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Nederlog

Wednesday, Apr 19, 2017

Crisis: On France, Tech Giants Destroy All Privacy, Reich, Social Media Passwords


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. France’s Bernie Sanders Started His Own Party and Is Surging
     in the Polls

2.
Tech Giants Are Destroying Privacy, Producing Inequality and
     Undermining Democracy

3. Robert Reich: There's Nothing Centrist About Trump's Latest
     'Pivot'

4. Groups Decry Trump Plan to Demand Social Media Passwords
     at US Border

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday
, April 19, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four links: Item 1 is about France, that now has a presidential candidate like Sanders, who does well; item 2 is about a fine article and fine interview with the writer of what seems a fine book on the
total destruction of all privacy of anyone non-rich by both the secret services (who treat everyone as a rightless terrorist) and the tech giants (who treat everyone as  a rightless sub-human); item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich; and item 4 is about the extremely sick and terroristic schema that is now practised by the American government on its borders.
April 19: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site - of course! - is still stuck on April 15. These horrors happen now for the 16th month in succession. (If you want these horrors, then sign in with "xs4all.nl"; if not, avoid them.)

And I have to add that about where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. France’s Bernie Sanders Started His Own Party and Is Surging in the Polls

The first article today is
by Zaid Jilani on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an insurgent left-wing candidate for France’s presidency, is surging. His candidacy, organized under the newly-established party La France Insoumise (“Unsubmissive France”) has gone from a quixotic bid to a viable challenge in just a few months. 

Railing against growing economic inequality, participation in foreign wars, and political corruption, Mélenchon has skyrocketed in the polls from distant fourth to within a hair’s breadth of the frontrunners. (This rise has been accompanied by the release of a web-based video game called “Fiscal Kombat” where Mélenchon fights corrupt politicians and bankers.)

I like this, because I like Mélenchon's themes and because I do not expect anything from the conventional parties (other than continuing inequality and corruption). Then again, while it probably is true Mélenchon has been surging lately, he is now at 19% of the vote with someone else, while Le Pen and Macron are at 23%.

But it is true Mélenchon gained a lot lately, and there is also this comparison:

Many have drawn comparisons between Mélenchon and Bernie Sanders. Raquel Garrido, a spokesperson for Mélenchon’s campaign, told Jacobin Magazine in early April that, like Sanders, Mélenchon is embracing a populist platform that seeks to speak to every portion of society, not just the traditional left.

“I think we are similar to Bernie Sanders in that way, who rarely spoke about ‘the Left,’ but about the people against the 1 percent or the billionaire class,” she said.

Hm. Sanders also said he was a socialist (which in the USA is still a term that is feared by many), while what he did not say rarely hits the news. (So I am not impressed with this.)

Then again, there is another comparison which is better:

Mélenchon’s supporters have circulated a meme on social media comparing Le Pen to Trump and Macron to Clinton. “To beat Trump it would have been necessary to support Sanders,” it reads. “Let’s not make the same mistake!”

But there is a major difference between Sanders and Mélenchon. The American chose to run within an existing political party, while the Frenchman seeks to compete against them. That’s why, unlike Sanders, Mélenchon is still in the running at this late stage, as the voters are souring on the candidates of the far-right and co-opted center.

I agree this is a relevant difference, although I don't think it is quite fair - at this stage - to say that "that’s why, unlike Sanders, Mélenchon is still in the running at this late stage": Sanders was one of two candidates of the Democrats, and Mélenchon is one of two candidates (with a fair chance) on the Left (or the "left").

Also, Mélenchon has an additional motive that I agree with:

Mélenchon is not only an advocate for left-wing policies like higher taxation, but also for remaking the French political system itself.

There are many ways countries elect their national parliaments, but they can be roughly grouped into two categories. There’s the system that the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and a few other countries use, which is based on apportioning seats by single-member constituencies. Each district is winner-takes-all, so theoretically one party could win 51 percent of the vote in every district, and 100 percent of the parliament.
Yes indeed, and that is also why that system is not democratic. Here is the alternative:
The alternative is called proportional representation (PR). Under a PR system, the electorate casts its votes nationwide for whatever political party they choose, and then seats are distributed by percentage. You don’t have to win the majority of votes in any one geographically-bound district to enter the parliament. This allows for the rapid growth of minority parties, and more political diversity.

This is much more fair. Anyway... I like Mélenchon, for what I know of him. This is not very much (I do speak and read French but I don't follow France very much), and here is a link to Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Wikipedia, for those who want to know more about him).

