Friday, September 8, 2017

Crisis: Medicare, Hurricane Irma, Generals vs Trump, New Censorship, Global Surveillance

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 8, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Friday, September 8, 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 will continue with it.

On the moment I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

2. Crisis Files
These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from September 8, 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:

This article is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet. This starts as follows:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, has joined the Bernie bandwagon demanding the nation replace its insurance-based health care system with what’s being called “Medicare for All,” named for the federal program Americans serving age 65 and older.

“I believe it’s time to take a step back and ask: what is the best way to deliver high quality, low cost health care to all Americans? Everything should be on the table—and that’s why I’m co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill that will be introduced later this month,” she wrote in a letter to supporters Thursday.

Warren is the second Democratic senator to co-sponsor Sanders’ as-yet-unseen bill, following California’s junior senator, Kamala Harris.
I say, which I do because I know that good health care is very important, that the USA does not have other than for the American rich, and because I know that Sanders, Warren and Harris are among the few senators who do not seem to be bought.

But I do not understand this because this proposal seems bound to fail with a Republican Senate and a Republican House, not to speak of the government and its insane president.


2. 6 Reasons Hurricane Irma Could Be the Natural Disaster of Our Time

This article is by Sarah K. Burris on AlterNet and originally on Raw Story. This starts as follows:
Hurricane Harvey was a tragic nightmare that hit the Texas shores with force and then lingered for days, dumping dump-trucks full of rain on a city ill-equipped to handle it. Florida is next, and if predictions are accurate, Hurricane Irma is going to be far worse than Houston was, and worse than anyone has prepared for.
I don´t often review articles that predict things as the present article does, but I agree that hurricane Harvey was pretty awful (the damages still remain to be counted) while hurrican Irma seems both larger and to be headed for Florida.

You can read in the article why that
may be quite problematic in the next few days.

3. Has Trump Been Tamed by His Generals and the Pentagon?

This article is by Jefferson Morley on AlterNet. This is from near the beginning:

After North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sunday, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned North Korea that any major threat to the U.S. or its allies would be met with a "massive military response." His strong but conventional rhetoric, balanced by the assurance that “we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea,” contrasted with Trump’s belligerent proclamation of August 8 that any further North Korean threats would be met with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen.”

This could be rationalized as a good cop-bad cop routine, but the rhetorical differences reflect real policy differences, and not just on North Korea. Trump’s generals are seeking, with some success, to pull the president toward their positions. Trump, with some exceptions, is being tamed by the military.

I say. Well... I don´t like Trump´s generals; I don´t like the Deep State; I don´t like the military-industrial complex, but then each of these has the advantage that while most of the men involved have ideas and values that are quite opposed to mine, I do not think - and I am a psychologist, which does make a difference - that most of them are not sane, which I do think (since long before his election) about Donald Trump.

And I also don´t know whether Morley is correct, but this seems - mildly, very mildly - hopeful. Here is the end of the article:

The appointment of former general John Kelly as White House chief of staff has further crimped Trump’s unorthodox impulses. Kelly quickly purged the most independent foreign policy thinkers in the White House: nationalist Steve Bannon and neo-Nazi Sebastian Gorka. Their departure, while welcome on many counts, will narrow the range of policy options presented to Trump and thus keep him more closely aligned with the Pentagon.

Bottom line: As commander in chief, Trump is an erratic enabler of what President Dwight Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. The military is seeking to tame him with some success. On North Korea and Iran at least, this is a welcome development.

Yes, I agree.

4. Beijing’s Bold New Censorship

This article is by Perry Link on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:

Authoritarians, in China and elsewhere, normally have preferred to dress their authoritarianism up in pretty clothes. Lenin called the version of dictatorship he invented in 1921 “democratic centralism,” but it became clear, especially after Stalin and Mao inherited the system, that centralism, not democracy, was the point.

Yes indeed, although I add that “democratic centralism” especially described the allowed practices within the top of the communist party (that formally held all power), while this translated for the ordinary people living under ¨socialism¨ [2] into totalitarianism.

Also, Stalin and Mao each had at least 10 million of their inhabitants killed while they ruled, but the following seemed to have been the rule in pre-computer days:

The art of controlling speech while avoiding the appearance of doing so has lasted through the ensuing decades. In the 2000s, explicit instructions went out to provincial officials that they avoid putting any censorship or blacklisting into writing. To kill an article, officials should get on the telephone and instruct editors orally.

