Oct 27, 2016

Crisis: Frank & Scheer, Trump's Nonsense, AT&T, Snowden on Journalism
Sections                                                                                     crisis index

Thomas Frank on Why Hillary Clinton Won’t Protect
     Americans From Wall Street

2. This Avalanche of Nonsense From Donald Trump Will
     Leave You Absolutely Speechless

3. AT&T, Time Warner and the Death of Privacy
4. Snowden: 'Journalists Are a Threatened Class' in Era of
     Mass Surveillance

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, October 27, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about a quite interesting conversation between Scheer and Frank, that dates back to July: I liked it; item 2 is about an article that well exposes the very many fantasies Trump indulges in and presents as "facts": it is quite funny (and underneat it rather sad); item 3 is about the merger of AT&T and Times Warner and the death of privacy, and I fear it is correct; and item 4 is about recent warnings of Snowden that "journalists are a threatened class" (now that the secret services may know all that the journalists know and did and wanted).

-- 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. Thomas Frank on Why Hillary Clinton Won’t Protect Americans From Wall Street

The first item today is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as follows, and I should say that the video was originally published on July 26, 2016 (when I missed it):

On Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention, Truthdig once again went live on our Facebook page. This time, Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer sat down for a discussion with author and Guardian columnist Thomas Frank. Truthdig Associate Editor Alexander Kelly, also in Philly, filmed the conversation. Frank’s new book, “Listen, Liberal,” analyzes how the Democratic Party abandoned working Americans.

In their discussion, Scheer and Frank discuss how the Democratic Party has crumbled and what the future of the establishment looks like. Frank explains how for years, working-class Americans made up the voter base of the Democratic Party because they “had nowhere else to go.” But this year, Frank explains, they’ve found a new home in the Republican Party led by Donald Trump. “[Democrats] have not only permitted this to happen,” he says, “they’ve made it almost inevitable in some ways.”

Yes. I don't quite agree, but Frank seems right to me in saying or implying that (i) the top of the Democrats come from "the professional class" (basically: university-educated people who earn well), while (ii) there also are considerably less genuine blue collar workers, who also have far less power, because the trade unions are far less powerful.

Here is some more on it:

Robert Scheer: (..) And my question, the reason I wanted to talk to you, you’re here at the Democratic Convention; Bernie Sanders has been defeated. The machine is back in power. Hillary Clinton is being hailed as the second coming. And are they listening, these liberals?

Thomas Frank: Are the liberals listening?

RS: Are they listening to you?

TF: No. The short answer is no. The longer answer, I think, is that the criticism of the Democratic Party that I make in “Listen, Liberal” is, you know, it’s that what we have today is a liberalism of the rich. That it is a liberalism of the professional classes, these sort of affluent people who have developed a whole kind of pseudo-Marxist theory of why they’re affluent and why they deserve to be affluent, and why those who, you know, their former supporters in the working class don’t deserve to be affluent. And this is a really ugly ideology, but it’s not something that they are prepared to change their tune on.

Yes, although I believe this is less "pseudo-Marxism" as part of the Democratic adoption of considerable amounts of "neoliberalism". Frank is right (in my opinion) this is "a really ugly ideology", for in effect it says you are human like we are only if you earn an income like we do.

There is this on Hillary Clinton and her kind of people (the "professionals" i.e. the well off Democrats who rule the Democratic Party):

TF: I don’t think Hillary Clinton can change. She was criticized so much during the primaries for taking all this money from Wall Street banks for the speeches and stuff like that, and what I would always say is that it’s not just the money; that’s who she is. That’s her philosophy of the world is that these, the financial institutions in New York have this kind of—what’s the French word—mission civilisatrice, right? That the Wall Street banks are in fact run by fine, upstanding individuals who are opening up the doors of possibility for the poor people of the world, or something like this. She really believes in what they’re doing. Democrats look at Wall Street and they see people like themselves. It’s not that they’re bribed to like these guys; it’s that they have an ideological kinship with them.

Mostly yes. I think Hillary Clinton can "change", at least in the types of things she will affirm before she is elected, but I think Frank is right in assuming this
is mostly to get elected, while Hillary herself probably believes that "
the Wall Street banks are in fact run by fine, upstanding individuals", and indeed she does so because she and many leading Democrats "have an ideological kinship with them".

