A. Selections from August 8, 2017
This is a Nederlog of
Tuesday, August 8,
This is a
log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:
I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about
the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and
by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will
continue with it, but on the moment
I have several problems with the company that is
supposed to take care that my site is visible and with my health.
explained, the crisis files will have a different
format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items
I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one
selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit
of a taste of the item linked.
So the new format is as follows:
Link to an item with its orginal title,
One selection (usually) from that item
Possibly followed by a brief comment by
me (not indented).
This is illustrated below, in selections A.
2. Crisis Files
are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
A. Selections from
August 8, 2017
items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at
every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the
link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:
Are the Technology Firms Lining Up to Build Trump’s “Extreme Vetting”
is by Sam Biddle and Spencer Woodman on The Intercept. This is from
near the beginning:
So it’s time for
something new and better, says ICE: a system that will serve as an
“overarching vetting” machine “that automates, centralizes, and
streamlines the current manual vetting process while simultaneously
making determinations via automation if the data retrieved is
actionable” in order to “implement the President’s various Executive
Orders (EOs) that address American immigration and border protection
security and interests.” In other words, data-mining software that
helps ICE agents find human targets faster.
And this is the intended
ICE’s hope is that this
privately developed software will help go far beyond matters of
legality to matters of the heart. The system must “determine and
evaluate an applicant’s probability of becoming a positively
contributing member of society, as well as their ability to contribute
to national interests” and predict “whether an applicant intends to
commit criminal or terrorist acts after entering the United States.”
Using software to this end is certainly in line with Trump’s campaign
rhetoric — during a rally in Phoenix, he described how “extreme
vetting” would make sure the U.S. only accepts “the right people,”
using “ideological certification to make sure that those we are
admitting to our country share our values and love our people.”
Sign-in sheets from the
ICE event show a sizable private sector turnout, including
representatives from IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton, LexisNexis, SAS, and
Deloitte, along with a litany of smaller firms, such as Praescient
Analytics, Red Hat, PlanetRisk, and Babel Street (the sign-in sheets
can be read below).
anything online that doesn’t require a password would be fair game
under the Extreme Vetting Initiative:
In fact, I think ICE is
implementing the techniques and technologies that soon will be used to
control everyone. And that is neofascism
(<- check the definition!). And please note that no private
person can do anything against these searches of everything
and anything, nor can he (or she) institute similar searches:
These are only open to the rich and to the secret services.
The Contractor shall
analyze and apply techniques to exploit publically [sic] available
information, such as media, blogs, public hearings, conferences,
academic websites, social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and
LinkedIn, radio, television, press, geospatial sources, internet sites,
and specialized publications with intent to extract pertinent
information regarding targets, including criminals, fugitives,
nonimmigrant violators, and targeted national security threats and
There is more in this article that is recommended.
NYT’s Grim Depiction of Russian Life
is by Gilbert Doctorow on Consortiumnews. This starts as follows:
Our five-week stay
at our home in the Russian countryside was approaching its conclusion
when I got an email from a friend in France asking me to comment on an
article in The New York Times entitled “Russia’s
Villages, and Their Way of Life, Are ‘Melting Away’.”
I think I agree with
Doctorow that most that one can read in the New York Times these days
about Russia is propaganda
that is meant to describe a very backward and poor Russia.
Doctorow opposes this by his own experiences in Russia, and
very well might be right, although I also think that the experiences of
one person or a few persons when considering a country as big as Russia
are also not convincing.
The article surely met the
expectations of its editors by painting a grim picture of decline and
fall of the Russian countryside in line with what the author sees as
very unfavorable demographic trends in the Russian Federation as a
whole. The fact that his own statistics do not justify the
generalization (a net population loss of a few thousand deaths over
live births in 2016 for a population of 146 million) does not get in
the way of the paint-by-color canvas. Nor does the author explain
why what he has observed in a village off the beaten track in Northwest
Russia, in precisely the still poor region of Pskov, gives an accurate
account of country life across the vast territory of Russia, the
world’s largest nation-state.
Then again, what one should keep in mind are the following
Socialism is dead in Russia, and has collapsed in 1991;
capitalism was then introduced on a mega-scale, and was helped
especially by American bankers; and Russia these days is as
capitalistic as the USA.
These are elementary facts, that seem to be snowed under the
anti-Russian propaganda that has been rampant in the USA since
Hillary Clinton failed to get the presidency.
3. Night Thoughts on
Trump and America
This article is by Robert Reich on his site. This starts as follows:
With Donald Trump away
vacationing at one of his golf resorts, the rest of us may have a
relax. But in truth it’s more like a
short break in a continuing nightmare. Just enough time to turn on the
look at the clock and ponder where we are, before the nightmare
envelopes us again.
we ponder that will make all of this a bit less frightening? For one
thing, it could be far worse.
Trump could have fulfilled his campaign promises to repeal Obamacare,
Hillary up, build a wall, and throw out all immigrants without papers.
By now he might
have confused so many Americans about the truth that most of us would
believe the words coming out of his mouth. Hell, by now he could have
another civil war.
