January 20, 2018

Crisis: Horrible Surveillance Law * 3,  Dictator Trump, The Morons of Facebook


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 20, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, January 20, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 20, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Republicans Have Four Easy Ways to #ReleaseTheMemo 
2. Despite #ReleasetheMemo Call, Trump Signs Warrantless Surveillance
     Bill into Law

3. Congress Just Passed a Terrible Surveillance Law. Now What?
4. Does Donald Trump Want to Be Dictator of the United States?
5. Facebook Will Trust Its Untrustworthy Users to Rank the
     Trustworthiness of News

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. Republicans Have Four Easy Ways to #ReleaseTheMemo

This article is by Glenn Greenwald and Jon Schwarz on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

One of the gravest and most damaging abuses of state power is to misuse surveillance authorities for political purposes. For that reason, The Intercept, from its inception, has focused extensively on these issues.

We therefore regard as inherently serious strident warnings from public officials alleging that the FBI and Department of Justice have abused their spying power for political purposes. Social media last night and today have been flooded with inflammatory and quite dramatic claims now being made by congressional Republicans about a four-page memo alleging abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act spying processes during the 2016 election. This memo, which remains secret, was reportedly written under the direction of the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, and has been read by dozens of members of Congress after the committee voted to make the memo available to all members of the House of Representatives to examine in a room specially designated for reviewing classified material.

The rhetoric issuing from GOP members who read the memo is notably extreme. North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, chair of the House Freedom Caucus, called the memo “troubling” and “shocking” and said, “Part of me wishes that I didn’t read it because I don’t want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.” GOP Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania stated: “You think about, ‘Is this happening in America or is this the KGB?’ That’s how alarming it is.”

This has led to a ferocious outcry on the right to “release the memo” – and presumably thereby prove that the Obama administration conducted unlawful surveillance on the Trump campaign and transition. On Thursday night, Fox News host and stalwart Trump ally Sean Hannity claimed that the memo described “the systematic abuse of power, the weaponizing of those powerful tools of intelligence and the shredding of our Fourth Amendment constitutional rights.”

I say, for I did not know this. Then again, given the above information, I immediately draw two conclusions: (1) the Republicans have been lying about very many things, and therefore they may be lying about this as well (although I don't know, but lying does seem likely), and (2) in either case, the way to clarify this is clearly and evidently to publish the memo (in full).

And the second conclusion is precisely the one Greenwald draws, and indeed he also makes the first point:

Given the significance of this issue, it is absolutely true that the memo should be declassified and released to the public — and not just the memo itself. The House Intelligence Committee generally and Nunes specifically have a history of making unreliable and untrue claims (its report about Edward Snowden was full of falsehoods, as Bart Gellman amply documented, and prior claims from Nunes about “unmasking” have been discredited).

Here is more on the background - for Trump and the Republicans do have the power to declassify the memo, and indeed almost everything else:

President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have the power, working together or separately, to immediately declassify all the relevant information. And if indeed the GOP’s explosive claims are accurate – if, as HPSCI member Steve King, R-Iowa, says, this is “worse than Watergate” — they obviously have every incentive to get it into the public’s hands as soon as possible. Indeed, one could argue that they have the duty to do so.

On the other hand, if the GOP’s claims are false or significantly misleading – if they are, with the deepest cynicism imaginable, simply using these crucial issues to whip up their base or discredit the Mueller investigation, or exaggerating or making claims that lack any evidentiary support, or trying to have the best of all worlds by making explosive claims about the memo but never having to prove their truth — then they will either not release the memo or they will release it without any supporting documentation, making it impossible for Americans to judge its accuracy for themselves.

Precisely. And here is the end of the article (after considerably more):

So that’s that. All Americans, particularly conservatives, should ask every Republican making spectacular assertions about this memo when they will be using the above ways to conclusively demonstrate that everything they’ve said is based in rock-solid fact.

If they do not, Republicans will conclusively demonstrate something else. They will prove conclusively that all of this is about them shamelessly making claims they do not actually believe, fraudulently posturing as caring about one of the most vital, fundamental issues facing the United States: how the U.S. government uses the vast surveillance powers with which it has been vested.

Again precisely.

And this is a strongly recommended article, while the next two articles I review concern the same subject, which I also agree with Greenwald is probably the most important subject today: "
how the U.S. government uses the vast surveillance powers with which it has been vested."