Here is Frank's diagnosis of what the Democrats did and did wrongly:

TF: When you talk about, you want to talk about inequality, you want to talk about what’s gone wrong in this country, the sinking of the middle class—everything that’s gone wrong, and I would include in my bill of complaints, my bill of grievances, the rise of Donald Trump—all of these things are attributable to the Democrats’ abandonment of their traditional constituency and their traditional sort of Rooseveltian identity.

Yes, but - is my answer, and the but resides in the fact that there simply are considerably fewer traditional blue collar workers, and their trade unions are considerably weakened.

My opinion is backed up by Robert Scheer:

RS: I’ve been covering Democratic conventions since 1956. I was there when Kefauver was going against Kennedy, and Stevenson and so forth. And I’ve never seen a convention quite like this, because in the old days you did have a strong labor union constituency in the Democratic Party. They were there, and they were real. There were big unions, Ford local itself had 600,000 in Detroit and all that. It wasn’t pathetically scratching around with the small unions you have now. And they demanded accountability, and there were other constituencies that were involved; you know, civil libertarians, what have you. But that’s sort of gone.

Yes, indeed. Here is more Frank:

TF: And here’s Hillary—and by the way, this is the perfect, I was saying just this morning—Hillary Clinton is the only Democrat that Donald Trump could possibly beat, and vice-versa. Right? Donald Trump is the only Republican that Hillary Clinton could possibly beat; they’re both, two of the least popular politicians ever to run for this office. But had it been any other Republican, Hillary would be in big trouble; had it been any other Democrat, i.e. Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump would be in enormous trouble.

I think this is somewhat exaggerated, although I agree that both presidential candidates are weaker than others who might have become presidential candidates instead. (Sanders instead of Clinton, almost anyone instead of Trump.)

Here is Scheer addressing - correctly I think, but I do have my own understanding of both neofascism and "neoliberalism" [2] - neofascism:

RS: The reason I use the neofascist label—and I didn’t do it lightly; I don’t want to just denigrate someone—is that, basically, the misery that Trump is addressing is the same that Bernie Sanders addressed. The system is not working, and the statistic that he came out with last night, I would have thought, that’s a show-stopper and don’t tell me anything else. If the top one-tenth of 1 percent has more wealth than the bottom 90 percent, what, what are we, what are we, in fact, talking about? This is absurd. And then for Michelle Obama to say it’s the greatest country in the world, now we’re in fantasy land.

And this is some of what Bill Clinton did to further neofascism:

RS: Well, what was Bill Clinton’s last great gesture—

TF: He deregulated Wall Street, he overturned Glass-Steagall.

There is this on the crisis (and Frank correctly insists that "the vast majority of people in this country" are still suffering from this, in 2016) and on who has the main responsibility for the crisis of 2008:

TF: Wait, the vast majority of people in this country still haven’t recovered from that recession that was brought about by those toxic derivatives. And the derivatives were explicitly deregulated by Bill Clinton. But it goes on and on and on—it’s like NAFTA, it’s—when I was listening to the speeches yesterday, it was like they’re promising, they’re running on a promise to reverse all the things that Hillary Clinton did the first time around, or that her husband did, I should say.

Yes indeed: Bill Clinton laid the foundations for the crisis by deregulating the banks. (He also got very well paid for this.)

And here is Robert Scheer on the very intimate relation between "neo- liberalism" (a propaganda term) and neofascism [2] - and he sees this mostly as I do:

RS: And the reason one has to think about it, and the reason I want to get people to read your book and listen to you, is that I think the neoliberals have created, made the ground fertile for the people I do consider neofascists. And by “neofascist,” I’m referring very specifically to blaming “the other” for the problem that you have [noted]. That’s what I mean, and it’s the scapegoating, it’s the jingoism, it’s the racism. And that’s traditionally what we mean by fascism.

And also because the "neoliberals" are very strongly for "the free trade pacts" which are again deceptively and falsely named: The TTP, the TTIP, the CETA and the TISA are all ways to "legally" - by "convincing" a majority of the politicians who have been bought - change into neofascism, which is defined (in principle [3]) by (i) the dominance of profit as the only moral norm (which is what Milton Friedman said as well) and by (ii) the dominance of the CEOs of multi-national corporations over states, governments, parliaments, judiciaries and people:

Every measure taken by states, governments, parliaments, judiciaries and people to protect themselves and to maintain democracy can be turned back by the totally new "legal" ISDSs which only look at profits, and who side with the CEOs whenever their profits turn out to be less than they themselves expected.

That is the end of democracy, the end of even a very minimal fairness, and it is the total dominance of the multi-nationals over everything a society might have done if the society had managed to remain democratic and somewhat fair.

