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Nederlog

Aug 17, 2016

Crisis: Apple's C(r)ook, On Trumpism, Turkey Explained, NSA Hacked (?)
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Introduction

1.
CEO Tim Cook Decides Apple Doesn’t Have to Pay
     Corporate Tax Rate Because It’s “Unfair”

2. Trumpism: Made in the United States by Republican
     Hate and Democratic Hypocrisy

3. Are the Turkish Leader Erdogan's Claims of Terrorist
     Coup Plotting to Be Believed?

4.
It Looks Like the NSA Just Got Hacked
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, August 17, 2016.

There are 4 items with 4 dotted links today: Item 1 is about the crooked approach Apple's Tim Cook has about paying taxes: The infrastructure of the USA is going to pieces because large firms refuse to pay taxes (and can do so using the extremely weak tax laws for corporations); item 2 is an inter- esting article about the backgrounds of Trump; item 3 clarifies what happens in Turkey (I think); and item 4 is about the hacking  of what seems to be either a partner of the NSA or the NSA itself and also gives some information of what the NSA can do to hack almost anyone's computer: Very much.
 
1.
CEO Tim Cook Decides Apple Doesn’t Have to Pay Corporate Tax Rate Because It’s “Unfair”

The first item today is by Jon Schwartz on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Wouldn’t it be great if you could refuse to pay your taxes until you decided your tax rate was “fair”?

That is, of course, not the way it works. Unless you’re Apple.

Apple is currently holding $181 billion overseas, largely thanks to arbitrarily deciding that its most valuable intellectual property seems to live exclusively in low tax countries. For instance, at one time Apple’s subsidiaries in Ireland — a country with 4.6 million people — “earned” over one-third of all Apple’s worldwide revenue.

And due to a very business-friendly quirk in U.S. tax law, Apple doesn’t have to pay any U.S. taxes on its overseas profits until it “brings them back” to America.

Here’s what Apple CEO Tim Cook had to say about it in a long interview published this weekend in the Washington Post:

We’ve said at 40 percent, we’re not going to bring it back until there’s a fair rate. There’s no debate about it. Is that legal to do or not legal to do? It is legal to do. It is the current tax law. It’s not a matter of being patriotic or not patriotic. It doesn’t go that the more you pay, the more patriotic you are.
I say! I never liked Apple - apart from the 1979 Apple II that was a lot better than the other computers that were available at the time, but this was due to Steve Wozniak (<- Wikipedia) rather than Steve Jobs - and I also never liked Jobs, but this is pretty gross.

What it does reveal (I think) is how much power big corporations have today: They can decide whether or not they pay taxes; whether or not the taxes are "fair"; and indeed also whether or not the infrastructure of the USA gets repaired, for it isn't being repaired because the big corporations decided they don't have to pay taxes, or set their own percentages, which are generally much less than what they used to be. (And see here.)

Not only does Cook speak like a head of the corporate thiefs, he also indulges in sickening propaganda for his own excellency and Apple's excellency:
Cook simultaneously wants us to know he is not a bad “traditional CEO” who just cares about money. No, to the contrary, he feels an “incredible responsibility” to “the communities and the countries that the company operates in” and “the whole ecosystem of the company.”

Therefore, because Cook cares so little about money and so much about communities, Apple won’t be paying its taxes. That’s just fair.

I agree with Jon Schwartz's satirizing Cook, who indeed is lying, pretending and propagandizing.

And here is the reason why the USA's infrastructure is collapsing: Because of the moral character and moral choices of men like Tim Cook:

U.S. corporations have by now stashed over $2.1 trillion in profits overseas (including Apple’s $181 billion), thereby starving the U.S. of revenue we could use to repair our collapsing infrastructure. What they want is for Americans to get so desperate that Congress is willing to deeply slash the corporate tax rate for “repatriated” money.

Finally, since both Trump and Clinton seem to agree with America's biggest corporations that these - still - pay too much taxes, Cook's desires for even deeper slashes in the corporate tax rate may well turn out to be correct in 2017.

2. Trumpism: Made in the United States by Republican Hate and Democratic Hypocrisy

The second item is by Paul Street on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The Republican, white-nationalist Donald Trump slanders and insults Latinos, Muslims and women. He promotes violence. He mocks the disabled. He refers to himself as brilliant, citing his fortune—obscenely accumulated over decades of predatory business practices that cheat workers and consumers—as “proof.”

He feuds with the gold star parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, claiming that he too has “sacrificed” (like the dead soldier and his parents) by employing “thousands and thousands of people.” It was a remarkable comment: Being born into wealth and in a position to hire a large number of people is not a “sacrifice.” If Trump isn’t reaping profits from all those workers under his command, he must not really be the brilliant, capitalist businessman he claims to be.
(...)
How is this noxious candidate even within shouting distance of Hillary Clinton? Let’s separate the fact from the fiction.

