Thursday, August 31, 2017

Crisis: Google *2, Environmental Crisis, Hitler & Trump Compared, ¨Terrorism¨

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from August 31, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, August 31, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis 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 [1] and with my health.

As I 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, followed by
      One selection (usually) from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from August 31, 2017

The 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:

1. Google’s Disturbing Influence Over Think Tanks

This article is by Jonathan Taplin on Tne New York Times. It starts as follows:

The first thing you see when you walk into the offices of the New America Foundation in Washington is the Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab, a space named after the executive chairman of Google’s parent company. Google, Mr. Schmidt and his family’s foundation are the principal funders of that think tank.

On Wednesday, New America’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, issued a statement saying that Barry Lynn, a pre-eminent scholar there, had been fired for “his repeated refusal to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality.”

What horrible, dangerous act had Mr. Lynn committed? He wrote a piece for New America’s website in support of the $2.7 billion fine the European Union levied against Google for antitrust violations in June. That post fit perfectly with the work of the Open Markets initiative he lead, which has been one of the strongest voices in Washington calling for more antitrust scrutiny of our economy. It’s the platform Mr. Lynn, Matt Stoller and Lina Khan have used to call for regulatory scrutiny of the tech monopolies like Google, Amazon and Facebook as these companies increasingly come to dominate our economy. But Google’s financial power at New America was apparently such that it could close the group down.
And that seems to be a fair summary: Google funds New America; New America criticizes Google; and then the critic is dismissed for “his repeated refusal to adhere to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality.”

There is more on this in the next item. In this item, Peter Thiel (<-Wikipedia) is quoted:

In his book “Zero to One,” the tech investor Peter Thiel writes that companies like Google lie to protect themselves. “They know that bragging about their great monopoly invites being audited, scrutinized and attacked. Since they very much want their profits to continue unmolested, they tend to do whatever they can to conceal their monopoly — usually by exaggerating the power of their (nonexistent) competition,” he explains. There’s evidence that this kind of exaggeration is carried out by numerous scholars and think tanks funded by Google. According to a 2017 Wall Street Journal investigative report, “Over the past decade, Google has helped finance hundreds of research papers to defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance, paying $5,000 to $400,000 for the work.”
I don´t have much faith in a billionaire like Peter Thiel, but he does describe what monopolies do. And there is the Wall Street Journal´s evidence that (bolding added) ¨Google has helped finance hundreds of research papers to defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance¨.

And please note these are not just monopolies in one country: The modern monopolies are worldwide, and may have much more money than most countries have available.

Again, I think these modern monopolies, together with the spying terrorism that was instituted and somehow ¨legalized¨ by the PATRIOT Act (and subsequent legal horrors), and that also was mostly copied by the modern monopolies that suck up all and any information about the users of internet to better exploit them, are the foundations of modern neofascism (which tends to be ideologically propounded as ¨neolliberalism¨) that already has achieved that its major monopolies are richer and more powerful than most countries, while its major monopolies also seem to know as much (or more) than the states´ secret services do about almost all of their inhabitants.

These are the beginnings of the creation of
neofascism, that started on 9/11/2001 - or at least that is what I think (and without prejudging who was behind 9/11/2001 [2]).

And there is more in the article, which is recommended, and ends as follows:
Perhaps more important, the discussion that is beginning to take place on both sides of the political aisle on whether companies like Google and Amazon are too big will continue.
I think they are far too big, they are very anti-democratic, they are world-wride monopolies, and they work in actual fact mostly to make the billionaires that own them even richer and more powerful than they are already.

2. Google-Funded Think Tank Fired Google Critics After They Dared Criticize Google

This article is by Sam Biddle and David Dayen on The Intercept. It starts as follows and is about the same subject as the previous item:

The New America Foundation’s Open Markets group was a rare, loud voice of protest against Google’s ever-growing consolidation of economic and technological power around the world. But New America, like many of its fellow think tanks, received millions in funding from one of the targets of its anti-monopoly work, and according to a New York Times report today, pulled the plug after the company’s chief executive had enough dissent.

After EU regulators fined Google $2.7 billion earlier this summer, Barry Lynn, who ran the Open Markets division, cheered the decision, adding that “U.S. enforcers should apply the traditional American approach to network monopoly, which is to cleanly separate ownership of the network from ownership of the products and services sold on that network, as they did in the original Microsoft case of the late 1990s.” It didn’t take long for Lynn and his colleagues to suffer the consequences, the Times reports (..)
The report of the New York Times that Biddle and Dayen mention is item 1 above. And as Biddle and Dayen make clear, the ¨crime¨ or the ¨offence¨ that caused the dismissal of Barry Lynn was merely that he insisted that ¨“U.S. enforcers should apply the traditional American approach to network monopoly¨ - that incidentally were far smaller monopolies than Google or Facebook or Amazon.

