Thursday, November 23, 2017

Crisis: Net Neutrality, (Rich) Predators, Puerto Rico, Trumpian Taxes, Jeremy Corbyn

Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from November 23, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, November 23, 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 and since nearly two years (!!!!) 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 November 23, 2017
1. Why the Courts Will Have to Save Net Neutrality
2. Expert: President Trump Calling His Accusers “Liars” Confirms
     Women’s Fears of Not Being Believed

3. Is Puerto Rico Being 'Ethnically Cleansed' for the Superrich?
4. The Trump Tax Plan Wants to Create a Nation of Idiots
5. Watch Enraged Jeremy Corbyn Denounce 'Uncaring' Budget, Call
    Tories Unfit to Govern
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. Why the Courts Will Have to Save Net Neutrality

This article is by Tim Wu on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
On Tuesday, the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, announced plans to eliminate even the most basic net neutrality protections — including the ban on blocking — replacing them with a “transparency” regime enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. “Transparency,” of course, is a euphemism for “doing nothing.” (...) Indeed, a broadband carrier like AT&T, if it wanted, might even practice internet censorship akin to that of the Chinese state, blocking its critics and promoting its own agenda.
Yes indeed: I think this is quite correct. Here are some of Wu´s reasons to believe that this will require legal interference:

Allowing such censorship is anathema to the internet’s (and America’s) founding spirit. And by going this far, the F.C.C. may also have overplayed its legal hand. So drastic is the reversal of policy (if, as expected, the commission approves Mr. Pai’s proposal next month), and so weak is the evidence to support the change, that it seems destined to be struck down in court.

The problem for Mr. Pai is that government agencies are not free to abruptly reverse longstanding rules on which many have relied without a good reason, such as a change in factual circumstances. A mere change in F.C.C. ideology isn’t enough. As the Supreme Court has said, a federal agency must “examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action.” Given that net neutrality rules have been a huge success by most measures, the justification for killing them would have to be very strong.

I agree, but I have three - somewhat speculative - remarks:

My first remark is that Pai and the Republicans may be calculating that yes, the changes they propose may well need the courts, but then again the courts are now more and more filled by judges nominated by Trump, and such judges may (also) be quite willing to pass Pai´s rules. (Incidentally, I have no direct evidence for this, but this seems to me quite possible.)

The second remark is that it may well be the case that Pai (from his point of view) does believe there are changes ¨in factual circumstances¨. I do not know which ones he could or might quote, but it seems quite possible that he will insist that the rich corporations may loose some of their riches due to the slow connections they have.

And my third remark is that I think by now it is less likely to be about the speed of the internet (computers are still getting faster) as is is about the rights of the internet: It seems that Pai simply wants the rich corporations to have almost all the powers they want.

I grant all of these remarks are speculative, but I also think they are realistic. And in fact it seems Tim Wu agrees:

It isn’t. In fact, it’s very weak. From what we know so far, Mr. Pai’s rationale for eliminating the rules is that cable and phone companies, despite years of healthy profit, need to earn even more money than they already do (...)

Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.

2. Expert: President Trump Calling His Accusers “Liars” Confirms Women’s
Fears of Not Being Believed

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

Amid the torrent of sexual abuse allegations lodged by women against powerful men, President Trump rushed to the defense of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who stands accused of multiple instances of sexual assault against minors. Meanwhile, CBS News, PBS
and Bloomberg all said Tuesday that they’re firing veteran journalist Charlie Rose over multiple accusations of sexual harassment. On Capitol Hill, Congressmember Jackie Speier says she knows of at least two lawmakers who’ve engaged in sexual harassment and has introduced a bill to end a mandatory “cooling off period” before accusers can file claims. We speak with Jennifer Drobac, a professor and expert in sexual harassment law at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

Yes indeed. (And incidentally: I generally copy the introductions to the interviews of Democracy Now! that I report, simply because they are good and fair summaries.)

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: At least nine women have stepped forward to say they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Roy Moore as children, and The New Yorker reports Moore was banned from a local mall and a YMCA in Alabama because he repeatedly badgered teenage girls. Moore’s lawyer denies the ban existed. Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by at least 16 women. A leaked Access Hollywood video from 2005 recorded Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women, saying, “When you’re a star, they let you do it, grab ’em by the —.”

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, CBS News, PBS and Bloomberg all said, Tuesday, they are firing TV icon Charlie Rose and canceling distribution of his programs. Three more women who worked at CBS have also stepped forward to accuse Rose of sexual harassment, bringing the total number of his accusers to at least nine. Rose is accused of groping women, making lewd phone calls, walking around naked or in untethered bathrobe.
Incidentally (and this is one of my - not very good - reasons to think events of the present nature are considerably less likely in Holland): I think if you are talking about sex and its scandals, you should write what Trump said: ¨the —¨ = ¨the pussy¨. [2]

But the rest seems quite correct. And here is Jennifer Drobac:
JENNIFER DROBAC: OK, so let’s start with Roy Moore. The problem with Roy Moore is these allegations don’t fall under typical anti-discrimination law. These women, young girls, really, were not his employees. He was not their teacher. And so sexual harassment law doesn’t technically cover it. It’s really more personal injury law. But that law doesn’t capture the systemic nature of discrimination against women. So, what he did at the time was illegal, possibly criminal, but it really did not fit under what we understand today as sexual harassment law. The president’s comments yesterday are appalling, shocking, and yet, sadly, not very surprising given his history.
I say, for I did not know that. Besides, I think it strange that sexual harassment (in U.S. law) seems to require that those who are harassed also are either employees or being taught by the persons harassing them: That seems rather strange to me, but indeed I am neither a lawyer nor an American.

