer, who also could pay for being made a whole lot richer. (No doubt more is involved, but this - the personal desire to become a big multi-millionaire in a few years - is quite adequate, as a human motive.)

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

TF: I think that’s, I think—you could make the argument that Bill Clinton did things in the 1990s that no Republican would have been capable of doing. As you yourself said, Reagan couldn’t push the—well, maybe it was me that said—Reagan couldn’t push bank deregulation as far as Clinton did; Clinton pushed it, did things that Reagan would never have dared to do. Welfare reform, all the stuff with the deregulation—he just went so much farther. NAFTA? George Bush couldn’t get NAFTA passed, lest we forget; that took Bill Clinton to do it.
Yes, indeed. And Clinton got $120 million dollars from the bankers; he can now give his daughter a house of $10 million and he did so; etc. etc. And while he was extremely corrupt, he also was very charming and quite clever.

And this is a recommended article.

Donald Trump, Domestic Terrorist: The Man Who Tried to Kill Democracy—And Why We Had It Coming

The fourth and last item is by Andrew O'Hehir on AlterNet:

  • Donald Trump, Domestic Terrorist: The Man Who Tried to Kill Democracy—And Why We Had It Coming

This starts as follows:

A domestic terrorist is trying to destroy America. You can’t say we didn’t have it coming. Our arrogance and grandiosity and paranoia, and even our visionary sense of our own greatness, have brought us right to the precipice. Can America be saved from this orange-hued assassin, and from the nihilistic movement he represents, which is far more dangerous than the specter of “radical Islamic terrorism”? I don’t know — the poison has spread more widely, and altered our perception of reality more profoundly, than most of us are willing to recognize.

I can tell you one thing for sure: Donald Trump, the terrorist to whom I refer, is not the real problem. And defeating him at the ballot box, although preferable to the alternative, is not in any sense the solution.
Hm. I dislike Donald Trump a lot, but I doubt it helps to describe him - in a serious article - as an "orange-hued assassin" or as a "domestic terrorist". For one thing, I do not know Trump murdered anyone, so far (he will if he gets to be president, at least indirectly, but he isn't yet) and I don't think he is a terrorist (yet), if a terrorist is defined as someone who tries to get his way in politics or religion by violence and murder, directed especially at civilians.

And I am saying this not because I am against offensive terms; I am saying this because I like clear language and dislike propaganda.

O'Hehir might have said instead that Trump is a bad man and that defeating him as president is not enough, with which I agree, but he said or suggested rather a lot more, and I think that simply wasn't wise and doesn't help.

Then there is this:
I’m not arguing that American liberals are odious hypocrites and the United States is a uniquely evil imperialist power, and now we are having our crimes visited upon us in the person of Donald Trump. Or at least not exactly. (That kind of Chomskyite hyperbole, I would say, is a symptom of America’s grandiose obsession with itself more than a diagnosis.) My point is more that American politics have been in a state of slow decay for many decades and everyone knows it, even if the establishment caste of both parties has studiously pretended not to notice.
I am sorry, but this imputation of "Chomskyite hyperbole" seems baloney to me. I agree that "American politics have been in a state of slow decay for many decades", but so does Chomsky, I think, while saying that "everyone knows" this is simply false.

The following is mostly true, I think:
Trump is without doubt the most spectacularly ignorant and unqualified person ever to emerge as a major presidential candidate, and now is widely understood to be an abusive pig as well. Yet Hillary Clinton has been unable to shake him, largely because she represents that failed, decaying and paralytic political system I have just described and he doesn’t.
But I should add that it seems to me that "Hillary Clinton has been unable to shake" Trump not so much "because she represents that failed, decaying and paralytic political system" but (much more concretely) because she is not trusted, neither personally not politically.

Here is the last quote that I will give from this article:
Calling Donald Trump a domestic terrorist isn’t even a metaphor. A terrorist seeks to provoke a society’s worst impulses and expose its hidden weaknesses, and Trump’s terrorist assault on our so-called democracy has done that brilliantly. He’s like a funhouse-mirror reflection of America’s overweening pride and vanity, deadly sins for which we are now being punished. He is the ugliest possible American caricature, made flesh. We told the world we were a free-enterprise meritocracy where talent rose to the top, and that guy became rich and famous. We told the world we were the exemplar of democracy, a light to all the nations, and that guy almost became president.
No. A "terrorist" is not at all adequately described as someone who "seeks to provoke a society’s worst impulses and expose its hidden weaknesses".

I could say more, but I only point at the previous item: That contributed something to my understanding, while the present article added nothing to my understanding, and seems to mostly indulge the writers' end of raving.

[1] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[2] You may disagree, but this is a very fundamental problem, that also struck my direct family a lot stronger than most people: Both of my parents were quite intelligent (IQs over 135) but not well-educated, and were communists for 45 years; my grandfather was a communist; my mother's parents were anarchists, and both my father and his father went into the resistance in WW II and ended up in concentration camps, that my grandfather did not survive, whereas I, who was not a Marxist since I was 20, have been very much discriminated in the University of Amsterdam (which was quasi-"marxist" when I studied) where I have been called "a (dirty) fascist" many times, and "a terrorist" several times, because I believed in truth and science, and also did not believe my teachers of philosophy were competent, in which I was wholly correct. But when I said so, in public, I was denied the right to take my (excellent) M.A. in philosophy in the University of Amsterdam. (And that's why I ended up with an - excellent - M.A. in psychology.)

[3] The GCHQ (like the NSA, and like many other secret services) steal and stole billions of e-mails because of considerations like the American Fourth Amendment (I quote):
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Similar principles were in most other laws of most other states. Since (at least) 99,9999999% of all mails that are being stolen in secret in by the secret services (still mostly in secret, now for 15 years) are not by or to terrorists, the formal reason may have been "terrorism", but the real reason was and is the enormous - the stupendous - increase in power that the very few who govern have achieved by these thefts of all privacy and all mails (and a whole lot more) from everyone.

[4] I write "by law" (between quotes) to indicate that I reject these "laws": It was and is impertinent theft, that served to give all powers to the very few who govern.

[5] By neofascism I mean this system:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or state b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
In case you object to the term "(neo)fascism", use any other term (say: "Our Very Fine And Great Democracy") as long as you define it as above.

[6] When I write "neoliberal" I like to remark that (1) this is a propaganda term (there is nothing liberal about neoliberalism, for one thing) and (2) in so far as I understood the term, it seems equivalent with what I call "neofascism", for which see [5].

And yes, I do know that neofascists do not like to be called neofascists.

[7] In fact, I have a very simple solution for the problem of inequality (and see 21.ix.2015), and the decision is ethical, as is indeed the design of any society, though there also enter other things: 
Do not admit incomes that are more than 20 times as high as the lowest income, while taking care that the lowest income is adequate to lead a decent life.
In case of present-day Europe and the USA, this means that everyone may earn between 15.000 euros to 300.000 euros (or dollars) a year, which means that 90 to 99% of the people are covered: None of them earn more than 300.000 euros a year.

It also means that being really rich is simply forbidden, but then that is open to less than 1% or 1 promille anyway, while enormous riches bring enormous powers to the very few who have the enormous riches. (So these are also out.)

I am for this system, but I am aware that the noble millionaire Bill Clinton declared it impossible, while all the very rich hate this system from the bottom of their hearts.

It does seem fair to me, and indeed that is the one thing I want to change: Nobody can earn more than 20 times as much as anybody.

(I agree more is necessary, but the above is the essence. And as I said: 90 to 99% of everyone will not loose anything, while they gain a lot.)

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