Here is Thomas Frank, which is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

TF: This is going to get worse and worse and worse. You’re going to continue to see the recovery or whatever, all the gains, all the economic gains going into the banking accounts of the top 10 percent or so. The Dow might continue to go up, but who benefits from that? It’s the people at the top, of course. Four years of this, inequality’s going to continue. That’s always what it comes back to, is that word “inequality.” And that’s going to get worse. The Appalachification is going to keep going. And four years from now, you’re going to have another Trump. And a Trump who’s not a fool, a Trump who’s not an imbecile, who’s not a buffoon, who’s not an open racist, is a Trump that can win.

Yes, I think that is the likely outcome. And indeed a good part of the reason is that both the Democrats and the Republicans are headed by persons who come from the richest 10%, and these have arranged it so that only they and those who are richer than they are will take nearly all the riches that the whole society produces. And this has been happening already for 35 years now.

This is a recommended article.

2. This Avalanche of Nonsense From Donald Trump Will Leave You Absolutely Speechless

The second item is by Katie Herzog on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows - and I give only one bit, but there is more there with  many more "False"s:

We fact-checked Donald Trump's latest comments on renewable energy. Turns out, they're not all true.

The Republican presidential nominee appeared on Herman Cain's radio show on Tuesday, and he had quite a bit to say about wind and solar power, and birds too. Here's part of the transcript, courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, with our fact-checking notes added in brackets:

TRUMP: Our energy companies are a disaster right now. Coal. The coal business is—you know, there is such a thing as clean coal [False]. Our miners are out of work—now they're just attacking energy companies like I've never seen them attack anything before.

They want everything to be wind and solar. Unfortunately, it's not working on large-scale [False]. It's just not working [False]. Solar is very, very expensive [False]. Wind is very, very expensive [False], and it only works when it's windy [False].

As I have been saying since March: A man like Donald Trump, who mistakes his fantasies for facts, and who probably cannot really think he is mistaken because He Knows That Donald Trump Is The Greatest is in fact not sane.

In case you doubt this or need a good and amazed laugh, read all of the article. It is recommended.

3. AT&T, Time Warner and the Death of Privacy

The third item is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The company he started grew into a massive monopoly, AT&T. The federal government eventually deemed it too powerful, and broke up the telecom giant in 1982. Well, AT&T is back and some would say on track to become bigger and more powerful than before, announcing plans to acquire Time Warner, the media company, to create one of the largest entertainment and communications conglomerates on the planet. Beyond the threat to competition, the proposed merger—which still must pass regulatory scrutiny—poses significant threats to privacy and the basic freedom to communicate.

Yes, indeed - and for the proposed merger by AT&T and Times Warner and the extremely dangerous (illegal) searches AT&T does, see (e.g.) here.

Here is more on the danger of the merger:

Free Press, the national media policy and activism group, is mobilizing the public to oppose the deal. “This merger would create a media powerhouse unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. AT&T would control mobile and wired internet access, cable channels, movie franchises, a film studio and more,” Candace Clement of Free Press wrote. “That means AT&T would control internet access for hundreds of millions of people and the content they view, enabling it to prioritize its own offerings and use sneaky tricks to undermine net neutrality.”

That was about the dangers of the merger. This is about the danger of the (illegal) searches that AT&T does and sells:

Another problem that AT&T presents, that would only be exacerbated by the merger, is the potential to invade the privacy of its millions of customers.
In “Project Hemisphere,” AT&T sells metadata to law enforcement, under the aegis of the so-called war on drugs. A police agency sends in a request for all the data related to a particular person or telephone number, and, for a major fee and without a subpoena, AT&T delivers a sophisticated data set, that can, according to The Daily Beast, “determine where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why.”
Where you go, what you watch, text and share, with whom you speak, all your internet searches and preferences, all gathered and “vertically integrated,” sold to police and perhaps, in the future, to any number of AT&T’s corporate customers. We can’t know if Alexander Graham Bell envisioned this brave new digital world when he invented the telephone. But this is the future that is fast approaching, unless people rise up and stop this merger.

I agree that this horrific future - where private firms know absolutely everything about you and anyone else, and can sell their information or their programs to find such information to anyone with sufficient riches - "is fast approaching, unless people rise up and stop this merger".

And - as I explained yesterday - I am very much afraid this merger will not be stopped, and indeed also that the Fourth Amendment [4] will be made totally inapplicable through vast amounts of bullshit, such as that mail that is sent electronically for that reason is and ought to be open to inspection by anyone with the riches to pay for it - for this is what is now the case: see this article.