Similarly, serious speech-crime offenders—people being sent to prison for years—were charged under face-saving euphemisms: tax evasion, fraud, even “blocking traffic,” or simply “picking quarrels.” The most fearful charge, “inciting subversion of the state,” which is reserved for extreme cases, is the only one that comes close to saying what is actually happening.

But in these computer days, when everyone is fully accessible by the secret services anywhere, whether one lives in China or the USA, the rules changed:

Earlier this year, I saw a standard contract that a major Beijing publisher uses with its authors and that no doubt reflects practice all across China. Provision Two of the contract lists the items to be censored: any language that violates the honor or interests of the state, harms national unity, leaks state secrets, insults the nation’s outstanding cultural traditions, and so on; a catch-all category at the end says, “or that violates other regulations.” Provision Five spells out who will decide which words in a text are to be censored:

Publisher has the right, in accordance with the publishing laws and regulations of the State, to make deletions, revisions, and additions to the Work. If changes are major, Publisher should consult with Author to obtain agreement. If Author refuses to revise or, after repeated revisions, has failed to satisfy Provision Two of this agreement, Publisher has the right to cancel the contract.

If ten years earlier political censorship was done by telephone, now it is out on the table, in writing.

Note that ¨Publisher¨ (in the end: the state´s secret services) ¨has the right¨ ¨to make deletions, revisions, and additions to the Work¨.

And this will be the new - explicit, written - Chinese censorship rules that articulate  straight totalitarianism, but then I agree that China is a dictatorship (in various forms, to be sure, that also differed considerably) since 1948.

The USA is not a dictatorship (as yet), but given Donald Trump´s attitude to the press, which he describes as spreading ¨fake news¨ whenever he disagrees with it, and given that it seems everyone in the USA is surveilled and has been surveilled for the most part since 9/11/2001 (or so it seems), one may at least ask when the Chinese rules
will become American.

As I said, the USA is not there yet, but one war, say with North Korea, may bring it a lot closer.

5.  Enforcing Empire Through a Global Surveillance State

This article (a book excerpt) is by Alfred McCoy on Truth-out. This starts as follows:
Although Washington began withdrawing many of its troops from the Greater Middle East in 2011, its sophisticated intelligence apparatus, built for the pacification of Afghanistan and Iraq, had already preceded them home, creating a US surveillance state of unprecedented power. Two years later, Edward Snowden's cache of leaked documents would reveal that the National Security Agency (NSA) was already using this technology to monitor the private communications of almost every American in the name of fighting foreign terrorists. But the roots of this domestic surveillance were, in fact, much deeper than anyone realized at the time. This kind of imperial blowback had been building a massive US internal security apparatus, step by step, war by war, for well over a century.
Yes indeed, except for the bit that says ¨the roots of this domestic surveillance were, in fact, much deeper than anyone realized at the time¨: I agree Snowden revealed quite a lot that I and most others did not know, but spying has been common for a very long time, and there were criticisms of the NSA, the CIA and the FBI for a long time (and indeed mostly in the non-mainstream media).

But I agree that computer technology + the internet has made spying - quite literally! - billions of times easier and correspondingly more common:

During [Obama´s] first months in office, I observed that the so-called war on terror had seemed close to "creating a domestic surveillance state -- with omni-present cameras, deep data-mining, nanosecond biometric identification, and drone aircraft patrolling the homeland."

That prediction has, in fact, become our present reality with breathtaking speed, propelled by the bureaucratic momentum from a full century of state surveillance. Not only are most Americans living under the Argus-eyed gaze of a digital surveillance state, but drones are now in our skies, cameras are an everyday presence in our lives, and the NSA's net sweeps up the personal messages of millions of people worldwide, Americans included, and penetrates the confidential communications of countless allied nations. The past was indeed prologue.

Yes indeed, except that I think it is more serious: I think the NSA sweeps up all the emails it can get, and that it can get almost all, and similar things are true for all other secret services (anywhere!): They just need access to the cables that transport the internet´s information, and then they can tap, in practice, anything they like. The only problem they have is storage, it seems (which already has become very cheap, but a billion mails a day indeed is a lot).

Anyway: That seems to me to be the situation that has emerged since 9/11: Almost everyone´s personal and private ideas, values, interests, health, income, sexuality etc. etc. has become the free possession of the secret services from anywhere.

Thanks to computers and the internet. I do not think that will end well...


[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 (!!).

In fact - having had - real and intelligent - communist parents, one of the first differences between them and me arose in 1964, when I was fourteen and had been to the German Democratic Republic, and completely refused to view that, or indeed any of the Soviet states, as socialistic in any real sense: I thought (and think) they were authoritarian dictatorships. (But this is a personal aside.)
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