Actually very little has
happened. He’s huffed and puffed, threatened and fumed, yet almost none
of it has found its way into concrete laws. And it may not: The typical
“honeymoon” enjoyed by
new presidents is over for him. His first hundred days came and left,
without a trace.
Well... I agree
with Reich that it could have been worse with the Trump
government in the first 100+ days, and that he might - instead? - have
repealed Obamacare, locked Hillary up, build a wall, and have thrown
out all immigrants without papers.
Then again I think I
disagree with Reich in the sense that I think Trump is still
trying to do all these things, perhaps minus locking up Hillary.
And there is this (after
Reich notes that he was born in 1946 and is 71):
But this seems to have been
written on the presumptions that most of Trump's plans will fail.
And I think that is pretty optimistic
(and I disagree, though I would have liked Reich to be right).
To put it
another way, a few weeks from now I’ll be returning to the classroom
and a new
crop of college freshmen. They were born in or around 1998.
as far removed from Trump and the rest of us early boomers as we were,
went to college, from Americans born in 1912. Which is to say, a very
Trump brings on a nuclear war that ends life as we know it on the
planet, he is
unlikely to have much influence on the lives of my upcoming freshmen.
(and perhaps only) term in office will be over when they’re just 22.
being 22 years old and having your whole life ahead of you, without
Great Leap Backwards: Trump's Blueprint To Make America Not Great
article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:
Yes indeed: I quite
agree with the last paragraph. And this has happened and is happening
now since 1979/1980 (Thatcher/Reagan gain power), and has been
continued completely unopposed in the USA, except by some
non-mainstream papers and sites, and by individuals.
The Trump administration
is doubling down on oil, gas, and coal at a time when the rest of the
world is committing to getting off the stuff and investing in renewable
energy. Renewable energy, by the way, is the cheapest new source
of energy, the cleanest source, and it creates more jobs here at home
than investments in fossil fuels do.
It’s hard to describe
just how stupid this is. It’s as if, at the turn of the 19th
Century, Roosevelt and Taft invested heavily in the whale oil industry
while the rest of the world switched to petroleum. Or as if the
head caveman decided that the stone age wouldn’t end until they ran out
The economic folly of
this is exceeded only by the fact that this puts the US and the world
on a potentially civilization-ending environmental path.
But it’s not just his
energy policy. He’s busy dismantling the entire scientific
infrastructure that had contributed to making the US one of the most
prosperous, safe, and powerful nations in the history of the world.
The reason they’re doing this is because they have spent the last four
decades convincing people that government is the problem – and once
they’d convinced enough people of it they began throwing enough monkey
wrenches and budget cuts into the system to make it true. And why did
they embark on this jihad against government? Because corporate
America and a few rich fat cats wanted to eviscerate the only force
powerful enough to constrain their capacity to run roughshod over the
interests of the people. Little things like safe food, fair labor
practices, safe working conditions, a living minimum wage, or an
environment that didn’t kill millions of people were “choking off” the
free enterprise system according to these folks. Then of course, there
was the issue of taxes – as in corporations, the rich and powerful
didn’t want to pay them.
There is more in the article, that is recommended.
More Evidence the US Is a Kleptocracy, Not a Meritocracy
article is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams. It starts as follows (and
see the previous article):
Inequality is much
worse than we're led to believe by a dismissive business media. The
numbers are hellish, and they're growing.
There is more in the
article, that is recommended. And please note that the USA has
been leaping backwards since 1980, which was and is expressed
by the fact that - as the above graph shows - since 1980 only the
2% of the richest profited, and everyone else was put backward,
systematically also, and not just economically.
1. The Extreme
Wealth Gap is Still Expanding
The U.S. has gained $30
trillion in wealth since 2008, about half of it in the stock
market, much of the remainder in real
estate holdings. Based on prior analyses,
data from Credit
Suisse and Forbes,
work by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman,
it's a rather simple process to estimate the distribution of our
nation's wealth over that time period. The following
are conservative estimates, since the numbers amount to about $15
trillion, the minimum amount by which financial wealth has
increased since the low point of the recession.
In addition, the Bottom
80% (96,000,000 households) gained about $13,000 each:
400 individuals gained an average of $2,500,000,000
each since the recession.
•The .01% (12,000 households) gained about $120,000,000
•The rest of the .1% (120,000 households) gained about
•The rest of the 1% (1,068,000 households) gained about
•The 2-5% (4,800,000 households) gained about $900,000
•The 6-10% (6,000,000 households) gained about $285,000
•The 11-20% (12,000,000 households) gained about $117,000
The distribution of U.S. wealth became even more skewed in
2016, according to Credit
Suisse data, with the average 1% household gaining about $3 million
in just one year. Nearly half of their windfall came
as a transfer of wealth from middle class households (the 40%
of households above the median), who lost an average of $35,000 in that
Possibly even worse than the post-recession redistribution of wealth is
the nearly 40-year stagnation of income for the bottom half
of America. Income for
the working-age bottom 50% has not improved since
1970s. The share of
all income going to the poorest 50% has dropped from 20 to 12 percent.
The share going to the richest 1% has risen from 12 to 20 percent.