And here is Biddle and Dayen´s explanation of the reasons why Barry Lynn was dismissed:

It’s safe to assume that the likeliest explanation is the most obvious one: Eric Schmidt, formerly an executive at Sun Microsystems, which itself later came under intense global antitrust scrutiny, didn’t want his money paying to promote similar scrutiny for his monopolistic practices. So, he leveraged his power as head of a company with a market cap of over $600 billion to get what he wanted (it wouldn’t be Google’s first time). New America and Slaughter, however, are most certainly worthy of blame, apparently caving to pressure — whether it was spoken or didn’t need to be — from the chief executive of the world’s most powerful technology firm, a complete dereliction of whatever purpose for being a think tank is supposed to have.

Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.

3. Environmental Crisis Unfolding in Houston as Oil & Chemical Industry Spew Toxic Pollutants into Air

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

As fallout from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana continues, at least 30 people have died and more than 17,000 people are in shelters. Hundreds of thousands are under evacuation orders, and all past U.S. rainfall records have been shattered. In Texas, a third of Harris County—which encompasses Houston—is currently underwater. Houston officials have imposed a mandatory curfew between midnight and 5 a.m. ExxonMobil says Harvey has damaged at least two of its refineries, causing thousands of pounds of chemicals to be released into the air. Residents in Crosby, Texas, are being evacuated amid concerns a chemical factory damaged by Harvey could explode. We speak with Bryan Parras, organizer with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign and the group Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.).

In fact, this is the first bit of more or less clear information about the effects of hurricane Harvey.

Here is some more, that also shows how Trump serves the interests of Exxon by switching off the air quality monitors that should protect the lives of citizens:

AMY GOODMAN: Workers at ExxonMobil’s oil refinery in Baytown said the facility, quote, "partially sank" after it flooded and that Exxon was authorized by state environmental officials to release excess emissions while it shut down. In Beaumont, flooding at another Exxon refinery damaged equipment that captures sulfur dioxide, causing it to release amounts that far exceed the company’s permits. This comes as state officials shut off air quality monitors to protect them from storm-related damage, and are relying on facilities to self-report any toxic fumes they release.

For - to continue the argument which I started - ¨to protect [the air quality monitors]  from storm-related damage¨ is propagandistic bullshit that protects the interests of the rich to maintain their profits, while denying the non-rich any information about the quality of the air they have to breath. (Or that is how I see it.)

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: And, Bryan, finally, are you concerned that toxins will be released that have never been allowed to be released before, using this hurricane, this tropical storm, as an excuse?

BRYAN PARRAS: It’s possible. You know, that’s the really scary part, Amy. We don’t know. We’re at the behest of the same industries, you know, who are making these dangerous chemicals. And that’s the most stressful part of these storms, the unknown and the constant state of stress of what might happen.

And ¨the same industries¨ that ¨are making (..) dangerous chemicals¨ cannot be controlled anymore by the people who live there, because ¨state officials¨ decided to ¨shut off air quality monitors to protect them from storm-related damage¨.

I say. And this is a recommended article.

4. Trump's Media Pals Are Busy Creating a Left-Wing 'Threat' to Balance Out the Awful Racist Right-Wing Hordes That Threaten Civil Society

This article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

In these dark days, an intergenerational warning is in order: Antifa folks, be wary. They are coming for you.   

Some of us have seen this movie before. In my generation, when I was a teenage member of MSU’s SDS in the late 1960s, I remember the guy who was always yelling, “Kill the pigs,” and encouraging us to burn down the ROTC building on campus. In later years, I heard from old SDS colleagues that when they sued the police, they learned that the outspoken guy was a police officer and his friends were informants.

For my dad’s generation, the right-wing takeover of a protest movement happened in Germany generations ago, so most Americans don’t even recognize Marinus van der Lubbe’s name. But the Germans remember well that fateful day 84 years ago: Feb. 27, 1933. And many of them are looking at the confrontations in our streets and worrying.

First, there is more on the ¨antifa folks¨ here and here (and until they explain clearly what they understand by ¨fascism¨ they insist on calling ¨fa¨ (?!?!) and what they do think about politics, I don´t believe in them).

And next, because I am a Dutchman, like Marinus van der Lubbe (<-Wikipedia) was, while I also had two communist parents and three anarchist or communist grandparents (and at least since the middle Thirties of the 20th Century), I think it rather likely that I know more about Van der Lubbe and European Nazism than Thom Hartmann does. (And I should add that there are not ¨many of them¨ who ¨remember well that fateful day 84 years ago¨ for the simple reason that they need to be at least 95 or 100 to do so (and both of my parents died before 2000)).

But Thom Hartmann´s parallelism between Hitler´s policies and Trump´s policies is instructive. Here is Hartmann on Hitler (in the early thirties, almost immediately after he was elected):

"You are now witnessing the beginning of a great epoch in history," Hitler proclaimed, standing in front of the burned-out German Parliament building, surrounded by national media.