Here is Drobac on Trump:
JENNIFER DROBAC: (...) Then you also have the president during the
campaign. He admits in a recorded conversation that he’s a grabber. And that is at least illegal behavior, possibly criminal. And then what happens? He then proceeds to confirm the two fears that women have. First, women came forward and said, yes, he did this to me. So, what does he do then? He calls them all liars, thereby confirming the first fear, that women won’t be believed. Second, he then threatened to sue them all. That confirms the second fear women have, is that they will be retaliated against.
I think all of that is quite true.

Finally, Drobac distinguishes three types of sexual predators, of which I mention here only the third type (for the others see the original):

JENNIFER DROBAC: Finally, there are the, what I call corrupt predators. And those are most of the people we’re talking about now. They either know that they are engaging in seriously, often violent or illegal and criminal behavior, and they simply don’t care or they can’t help themselves. Their egos have now gotten so big that they think they can do anything. And again, this is describing some of the people we’re talking about here.

I think that is quite correct, and this also seems to refer more or less adequately to such men as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Roy Moore and also to Donald Trump.

And this is a recommended article.

3. Is Puerto Rico Being 'Ethnically Cleansed' for the Superrich?

This article is by Harvey Wasserman on Truthdig. This starts as follows:

Two months after the Sept. 20 landfall of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico—like the nearby Virgin Islands—is still in a state of horrifying devastation. The help being offered by the Trump administration is thin to the point of being cruel and unusual.

At this point one must ask: Is Trump’s astonishing lack of aid part of a larger plan to cleanse the islands of their native populations, drive down real estate values and create a billionaire’s luxury hotel-casino- prostitution playground à la Cuba before the revolution?

In other words: ethnic cleansing for the superrich.

I think that this - in view of the sexually predatory and (in my psychologist´s opinion: quite insane) president Trump - may well be true. And indeed one legal advantage Trump may see is that Puerto Rico is both a part of the USA and surrounded by water: A potentially ideal playground for the - American - super rich.

Here is some more - and the list of points I quote is considerably smaller than the list of points you will find in the original of this text:

But overall, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are in such horrific shape that it’s hard to dismiss the idea that the weak recovery effort might be by design. Consider this:

● Throughout the islands, U.S. citizens are dying due to lack of clean water. Tens of thousands are still without food, clothing, medical care or even basic shelter. (...)

● Despite enormous resources available, the Trump administration has failed to deliver even sufficient tarps to cover rooftops that have been shattered or blown away altogether. (...)

● FEMA has been responding to requests for help by handing people without phone service or electricity a flier with a phone number to call and a website on which to fill out an application.

● Many in Puerto Rico have died because most of the island’s hospitals have no power and cannot provide surgery, dialysis and other basic life-saving services. Insulin and other medicines have spoiled due to lack of refrigeration. (..)

● Those who do have work restoring power and providing other emergency services return home at night to homes or apartments with no electric power, no air conditioning, no refrigerated food, no means to cook what they have and partial roofs that leak during the frequent rains.

All of this sounds to me as very easily preventable, which means that since they are not prevented, this indeed may well be intentional cruelty.

Here is some more, and Segal is ¨an activist¨:

“There is ethnic cleansing in PR, not enough food, water, medicine, and medical care. People dying in hospitals,” Segal said. “Why? Because they are black and brown people who speak another language. They are not white, therefore, why care about their well-being?”

Segal speculates that while the proposed GOP tax plan would give the rich a $1.5 trillion tax cut, Republicans in Congress do not want to spend $90 billion rebuilding the Caribbean.

In an email to me, Segal added that the hurricane response also might be about stripping the islands of their inconvenient natives and converting them into yet another billionaire’s paradise filled with Trump-type hotels, casinos and sex trade centers.

Yes indeed: At least this seems likely to me. And this is a recommended article.

4. The Trump Tax Plan Wants to Create a Nation of Idiots

This article is by David Cay Johnston (<- Wikipedia) [3] on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

The House tax bill is an all-out attack on the future prosperity of America, not that any of the major news organizations are telling you that in plain English. Lost in the dense bureaucratic language of modern news reports is the simple fact that the House bill takes from striving students so that the already rich and major corporations can have more.

This bill is a long-term disaster in terms of what economists call opportunity costs. That term refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action. This tax bill gives up the future wealth from investing in brainpower in favor of permanent tax cuts for the already rich and corporations.

This tax bill should be called the Intellectual Destruction Initiative Outrageous Tax Savings Act, a.k.a. the IDIOTS Tax Act of 2017.