2. Tech Giants Are Destroying Privacy, Producing Inequality and Undermining Democracy

The second article is by Don Hazen on Truthdig and originally on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Most of us are active on Facebook, use many of Google’s assets (search, YouTube, calendar) and get Amazon products dropped at our doorsteps. But have we ever stopped to think about the enormous impact these three companies have had on our lives and our society?

In fact I have, and that is also why I do not use the - extremely sick and very stupefying - Facebook; do not search anything with Google; and never bought
anything sold by Amazon. I do use Youtube, but that's all.

Then there is Jonathan Taplin (<-Wikipedia), whom I did not know existed, but who is three years older than I am and who worked for Bob Dylan, The Band, and Martin Scorcese, and who produced quite a few documentaries and films, including The Last Waltz (<-Wikipedia).

And he produced a book that is published this month that looks quite interesting. Here are its title and summary:

Well, Jonathan Taplin has given it a lot of thought. The result is a breakthrough, must-read book, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. The book tells the tale of how the internet “was hijacked by a small group of right-wing radicals [led by Trump supporter Peter Thiel] for whom the ideas of democracy and decentralization were an anathema.”

The upshot is that the dominant philosophy of Silicon Valley became heavily based on the radical libertarian ideology of Ayn Rand. The internet is not the product of any mythical cooperative notion as the public may think, shaped by the pervasive, effectively marketed illusion of goodness symbolized by Google’s tagline: “Don’t Be Evil” (changed to “Do the Right Thing” in 2015 in Google’s code of conduct).

The result: “Not since Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan has there been such a concentration of wealth and power” in the hands of so few, according to Taplin’s book. “And the enormous unprecedented fortunes created by the digital revolution have done much to increase inequality in America.”

Yes, I basically agree, and here is more:

The five largest firms in the world (based upon market valuation) are Apple, Google (now known as Alphabet), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. In terms of their monopoly power, Google has an 88 percent market share in search and search advertising. Google’s Android operating system has an 80 percent global market share in its category. Amazon has a 70 percent market share in ebooks, and 51 percent of goods purchased online are from Amazon. Facebook has a 77 percent share on mobile social media. Google and Facebook have more than one billion customers, and Amazon has 350 million.

As their “relentless pursuit of efficiency leads these companies to treat all media as commodity,” according to Taplin, “the real value lies in the gigabytes of personal data scraped from your profile as you pursue the latest music video, news article or listicle.”

Yes again - and please note that Google, Android, Amazon and Facebook are in fact monopolists (or nearly so), and that Google and Facebook have more than a billion customers.

The rest is an interview by Don Hazen:

Don Hazen: Do you agree with me that your story about the dominance of antidemocratic, monopoly-oriented, radical libertarianism values of the titans of technology is not well known? And if so, why?

Jonathan Taplan: I totally agree it’s not well known. The reason is because the tech barons, who are the new robber barons, have done a PR job on America that has been very successful… The strange thing is that the one guy who was not a libertarian, Steve Jobs, probably did more to raise the halo effect of tech than anybody.

I agree the story is not well known, and I attribute this mainly to (i) stupidity (lack of intelligence) and ignorance (especially about computing and programming) and to (ii) the incredible amounts of propaganda and lies produced by the mainstream media (press, TV and computers).

Also, I think the story is fairly well known by a minority, but this minority is fairly small, although I do not have good estimates. [1]

Then there is this:

DH: Wow, that’s really depressing. Another aspect could be that most of us use Google and Facebook all the time. We want these companies to be benign in our lives, right? We don’t want to deal with the fact that they are both destructive and convenient.

JT: Well, it seems like it has no cost, but that of course isn’t true. It has many costs. Obviously, fake news could not exist without Google and Facebook. A kid in Macedonia with a Facebook page and a Google AdSense account could make $10,000 a week just putting out phony stuff.

I dislike Google and Facebook so much that I never used Google (except for Youtube) the last 5 years and I absolutely never used Facebook (which I detest anyway).
But there was "fake news" - lies, propaganda, deceptions - long before there were computers, and I am not so sure that Macedonian kids earn $10,000 a week, and certainly not without good evidence.

This is much better:

DH: You say the real value in these companies and their profits lies in the gigabytes of personal data scraped from profiles as you pursue the latest music video, news article, etc. Can you say more about that? Are we fundamentally all being victimized? What are the ramifications?

JT: They are essentially monetizing your life, your desires, your dreams, whatever, and you’re not really getting any advantage for that monetization; they are. Certainly the people who make the content, whether it’s AlterNet or most other content makers, are not getting much advantage considering the size of your audience… You are on the bottom end of the food chain in terms of where the advertising dollars flow.

