April 28, 2016

Crisis: Email Privacy (?), Luxembourg, Trump's Qualities, Trump's Mind, Snowden
Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Email Privacy Bill Passes House Unanimously
2. Luxembourg works for the rich fascists
3. How Trump Became the GOP's "Presumptive Nominee"
     with Hate-Fueled Rhetoric & Attacks on Immigrants

Maybe Donald Trump Has Really Lost His Mind: What If
     the GOP Frontrunner Isn't Crazy, but Simply Not Well?

5. Snowden Revelations Led to 'Chilling Effect' on Pursuit
     of Knowledge: Study

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, April 28, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the - unanimous! - passage of a bill in the American House that is supposed to guard the privacy of e-mails; item 2 is about Luxembourg, that specializes in and got rich by tax frauds (and the title is mine); item 3 is about Trump's rhetoric; item 4 is by someone who quite rightly notices that, for an intelligent and knowledge- able audience, Trump speeches sound pretty insane, and who wonders this may be due to his having Alzheimers (I don't know); and item 5 is about a consequence of Snowden's Revelations, that show many took then immediately in the sense I took them, and feared for their future health or chances, for there was a drop in 20% in searches for terms related to Snowden's revelations after these became known.

1. Email Privacy Bill Passes House Unanimously

The first item is
by Jenna McLaughlin on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

The House voted unanimously, 419-0, on Wednesday to bring the law that protects the privacy of Americans’ e-mails into the 21st century.

The Email Privacy Act would reform the 1986 Email Communications Privacy Act by requiring all federal agencies (with few exceptions) to get a warrant before searching old digital communications stored in the cloud by companies like Google and Facebook.

“In 1986, the assumption was that if you left your email on a server it was abandoned, like trash on a street corner,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., one of the bill’s authors, during a GOP press conference Wednesday morning. He said it “restores the Fourth Amendment, and treats email with the same protections as paper mail.”

Hm. That is: I like this news, but I can't quite trust it. Here are a few problems:

I would like to see a specification of "
all federal agencies (with few exceptions)": Which agencies are excepted? Might these not be the NSA and other secret services, and the FBI and the CIA? I don't know, but with no vote against, while quite a few members of the House are for spying on all Americans, to the best of my knowledge, I would have liked a bit more information.

And I get a bit queasy when evidence is given that relates to the state of affair in 1986, which was a year before I got a computer, and I was one of the first tenthousands or so in Holland to do so, and the machines I got were slow and small (compared to the ones I use now). Also, I did not get an internet connection until 1996, and I was a frontrunner in that as well, though there were then several hundred thousands with internet in Holland.

But to appeal to an "assumption" (which sounds like utter bullshit to me, but that is another question) that may have been made 30 years ago is just baloney.

And when the same person also is quoted as stating that Fourth Amendment is "restored" (which has been part of the Constitution since the 18th Century, and still is) I think I am being frauded, though I do not yet know how.

Besides, it is also true that, while the bill may prevent the NSA to read the mails of Americans, it cannot prevent the GCHQ reading the American mails, while the NSA reads the British mails, after which they exchange - as seems to have been happening a lot.

So I do need to know more before I become enthusiastic.

2. Luxembourg works for the rich fascists

The second item is b
y Jon Schwarz on The Intercept (and the title is mine, because the original title is too long to fit on two lines: I am sorry):
This starts as follows:

LUXEMBOURG IS TRYING to throw two French whistleblowers and a journalist in prison for their role in the “LuxLeaks” exposé that revealed the tiny country’s outsized role in enabling corporate tax avoidance.

The trial of Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, two former employees of the international accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and journalist Edouard Perrin began Tuesday.

Deltour and Halet were charged in connection with theft of PwC documents. Perrin is charged as an accomplice for steering Halet toward documents that he considered of particular interest.

Perrin, a reporter with Premières Lignes Television in Paris, produced the first LuxLeaks reporting. PwC documents were later obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and, together with records from other accounting giants, formed the basis for the 2014 “LuxLeaks” series involving over 80 journalists across the world.

I say. I didn't know about this, though I did know a considerable amount about Luxembourg in the late 1960ies, when I worked for a bank, and was supposed to try to find out about tax havens, real owners of banks etc. - which usually (nearly always) led to some Luxembourg P.O.B., often with a quaint name, that was quite different from the banking firms or oil firms they owned and shielded.

That is long ago, I willingly grant, but I should add that Luxembourg's shady operations have much increased since the late Sixties, to the best of my knowledge (and see below).