I agree with the first and the third paragraph, but I think that the concept of opportunity cost (<- Wikipedia) is a needless complication here. And for me it seems quite clear - in any case, indeed - that one should invest ¨in brainpower in favor of permanent tax cuts for the already rich and corporations¨ (completely apart from ¨opportunity cost¨).

Then again, I should add that I have witnessed now 50 years of ongoing destructions in the Dutch educational system, that now delivers students for electric engineering etc. who at age 18 do not know the algebra that I learned at age 12 (55 years ago) and that, altogether, seems to have halved the educational loads of schools, colleges and universities in Holland.

Also, since these extremely radical changes were generally welcomed because they made it a lot easier to get degrees of all kinds, they have hardly been discussed in Holland, and also not elsewhere in Europe, where similar changes were made (except - the single exception - in Finland [4]).

Here is David Cay Johnston´s alternative to the Trumpian destruction of most education:

What we need is more investment in education and, especially, education of the most serious and scholarly students. I have a name for what we need—the Intellectual Quality General Education National Investment University Scholarship Act or IQ GENIUS Act.

Well... yes, but I am completely convinced this will not work, for a quite similar reason this has not worked in Holland the last 50 years: There are only a few persons - less than 2%, in fact - who have an IQ over 130, while the other 98% are generally much in favour of simplifying their educational difficulties by diminishing the demands.

I am in favor of Johnston´s alternative, but I have learned that those in favor of these measures risk being thrown from the Dutch universities, precisely as I was, very briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy: The faculty removed me - illegally - because I had publicly criticized the parasites and incompetents who ¨taught¨ philosophy in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam between 1971 and 1995.

Apparently it was a rule in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam that those who criticize their teachers, also if they are extremely good students, as I was, may be denied all the rights they are legally entitled to under Dutch laws. And I was.

Here is more on the Trumpian destruction of education, that are paralleled by the Dutch destructions of education, for whereas I had to pay 40 euros to become a student in 1976, which means that it would cost some 200 euros to get an M.A. degree, from 2008 onwards the Dutch had to pay (for example) euros 20,000 to get a medical degree (that had at most half of the quality of the medical degrees taken between 1865 and 1965):

In simple terms, here is the bill’s message to the poorly educated person who works in the college cafeteria so that their child may attend college: “Tell your kids plan on a career in the cafeteria.”

It´s the same in Holland: I could not have studied in the 2000s. Here is more on David Cay Johnston´s quite sensible ideas:

We should be investing more in young minds, from birth through the highest level of education that serious students desire, not less. That is what China and other countries with an eye to tomorrow are doing, while our Congress looks at today and yesterday.

And this is from the end of the article:

Only by rigorously developing critical thinking skills, a deep understanding of mathematics and statistics and recognizing the nature of science can America continue to prosper. Intense education is the fundamental building block of America’s economic future.

I quite agree, but it will not happen under Trump. Instead, he will break down all the opportunities for the poor to go to college or to university or else he will load those who nevertheless study with little money with enormous debts for the rest of their lives.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Watch Enraged Jeremy Corbyn Denounce 'Uncaring' Budget, Call Tories Unfit to Govern

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:
British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tore into a Conservative member of parliament during a debate over the Tories' 2017 Autumn budget on Wednesday, denouncing the "uncaring, uncouth attitude" of right-wing lawmakers in the face of austerity that has crippled social services that provide for the elderly, the sick, and the poor and—according to a recent study—caused 120,000 deaths.
Incidentally: Any government that causes 120,000 deaths outside a situation of war must be a deeply criminal government.

Here is some more:
"Over £6 billion [$7.9 billion USD] will have been cut from social care budgets by next March," Corbyn said, as Labour MPs shouted "shame on you" at the Tory bench.
I´d say this - ¨$7.9 billion USD¨ - is plain theft from the poor.

Here is more by Corbyn:

Corbyn went on to characterize the Tory budget—introduced on Wednesday by Finance Minister Philip Hammond—as nothing more than "accounting tricks and empty promises" that will perpetuate "the misery many are in."

"Our country is marked by growing inequality and injustice," Corbyn concluded. "We were promised a revolutionary budget. The reality is nothing has changed. People were looking for help from this budget, they have been let down. Let down by a government that, like the economy they've presided over, is weak and unstable and in need of urgent change.
I agree and this is a recommended article.


[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´ve lived in England in the 1970ies and it turned out then to be quite backward compared to Holland about sexual terminology:

Whereas in Holland especially educated women often said ¨Cunt!" (Dutch: ¨Kut!¨) if they referred to something they disliked, indeed from the late 1960ies onwards, in England it turned out to be fairly scandalous if one did the same: If writing about it, it should have been put as ¨_!¨.

These differences still exist (about 45 years later), and they also exist in the USA. I think these differences go back to fairly ridiculous supersti- tions, but indeed I am Dutch.

[3] In fact, Johnston is called ¨Johnson¨ in the article.

[4] I should add here that my information about Finland dates from 2008-2010. It may have changed since. (I do not know.)
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