Yes indeed: (i) Google and Facebook (and other big firms, and the NSA and the secret services) all make most of their money by stealing gigabytes of personal data that should be wholly private (and encrypted, and impossible to steal), and (ii) they are monetizing everyone who uses them, all for their own profits, and without giving anything to those they steal from except "free advertisements". It is an utterly sick schema of total abuse of nearly everyone. And indeed it is also true that Google and Facebook as such do not produce anything other than algorithms that steal private data, or that promote advertisements.

Then there is this:

Peter Thiel, who is apparently one of the smartest guys in the world, seems to worship the Ayn Rand narrative. What is that about?

JT: You know, it mystifies me so much. Paul Ryan and Donald Trump have both cited Ayn Rand as major influences on their life. My guess is it appeals to a certain kind of man who believes that he is better than most people, and he’s not appreciated.

If you look at those Ayn Rand heroes, they always thought that the average citizen was a total dunce, and that democracy wasn’t a good idea, and that really things had to be run by men of iron will who had no sense of responsibility for other people, just for themselves.

I don't have any evidence that Peter Thiel is particularly smart, and I must add that it is impossible for me to believe that you are both particularly smart and a fan of Ayn Rand: That is simply inconsistent.

And while I guess Tapplin's explanation - those who believe Rand do so because they
think they are (much) better than nearly all others
- makes sense, I have read Rand as well, and she just is too stupid philosophically and too horrible a writer stylistically to take seriously. (It would be otherwise if Thiel would display an intelligent interest in Nietzsche (<-Wikipedia) for he was a great writer. But I do not know of anything like that.)

Here is what the extremely rich men who own Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple etc. seem to think (as does Trump, or so it seems):

JT: Well, look, I think that they believe capitalism works best when there’s no rules, and they tend to think that the people who want to try and make rules for capitalism don’t understand it, and so they’re going to just screw it up. What Trump is doing right now is trying to get rid of every regulation, whether it’s environmental or internet privacy or anything you can imagine. He just wants to get rid of all these regulations, because he wants Verizon or Google or Exxon or Koch Industries to be able to just do whatever they want to do and not worry about regulation.

Of course, I think that’s what leads to things like the financial crisis in 2008, when the banks had no regulation and they just went crazy.

I think this is wholly correct (and argued against deregulation in 2015 and before), and indeed I agree also this will lead to another crisis (and the present crisis still persists since 2008 for everyone who is not rich as well).

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

DH: What does it mean, what you describe as the surveillance marketing business? You say that both Facebook and Google are in this business now.

JT: Their main business is what I’ve begun to call surveillance capitalism. Basically, it’s a new kind of capitalism, which means that the greatest value that I hold is the amount of data that I have been able to sweep up from every possible realm on you, Don Hazen. I’m going to get it from your mobile phone, from your shopping online, from your location, from in your home if you have an Amazon Alexa, with the microphone on. I’m going to vacuum it up from there. I’m going to basically look for more places where I can grab your data.

The key to doing that of course is to get you to go on my services, whether it’s YouTube or search or on Facebook, and stay there as long as possible, and the more you stay there, the more data I’m grabbing from you. Now, I take that data, and I sell it back to advertisers in a way of being able to target a very narrow page of just who I want to get to. And it is not just companies that do that. Politicians, as we saw in the past election, can do that just as easily.
Yes indeed: I called the system that is rapidly unfolding "corporate fascism" in 2012, and "neofascism" since 2014, and I think both names are good (and I compiled good definitions of both fascism and neofascism) but I agree surveillance capitalism is another good name.

The reason is that Google and Facebook (and others) are making money by sadistically raping the Fourth Amendment, that makes all their many billions of thefts of private data major crimes, while the NSA (and many other secret services) are
sadistically raping the Fourth Amendment - which is this, in case you did not know:
Fourth Amendment: 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.
to make sure that no one deviates from the ideological norms the US government likes, meanwhile treating everyone of the billions they steal private data from as if they are terrorists or else sub-humans without the least right on any privacy.

And indeed this is "
a new kind of capitalism" for it is based on illegal theft of private information of everybody.

And this is a very fine article that is much recommended and in which there is considerably more than I could quote.

3. Robert Reich: There's Nothing Centrist About Trump's Latest 'Pivot'

The third article is by Robert Reich on AlterNet and originally on his site:

This starts as follows:

With Steve Bannon on the way out, official Washington is jumping for joy that Gary Cohn—the former president of Goldman Sachs who’s now running Trump’s National Economic Council, along with Dina Powell, another influential Goldman Sachs alumnus—seems to be taking over Trump’s brain.