There is this on behalf of the European Federation of Journalists and of Reporters Without Borders:
The European Federation of Journalists has demanded that Luxembourg drop the charges against Perrin. EFJ general secretary Ricardo Gutierrez called Perrin’s prosecution “shameful,” saying that Luxembourg “is going after a journalist who has acted entirely in the public interest.” Reporters Without Borders criticized Luxembourg for being “more concerned about deterring investigative journalism than protecting the public’s right to information.”
Yes indeed, and especially the last bit.

Here is why Luxembourg (a country with less than 563,000 inhabitants, that fits inside a square of 10 * 20 kilometers) does contribute so much to those I call rich fascists (not the writer of this article):

The LuxLeaks series exposed Luxembourg as a “magical fairyland” for multinational corporations trying to avoid taxes, and now other countries are trying to shut it down

The government of Luxembourg made sweetheart deals with over 340 multinational corporations that enabled the companies to claim much of their profits had been generated by Luxembourg subsidiaries, which were then taxed at rates as low as 1 percent.

Among the well-known beneficiaries of Luxembourg’s special arrangements were Pepsi, FedEx, IKEA, AIG, Walt Disney, the Carlyle Group, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Procter & Gamble and, via its one-time ownership of Skype, eBay.
First, the reason Luxembourg shields these extremely rich multi-national corporations financially may be illustrated with this quote from the Wikipedia on Luxembourg (quoted minus note numbers):
In March 2010, the Sunday Telegraph reported that most of Kim Jong-Il's $4 billion in secret accounts is in Luxembourg banks. also benefits from Luxembourg tax loopholes by channeling substantial UK revenues as reported by The Guardian in April 2012. Luxembourg ranked third on the Tax Justice Network's 2011 Financial Secrecy Index of the world's major tax havens, scoring only slightly behind the Cayman Islands. In 2013, Luxembourg is ranked as the 2nd safest tax haven in the world, behind Switzerland.
More systematically: Luxembourg offers to be formal seats for the multi- national corporations mentioned above (Pepsi etc. etc.) for a few procents of tax a year, which brings it millions by denying many more millions to the governments of the countries these multi-national corporations are really based in (often but not necessarily the USA).

And second, why I call these companies and/or their CEOs and other leaders "rich fascists": Because they are extremely rich, extremely greedy, extremely dishonest and very sleazy thiefs, and are in Luxembourg only to increase their anyway vast profits even more, namely by abusing the willingness of the Luxembourgians to help them defraud the countries they are really seated in.

I call them "fascists" in part because I think quite a few of them are; I do so mostly in Orwell's sense i.e. I hate and despise such sick and greedy behavior; and I do so also in part because I have been called "a fascist" for twelve years in the University of Amsterdam, while I was not at all, and because I was a strong proponent of truth and science; because my parents and grandparents were among the strongest and most active anti-fascists in Holland, for which reason my father also was knighted; and because absolutely no one in the University of Amsterdam cared one bit that I was thus called.

3. How Trump Became the GOP's "Presumptive Nominee" with Hate-Fueled Rhetoric & Attacks on Immigrants

The third item is
by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This is from the introduction:
We begin a roundtable discussion with four guests in New Mexico talking about Trump’s rise to become, as he now refers to himself, "the presumptive nominee."
This also is the start of a fairly extensive discussion with four persons which I do not even attempt to summarize. I just took two quotations from two of the four persons (who said a lot more, which you can all read by clicking the above dotted link) and one quote from Donald Trump, because I have something to say on each.

First, here is Gary Johnson (who is a Libertarian):
GARY JOHNSON: Well, I just think he is going to get the nomination. I think he’s going to get the nomination, and I think he’s the most polarizing figure among Republicans. I think he alienates over half of Republicans. And I know you’re asking me for my thoughts on Trump, but I think Hillary really is in the same category, that she is very polarizing and that, arguably, we have the two most polarizing figures in American politics today, they’re going to be the nominees. And when 50 percent of Americans right now are saying that they’re independent, well, at the end of the day, maybe the two of them represent 30 percent of the electorate.
I think that is fair, although I would like to see evidence for his thesis that "50 percent of Americans right now are saying that they’re independent". Also, my own guess is that Clinton + Trump represent (somehow) at least 50 percent of the electorate right now, and that this will be higher in the presidential elections.

But Johnson is quite right in saying that both Trump and Clinton are polarizing, and that both are not popular with large groups of voters.