4. Snowden: 'Journalists Are a Threatened Class' in Era of Mass Surveillance

The fourth and last item is by Nika Knight on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:
Whistleblower Edward Snowden warned a group of European reporters Wednesday that in the era of mass surveillance, journalists are increasingly a threatened class.
"Journalists are increasingly a threatened class when we think about the right to privacy," Snowden said. "Yes, I can give you tips on how to protect your communications, but you are going to be engaging in an arms race that you simply cannot win. You must fight this on the front pages and you must win, if you want to be able to report in the same way that you've been able to do in the previous centuries."
And Snowden is quite right, but my own sad guess is that he is too late, and besides, journalism has changed very much over the last 15 years, where the old papers lost most of their advertisements and most of their powers.

Here is more by Snowden:

We have technologies that can protect communications in an unbreakable format when they're in transit. Governments have reacted to this as if we've thrown them in a pool of acid, saying you know, "you're shutting us out, you're going dark." This is false. Any government official who claims we're going dark is lying. We know this because we have classified documents from inside governments and we have reportage from journalists who have been in private sessions with these officials. Things are pretty bad for our side. For the government's side, it's never been easier.
Yes, the governments lied, lied and lied from the very beginning, and they lied because they knew computers and cellphones give access to absolutely everything that anyone thinks, values, wants, knows and does, and because governments and secret services love to control everyone in everything. [5]

Nobody shut the governent out: It was shut out by the perfectly fair and reasonable Fourth Amendment. What the governments wanted extremely much was to know everything anyone thought and wanted, and the very few who govern everybody got these powers through computers. [6]

And Snowden is quite correct when he says that "
Things are pretty bad for our side. For the government's side, it's never been easier." And it has never been easier for the government, because effectively they know almost everything about almost everybody, after 15 years of dedicated data-gathering with no holds barred and all laws and regulations off.

Here is Snowden's estimate:
In our current state of the art, offense is easier than defense. This is an unfortunate artifact of the fact that governments around the world have prioritized offensive capabilities for the benefit of spying on people so much more strongly than they have defensive capabilities, preventing our countries from being hacked.
But unfortunately we don't have this pressure—that should be simply blistering—coming from newspapers, going, "We are the most advanced societies in the world, we are the most connected societies in the world, and in some sort of computer-based conflict[...] we have more to lose."
I agree and I also agree that "this pressure" will not come "from newspapers".

It's too late for that, and they have lost most of their powers, and also have been very much redesigned to relay mostly propaganda from the sides of the government and the multi-national corporations.

[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] Maybe I should start by insisting that I am both academically and personally qualified to know a whole lot more about fascism than most people (my father and grandfather were in the communist resistance against the Nazis, and were arrested and locked up in concentration camps as "political terrorists"; I have studied philosophy and psychology, with excellent marks and degrees also).

Then here is my understanding and my definition of neofascism:
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 stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
And here is my understanding of "neoliberalism":

This is itself a very dishonest propaganda term, and it also covers almost only (i)
propaganda for the noble intentions of the rich (ii) propaganda for the need for profit as the only relevant criterion to judge corporations (and people) by, and (iii) propaganda for the rule of the multi-national corporations.

That is, if you take away all the propaganda, "neoliberalism" is in fact the neofascism of the very rich. It may not be obvious, but then that is the effect of all the propaganda.

[3] I have given my definition of neofascism in the previous note. It is true that (in that definition) the desire for profit as the only moral/ethical criterion and the desire to be ruled by multi-national corporations (rather than democratically elected parliaments and governments) are the main characteristic points.

[4] Here is the text of the Fourth Amendment (with notes deleted):
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.
This protected the privacy of the Americans from 1789 till 2001, and then was "put aside", completely illegally, by the utterly false insistence that this does not apply tot anything sent by a computer.

The only reason for this utterly false insistence was to enable the NSA to gather everything anyone does with a computer.

[5] You may think differently about the intentions and ends of governors and spies, but all I have been saying about them is what some 2500 years of history told about them:

These are very often the morally/ethically worst people there are. (There are exceptions, but these are exceptions.)

[6] The main point of this paragraph is that the governments and the secret services, after 15 years of dedicated and heavily funded (totally illegal) gatherings
have dossiers on everybody. (You may doubt this simply
because nearly everything all secret services do is secret,
but in case you doubt this check out Private Eyes and The Path to Total Dicatorship.)

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