As CNBC puts it, Cohn will push “more moderate, business-friendly economic policies.” The Washington Post says Cohn is advocating “a centrist vision.” The Post goes on to describe “The growing strength of Cohn and like-minded moderates" as revealed in Trump’s endorsement of government subsidies for exports, and of corporate tax cuts. Says the Post: “The president’s new positions move him much closer to the views of … mainstream Republicans and Democrats.”

Actually, I don't know whether Bannon is on the way out, though I agree he seems to be. Most of the rest of the quotes are lies, but then that is to be expected. Here is
what the recent changes seem to come down to:

In reality, Cohn, Powell, and other Wall Streeters in the Trump White House are pushing Trump closer to the views of Wall Street and big business—views that are reflected in the views of “mainstream” Republicans and Democrats only to the extent the “mainstream” is dependent on the Street and big corporations for campaign money.

These views aren’t “centrist,” and they’re not sustainable. More tax breaks for the rich and more subsidies for big corporations aren’t much better for America than xenophobia.

I basically agree. Here are Reich's alternative ideas:

There’s a better alternative. It’s to make it easy for people who lose their jobs to get new ones that pay at least as well, through wage insurance; expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and raise the minimum wage so every job pays a living wage; invest in great teachers and great schools, along with a system of lifelong learning, and high-quality early childhood education; and provide Medicare for all.

And pay for all of this with a 2 percent tax on wealth over $1 million and a carbon tax. While we’re at it, get big money out of politics.

Here’s a “centrist” agenda that big business, Wall Street, and the rest of America should agree on because it (or something very much like it) is the only way to move forward without inviting even more inequalities of income, wealth, and political power—and ever more vicious backlashes against such inequities.

I agree, but I do not see any chance of realizing them as long as the Republicans have the majority in the House and the Senate and hold the White House.

O, and here is Supreme Court Judge (of quite a while ago) Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.:

"Taxes are what we pay for civilized society."

4. Groups Decry Trump Plan to Demand Social Media Passwords at US Border

The fourth and last article today is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:
Raising concern about the violations of privacy occurring in the name of U.S. border security, a coalition of consumer rights groups on Tuesday launched a new campaign opposing the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) so-called "extreme vetting" practice that requires travelers to reveal their social media passwords.

"Even if you support 'extreme vetting,' password for entry is an extremely bad idea that sacrifices privacy and digital security for political posturing and 'security theater,'" said Nathan White, senior legislative director at Access Now, one of the 29 organizations launching the 'Fly Don't Spy' campaign.
Actually, I think "extreme vetting" is a euphemism for neofascistic state terrorism: Persons who are abused like that are effectively treated as if they are sub-humans without the least right on any privacy - and mind you: This sick neofascist practice is very much more intrusive than was the oversight of fascist superintendants (in every block of houses) during the fascist and Nazi years.

Here is more on the neofascist terrorist practices the American state unleashed on travellers:

Rights groups are particularly concerned about a plan that would make certain travelers "disclose their social media handles and passwords and answer questions about ideology as a condition of admission to the country," Jameel Jaffer, founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, wrote last week.

"The aim," Jaffer continued, "is to empower consular and border officials to ensure that would-be visitors to the United States embrace American values, a concept that the Trump administration has not defined."

Possibly so, but in any case these would-be visitors will be fully known (if they surrender their social media passwords) to the American government, that - once again, and see item 2 - is sadistically raping the Fourth Amendment.

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

"Asking people to hand over the passwords to their accounts will make all of us less safe, not more safe," said Evan Greer, campaign director at Fight for the Future, another member of the Fly Don't Spy coalition.

"Not only does it undermine our basic right to privacy and have a chilling effect on free speech," she continued, "but it will inevitably make our information more vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, and stalkers. Targeting people for this type of surveillance based on their religion or country of origin is clearly a form of discrimination."

Not only that: "Asking people to hand over the passwords to their accounts" is clear and evident (neo)fascist terrorism that debases everyone who is subjected to it to the status of a rightless and privacy-less sub-human.

I really cannot see this as anything different.

---------------
Note

[1] I really don't, but I have something that might serve as a replacement: Bill Maher's estimate that there are now between 15 and 20% of atheists or religious skeptics in the USA. It is my guess that at most 20% more or less understand the basics about politics and computing (and I think also that is optimistic, but I do not know).


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