That is a decent idea, and I mean to "separate the fact from the fiction", although this seems to presume rather a lot, and notably that currently Hillary  Clinton has much better chances to win the presidential elections than Donald Trump.

I agree she has, but I don't agree this is a strong prediction, for the simple reason that much may occur in the coming months that upsets expectations (and that few or none can foresee).

So I will not quite try to follow Street's separation of fact and fiction (if you care, click on the last dotted link) but instead concentrate on two themes he introduces, namely (1) the What’s the Matter With Kansas?” question and (2) the division between the 99% and the 1%.

First, the first theme that I'll discuss somewhat (for the present discussion will be limited to generalities):

The divide-and-conquer Machiavellianism this “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (WTMWK) narrative points to has helped Republicans win white working-class votes since the days of Archie Bunker (at whom much of Trump’s rhetoric seems aimed) and through the age of blue-collar Reaganites and “Joe the Plumber.”

In fact What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (<- Wikipedia) is a 2004 book by Thomas Frank (<-Wikipedia). This has the following theme according to the Wikipedia:

According to the book, the political discourse of recent decades has dramatically shifted from social and economic equality to the use of "explosive" cultural issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, which are used to redirect anger toward "liberal elites."

I think that is correct. It is also not an uncommon theme (it was somewhat popular in the Seventies and Eighties, as Wikipedia also explains), but Frank put it on the map again in 2004, and described the change then as follows (from Wikipedia):

Not long ago, Kansas would have responded to the current situation by making the bastards pay.
(..)
Not these days. Out here the gravity of discontent pulls in only one direction: to the right, to the right, further to the right. Strip today's Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land, and next thing you know they're protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO, and there's a good chance they'll join the John Birch Society. But ask them about the remedies their ancestors proposed (unions, antitrust, public ownership), and you might as well be referring to the days when knighthood was in flower.

This sounds more or less correct to me, and indeed these changes also coincided with large changes in the mainstream media, whch were both being sold (for lack of advertisements, on paper) and changed their reporting from fact-finding to propaganda, it seems both because the new editors and the new owners wanted this, and because it also is a lot simpler.

Here is some more, also from Wikipedia, and with a link added by me to "New Democrats":

Instead of fighting for working class interests, the Democratic party, under the direction of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), effectively abandoned them by adopting economically conservative policies. To differentiate themselves from Republicans at the national level, Democrats also focused on socio-cultural wedge issues:

The Democratic Leadership Council, the organization that produced such figures as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman and Terry McAuliffe, has long been pushing the party to forget blue-collar voters and concentrate instead on recruiting affluent, white-collar professionals who are liberal on social issues. The larger interests that the DLC wants desperately to court are corporations, capable of generating campaign contributions far outweighing anything raised by organized labor. The way to collect the votes and -- more important -- the money of these coveted constituencies, "New Democrats" think, is to stand rock-solid on, say, the pro-choice position while making endless concessions on economic issues, on welfare, NAFTA, Social Security, labor law, privatization, deregulation and the rest of it.

This again sounds quite correct to me. I also know Frank's book is from 2004 and it has been criticized (see Wikipedia again), but all I wanted to do today with respect to the What’s the Matter With Kansas?”-thesis is to put forward the thesis; say it sounds plausible to me, and give some references. And incidentally, Frank's 2016 book, "Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?" has the same thesis and theme.

The other quote from the first bit I quoted above, about Archie Bunker (<- Wikipedia) is supported by a quote from the producer and creator of "All in the Family" (<-Wikipedia):

Norman Lear — who produced many 1970s sitcoms, including “All in the Family,” which starred Carroll O’Connor as Bunker, an angry, outspoken bigot — blasted the presumptive Republican presidential nominee on Thursday during a Writers Guild event with “Big Bang Theory” creator Chuck Lorre.

“He IS Archie Bunker,” Lear told the audience, according to a Deadline report published Friday. “I think of Donald Trump as the middle finger of the American right hand.”

I think that is a good point, and especially for those who have seen Archie Bunker in action in the Seventies (or later, on Youtube): Donald Trump does often sound like Archie Bunker, and indeed also does not seem much smarter than Archie Bunker (and much less sympathetic).

Here is some more on how the (New) Democrats's policies and propaganda differ from the real leftist positions they in fact betrayed, starting with Bill Clinton and continuing with Obama:

But the Democrats abandoned the working class and embraced the economic elite, including the professional elite (more on that below) long ago (as journalist Thomas Frank noted in his book, “What’s the Matter With Kansas?”). And Democrats of the neoliberal era are no less adept than Republicans at deploying the politics of identity to hide their captivity to the nation’s unelected dictatorship of money. They just play the other, more multicultural, side of the same identity-politics game. Both parties make sure that, in Chris Hedges’ words, “Goldman Sachs always wins,” since “there is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs.”

Again this does seem to be what has happened.