Next, a quote from Donald Trump on David Duke (<- Wikipedia) who is a former head of the Ku Klux Klan, and who is a strong supporter of Donald Trump, also with some criticism of Trump on Israel. Here is first something on Duke (from the Wikipedia on him):
In February 2016, Duke urged his listeners to vote Trump saying that voting for anyone besides Donald Trump “is really treason to your heritage.”
And here is Donald Trump, who knew very well who David Duke was in 2000 (again see the Wikipedia on Duke), but who is now quoted as saying this:
DONALD TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know—did he endorse me, or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so, when you’re asking me a question, that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.
First, Trump knows what the Ku Klux Klan is, and he knew very well who Duke was in 2000, but it is (somewhat remotely) possible that he forgot everything he knew, which possibility is discussed in item 5, to which I refer.

Second, my reason to quote this is not because it mentions David Duke, but because is illustrates Trump's public speaking style very well:

It consists of random associations (often false), personal attacks and denunciations, and it is made up of repetition after repetition after repetition, not only here, but in every public speech I saw by Trump (which are also very bad speeches, at least for a somewhat intelligent audience, which indeed he has not), that also suffer from very bad grammar and syntax.

In the above quoted short bit he says seven times that he knows nothing about David Duke and nothing about white supremacists. (He did know about both in 2000, but for that I refer you again to item 5.)

What I want to say here is that if Trump's public speaking style is like his personal speaking style (which I don't know), he is - in my opinion, as a psychologist - a real moron who may have Alzheimers: Nobody who is fit to
be president of the United States speaks as if he believes that he has to repeat
everything at least three times. (And as I said, publicly he does so nearly always in the speeches I have tried to see, and on nearly everything I saw.)

Finally, here is Jerry Ortiz y Pino:

SEN. JERRY ORTIZ Y PINO: (..) When the Republicans debate, because Trump is so polarizing, they talk about each other’s wives. They talk about, you know, just insults, name calling. I really fear for this country during a presidential election in which Trump is the nominee on one side, and I think our chance to explore issues will pretty much be over when the Democratic convention ends. After that, it’ll just be who can paint the other opponent as the nastiest person possible. And if that’s the deterioration of our political debate, there’s no civil discourse going on with that kind of a candidate. So, I’m really hesitant to say that, you know, maybe he’ll mature, maybe he’ll get better, maybe—I mean, I think he knows exactly why he is popular: because he isn’t mature, because he doesn’t get better. He just says outrageous things and uses it.
Yes, indeed - and they don't just talk about each other's wives but also about the sizes of their cocks, in an indirect fashion, but that is what they did. And besides, to speak of a man of 69 as if "maybe he’ll mature" is just stupid: If his character is as he displays it in public, he will not mature (and probably will be worse if he is elected as president, for that will strongly increase his grandiose narcissism).

There is more on the subject of Trump's sanity in item 4, and there also is  considerably more text in this item on Democracy Now!

4. Maybe Donald Trump Has Really Lost His Mind: What If the GOP Frontrunner Isn't Crazy, but Simply Not Well?

The fourth item is by Sophia A. McClennen on AlterNet and originally on Salon:

This is an interesting piece that asks a question - How sane is Donald Trump? - that I have asked myself repeatedly since I have seen videos from his speeches.

To start with, here is Sophia McClennen (immediately after quoting an astounding bit of utter nonsense from Trump, that also totally avoided answering the question he was posed, and that contained a lot of bad grammar):
We have become so accustomed to these sorts of ramblings that we don’t really register them as anything more than standard nonsensical Trump-speak—a pattern of speech we have seen crop up across the GOP in recent years, most notably in Palin’s gibberish.  But I urge you to re-read the exchange above and register the range of nonsense—the lack of basic grammar, the odd syntax, the abrupt shift in topic, the disconnect from reality, the paranoia, and the seeming inability to even grasp the question.
I will not quote the Trump quotation (check it out for yourself if you wish by clicking on the last dotted link) but Sophia McClennen is quite correct about
"the range of nonsense—the lack of basic grammar, the odd syntax, the abrupt shift in topic, the disconnect from reality, the paranoia, and the seeming inability to even grasp the question"
This is also as I found Trump's speeches to be when I checked - and I admit I am not very patient with obvious idiocies. We shall arrive at a guess about  Trump's mental gifts below.

But this also poses another question, which is not dealt with by Sophia McClennen, and which is quite serious:

What does Trump's present popularity, in spite or because of the lack of basic grammar, the odd syntax, the abrupt shifts in topic, the paranoia and the apparent inability to grasp or to rationally answer many questions in his speeches, teach us about his American supporters?

Nothing good, for he makes idiotic speeches full of false accusations and in very bad grammar, but nevertheless he is hugely popular, which means that most of those he convinced are quite stupid, quite uneducated, and very ignorant.