"This fire," he said, his voice trembling with emotion, "is the beginning." He used the occasion—"a sign from God," he called it—to declare an “all-out war on terrorism” and its ideological sponsors, a people, he said, who traced their origins to the Middle East and found motivation for their evil deeds in their religion.

And, he said, their fellow travelers —"communists” like the man who’d set the Reichstag on fire—needed to be tracked down and utterly destroyed.
Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's now-popular leader had pushed through legislation, in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it, that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus.

Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's homes without warrants and peek around without homeowners know it, if the cases involved terrorism.

Note that in the modern USA since the PATRIOT Act the secret services (there are at least 17 of them) can get (almost) each and any mail anybody sends to anyone; can imprison suspected terrorists for fifteen years or more without specific charges, and with very much bound lawyers; can sneak into anyone´s homes without any warrant simply by the web-cameras that they control secretively; and anyway may know far more about any private person than these recall about themselves.

Also, all the propaganda that I have read about private terrorism (that is real as is state terrorism) does not make clear (i) that state terrorism is far more dangerous than private terrorism (ii) that state terrorism has killed at least 75 million people in the 20th Century (only counting Hitler´s victims, Stalin´s victims and Mao´s victims), nor (iii) that the state terrorists use propaganda about private terrorists to impose their total grasp of absolutely everyone's ideas, values, interests, concerns, incomes, mails etc. etc. on the pretense that this would protect everyone from private terrorism. [3]

And here is more on Hitler´s policies:

Those denounced often included opposition politicians and celebrities who dared speak out—a favorite target of his regime. He began a campaign to discredit the press; he called them the Lugenpresse, or "lying press" (“fake news” in today’s vernacular). The phrase was repeated endlessly until all the free press was shut down in 1934. By 1935, all the radio stations and newspapers were owned by wealthy, hard-right friends of his regime.

To consolidate his power, he concluded that government alone wasn't enough. He reached out to industry and forged an alliance, bringing former executives of the nation's largest corporations into high government positions. A flood of government money poured into corporate coffers to fight the war against the “leftist terrorists” lurking within the Homeland, and to prepare for wars overseas.

Again, this narrowly parallels Trump´s policies, who likewise complains about the lying press, who likewise puts ¨former executives of the nation's largest corporations¨ - notably: banks (Goldman Sachs) and oil (Exxon) - ¨into high government positions¨, and who likewise ¨poured¨ ¨a flood of government money¨ ¨into corporate coffers to fight¨ what Trump calls ¨terrorism¨.

Hartmann expects a Van der Lubbe. It is possible, but in fact Trump and the American state, including Trump´s opponents, succeeded in getting a great lot further in laws that enable full control of the civil population than Hitler or Stalin ever got: It seems everyone is known to secret government programs, that meanwhile have been gathering information on everyone for 16 years already.

And this is a recommended article.

5. The Same Ol’ Afghan War Fallacies

This article is by Paul R. Pillar on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
President Trump’s statement on Afghanistan has numerous shortcomings. It portrays as a “new strategy” what is instead a familiar kicking of a can down the road. It combines Trump’s habit of heaping blame on his predecessors with a warmed-over version of what those predecessors did in Afghanistan.

It declares a determination to “win” while leaving one guessing as to exactly what a win would mean in Afghanistan. It fails to address underlying problems of governance in that country. It gives no basis for expecting or even hoping that the U.S. military expedition there will not go on forever.

Added to these features is a further notion that Trump shares with many others, including observers who in other respects are critical of his policy. This is the idea that there is a direct connection between extremists having a physical presence in a distant land and the United States facing a terrorist threat at home.

Trump used the term safe haven four times in his speech. He declared that the basic purpose of the military expedition in Afghanistan was, “We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America.”

One hears this same idea over and over. The current U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General John W. Nicholson, Jr., says, “The requirement to keep pressure on these terror groups to prevent another attack on our homeland .?.?. fundamentally, that is why we are here.” Such statements — and not only about Afghanistan — are minor rephrasing of the old notion of “fight them over there or else we’ll have to fight them at home.”

That notion is not valid, and never has been. The very physical distance involved works against the relevance of foreign havens to terrorist threats against the homeland. One cannot drive a truck bomb, or even the ingredients for one, across the Atlantic Ocean.
Yes, indeed: ¨The very physical distance involved works against the relevance of foreign havens to terrorist threats against the homeland.¨ But physical distances play no role in mythology, and mythology is what the American people are served by both their governments and their mainstream media.

There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2] I don´t know who was behind 9/11/2001. And many of the official explanations that I have read are simply false, while it does seem quite possible to me that in fact it was set up by the American military. But indeed of this possibility I also have no proof.

[3] Incidentally, it is (also) just pretense that a government´s forces can protect ¨everyone¨ of the civilian population, or indeed most of them, or even quite a few of them: There simply is not enough police or military to protect the vast majority of any civil population.
      home - index - summaries - mail