Finally, about the second theme I mentioned above, namely the division between the 99% and the 1%, there is this in Paul Street's article:

Fourth, liberals making the WTMWK argument often seem to operate with a simplistic, two-class model dividing the U.S. into the superrich (let’s call them the 1 percent), linked naturally to the Republicans, and everybody else (the 99 percent), linked naturally to the Democrats. Besides deleting the Democrats’ captivity to the wealthy corporate and financial Few (really the 0.1 percent or even the 0.01 percent), this dichotomy provides undue privilege-cloaking cover to “lesser” elites—professionals, managers, administrators and other “coordinator-class” Americans in the nation’s top 20 percent.

The privilege and power of the professional and managerial elite is no less “true,” “real,” substantive or vital to contemporary hierarchy than that of the financial super-elite.
I agree that the dichotomy 1% vs 99% does provide "undue privilege-cloaking cover to “lesser” elites—professionals, managers, administrators" etc.

And while I do not know whether Frank is right these "
“lesser” elites" would comprise 20%, I am willing to say that the division is between the rich 20% (or 10%) (whose riches may vary a lot) and the non-rich 80% (or 90%) (whose incomes also vary considerably).

3. Are the Turkish Leader Erdogan's Claims of Terrorist Coup Plotting to Be Believed?

The third item is by Richard W. Bulliet on AlterNet:

This has the following in the beginning and is here mainly because Bulliet answered a question I asked myself, that is also in the title of the article.
Bulliet discusses his answer with reference to a 2013 speech of Erdogan in
New York, before Erdogan fell out from Gülen and says:

Three possibilities come to mind:
 
One, Gülen is such a clever terror leader that his secret objective of taking over the Turkish state was unknown to Erdoğan in 2013, even though his Hizmet organization had been economically and educationally active for over thirty years.
 
Two, Gülen’s thousands of followers, who are now being purged from their jobs and businesses throughout Turkey, had not yet become radicalized as terrorists.
 
And three, Erdoğan labeled Gülen’s followers terrorists only after the two men had a political falling out and Gülen’s people, though not Gülen himself, accused Erdoğan of seeking dictatorial control of Turkey.

Bulliet argues that the first two possibilities are quite implausible, and I agree. He concludes:

Since neither of these two possibilities seems at all likely, we are left with the possibility of a personal falling out between two Muslim leaders. More than a possibility. A manifest reality. Erdoğan says Gülen heads a coup-making terrorist organization. Gülen’s people say that Erdoğan is a corrupt would-be dictator who, along with his family and cronies, is stealing vast sums of money from the Turkish people.
 
Wherever the truth lies between these two positions, the idea that all Hizmet activists and institutions worldwide must be considered terrorists is preposterous. The coup is one thing. The purge another. Scores of thousands of Turks are losing their careers, their businesses, and their freedom and being branded with a label that stigmatizes their entire families.

I agree. I also do not have much sympathy for either Erdogan or Gülen, but I like to understand what is going on, and the above seems plausible (and I don't know any Turkish).

4. It Looks Like the NSA Just Got Hacked

The fourth and last item today is by AJ Vicens on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:

Now it's the National Security Agency's turn.

The NSA, responsible for intercepting communications around the world, appears to be the latest victim of hacking, at least indirectly, according to multiple news reports. A group calling itself the Shadow Brokers released a series of files on Saturday that contained the code behind some powerful hacking tools developed by an NSA-linked group. Those tools have been used to carry out cyberattacks on other governments and private corporations across the world over the last 20 years, according to Forbes.

I say! This is news for me, but it should be said that is not quite the NSA that got hacked. Here is a bit of what has happened:

The Shadow Brokers released a series of files that included installation files and descriptions of networks used for a number of different hacking tools that they claimed to have stolen from the Equation Group—the name security researchers gave to a group of hackers who deployed cyberweapons on behalf of the United States and other Western governments. This group was unmasked in early 2015 by Kapersky Labs, a Russian security research firm. The Equation Group is believed to have been affiliated with the NSA and other Western intelligence agencies, according to security researchers, and is perhaps the most wide-ranging and successful hacking group ever publicly discussed.

The NSA did not respond to requests for comment about the alleged hack.

So who got hacked was the Equation Group (<-Wikipedia). Then again, it seems from the Wikipedia link that indeed this is "affiliated with the NSA". Incidentally, if you want an idea of what the NSA was capable of in 2013, check out the Wikipedia lemma NSA ANT Catalog: It is an amazing list.

And this is about the reality of the hack:

Several security researchers have said the hack appears to be real. The security researcher known as "the grugq" told Motherboard that the proof files posted "look pretty legit." Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden noted in a tweet that the hacking of an "NSA malware staging server is not unprecedented, but the publication of the take is."

Snowden, who is still in Russia under the protection of the Russian government, explained that just as the NSA hacks foreign governments, those governments hack the United States as well. In this case, rival governments may be demonstrating that they've done just that, Snowden wrote, adding that he suspects "this is more diplomacy than intelligence, related to the escalation around the DNC hack."

Yes, perhaps.

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