And that is a very basic problem, if only because it is
possible that a person like Trump can win the presidential elections, which is going to be a disaster if it happens. [1]

Back to Donald Trump and the qualities of his mind (no doubt the greatest in history if he were asked, or one of the greatest if he remembers Shakespeare and Newton):

As we scratch our heads and wonder how someone who says and does such things can still be a frontrunner, I want to throw out a concern. What if Trump isn’t “crazy” but is actually not well instead? To put it differently: what if his campaign isn’t a sign of a savvy politician channeling Tea Party political rhetoric and reality TV sound bites? What if it’s an example of someone who doesn’t have full command of his faculties?
Yes, indeed - and I am a psychologist, and my judgement of Trump is that he is not sane. I am rather sure he is a grandiose narcissist, but I also think that is more a quality of his behavior than an explanation of his mental abilities.

I cannot explain his mental abilities because I don't know enough about them (which also includes not knowing the difference between Trump's public personality and his private one) but I do know that (1) he knows remarkably little about the things a president ought to know a lot about, and (2) he is definitely not intellectually bright.

In precisely what sense he is not sane I also cannot say, but judging by his crazy speeches (also whether or not he means what he says) he may be sane enough to be a billionaire but not to be President of the United States:

You need to know a lot more than Trump does; you need to have far better self-control; you need to be far more polite; and you need to be a far more rational person (at least) than Trump is, to start to be able to function tolerably as president.

Finally, here is a bit of possible explanation for Trump's mental failings:
Last October, Death and Taxes ran a piece wondering if Trump had dementia. They pointed to the fact that Trump’s father, Fred, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years prior to his death. They also highlighted Trump’s aggressive late-night tweets, his childish behavior, his name-calling and mood swings. They explained that it would be really easy for Trump take some tests and prove that he is mentally fit. “Because if Trump can prove he’s not suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder that has left him with a damaged mind devoid of all shame or self-awareness, he might just be an asshole.”
Yes, indeed. But I do not know whether Alzheimer might explain everything or indeed most things that are mentioned in the quotation, although I am rather familiar with one case of Alzheimer's disease:

My mother did get Alzheimer in her late sixties, which was serious enough [2]  by the time she was 73 to have her rapidly taken in an old people's home because she simply could not take proper care of herself anymore - but I do not know whether Trump has the same disease (and in her late sixties my mother was also plagued by a lot of tiredness, which doesn't seem to bother Trump).

In any case, this is an interesting and recommended article.

5. Snowden Revelations Led to 'Chilling Effect' on Pursuit of Knowledge: Study

The fifth and last item for today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden's 2013 mass surveillance revelations caused a drop in website browsing, particularly in internet searches for terms associated with extremism, an example of the most direct evidence yet that the spying operations exposed in the leak had a "chilling effect" on the lawful pursuit of information, an impending report has found.

The paper, due to be published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, argues that the curtailing of browsing for words like "al-Qaeda," "jihad," "Iraq," and "nuclear enrichment" shows that people have become scared to learn about "important policy matters" due to the fear of government surveillance.

Researchers found "compelling evidence for chilling effects associated with online surveillance," as well as "important insights about how we should understand such chilling effects and their scope, including how they interact with other dramatic or significant events (like war and conflict) and their broader implications for privacy, U.S. constitutional litigation, and the health of democratic society," the paper states.

I say, for I did not know, and this is both rather revealing and quite frightening. Here is some more detail about what was found:
Lead author Jonathan Penney, a PhD candidate at Oxford, analyzed Wikipedia traffic in the months before and after Snowden's 2013 revelations. He found a 20 percent drop in page views of Wikipedia articles on terrorism, particularly those that mentioned car bombs, the Taliban, or al-Qaeda.
That is a considerable difference. The article ends as follows:

In March 2015, the ACLU also filed a lawsuit against the NSA and the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of Wikipedia's parent organization and other groups, which argues that mass surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches.

"By tapping the backbone of the Internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy," Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said at the time. "Wikipedia is founded on the freedoms of expression, inquiry, and information. By violating our users' privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is a central to people's ability to create and understand knowledge."

Quite so. And this is a recommended article.
[1] That is also: I agree with Noam Chomsky, who said the same.

[2] This happened because she did take a test
, which showed she remembered extremely little, which also included not knowing anymore who my younger brother is (who did then already live ten years outside Holland, but even so: it was quite amazing she did not know who he is), whereas up to her middle sixties she had been intellectually quite bright and had a fine memory. From then on it got worse and worse, although she didn't say much and also did not complain.

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