As I have been saying for a long time now (indeed, since the end of 2012 - and almost everything I said in that article was either my own conclusion or my own explanation of known facts, which I add because my article from 2012 was strongly confirmed by Snowden's information in 2013):

I think the current American government, and indeed the previous American governments since Reagan (!!), have been trying and are still trying to provide a foundation for the introduction of neofascism - which, of course, they do NOT name by that name: they call it "neoliberalism" in order to pretend it will increase freedoms, which indeed it will, but only the freedoms of the rich to further exploit the non-rich - and their strongest tool to help them succeed in doing so is precisely surveilling everyone and stealing all their privacies - which in my opinion is grossly and criminally unconstitutional.

Here is more on this subject:

2. Despite #ReleasetheMemo Call, Trump Signs Warrantless Surveillance Bill into Law

This article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Despite calls for the release of an internal memo that would supposedly expose the abuse of the government's expansive powers to spy on Americans without a warrant, President Donald Trump late Friday afternoon—largely obscured by the drama of a pending federal shutdown—signed a bill into law that grants him sweeping surveillance powers.

"Our democracy is broken. And now that Trump has signed a bill expanding Orwellian domestic spying powers, the most powerful and corrupt officials will have the tools to ensure that our democracy remains broken, and target those who try to fix it,"  said Laila Abdelaziz, a campaigner with Fight for the Future, in response.

Earlier in the day—amid calls from right-wing pundits and Republican lawmakers that a classified memo written by House GOP staffers that purports to describe abuses in FBI surveillance practices be released—civil libertarians and transparency advocates, including NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, called their bluff by saying that if the memo shows the kinds of abuse that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI), claimed that it does, they would have not only the ability, but the obligation to have the document released to the public.
Yes indeed: precisely so. And Greenwald's article is reviewed above. Here is some more:

And, earlier in the day, Snowden put it this way:

There is one signal that will tell you if the Republican's #ReleaseTheMemo campaign is legitimate: whether or not @RealDonaldTrump signs the FISA 702 reauth into law in the next 10 days. If he doesn't veto 702 and send it back to Congress for reform, this is nothing but politics.

And so, with Trump quietly signing the bill, one might be tempted to say: 'Well, there you have it.'

In fact, I think it was "nothing but politics", that is to say: nothing but lies and propaganda ever since 9/11/2001 - which I also think was definitely falsely reported in the news.

This is also a recommended article, and here is more:

3. Congress Just Passed a Terrible Surveillance Law. Now What?

This article is by Neema Singh Giuliani on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Yesterday Congress missed a historic opportunity to reform an unconstitutional surveillance law, instead passing a version that makes it worse. Both Democrats and Republicans deserve sharp criticism for continuing to allow the NSA to engage in mass, warrantless spying.

(You can see how your member of Congress voted here and here, so they can be held accountable.)

The vote concerned Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — a law disclosed by Edward Snowden that revealed the NSA had been spying on Americans in unprecedented ways. As a result of the expiration of this law, Congress needed to decide, for the first time since those revelations, whether to reform, reauthorize, or do away with the law altogether.

For years, the government claimed that Section 702 was primarily used to stop foreign terrorists. In 2013, we learned that was a lie. The government uses the hundreds of millions of communications collected under Section 702 — which it gets directly from tech companies or by tapping into the physical infrastructure that makes up the internet — to access the sensitive information of Americans for purposes that have nothing to do with national security.

Yes indeed - and please note that the FISA-law was illegal to start with, and has served the NSA and others since 2001 to collect all the private information on anyone since 2001.

And incidentally but quite crucially, the NSA has been and is spying on everyone who is not an American with - what I can only describe as - wild abandon since 2001.

Here is more: The House embraced an unconstitutional law and now has made it worse:

Instead, the House pushed through a bill that fails to reform — and in some ways worsens — current law. Not to be outdone, the Senate today passed the same bill, without allowing even one minute of debate on how this bill could be improved. It now heads to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.

In fact, I think the prior law (presumably the PATRIOT Act) was illegal as well, and indeed it is entirely typical for the fake democracy that now rules the USA that a law that allows the spying on over 300 million Americans by their secret services is being accepted "without allowing even one minute of debate".

And I think also that Trump with this decision has made the USA into a neofascist state. It may still be stopped, but this is ever less likely as Trump reigns longer.

4. Does Donald Trump Want to Be Dictator of the United States?

This article is by Mark Follman on Mother Jones. But let me start this review by - partially - answering the question that its title asks:

I think it is - after a year of Trump - evident that Trump would like to be a dictator, but I also think he is probably not well aware what makes someone a dictator, and he isn't because he does not know a whole lot that a president of the USA should know.

And I realize I may be a bit friendly towards Trump, which I am not because I like him, but because it is also evident that he really does not know what a
president of the USA should know.

The article starts as follows:
It began the day he was sworn in, with his vow to end “American carnage”—a direct echo of his autocratic pronouncement when accepting the Republican nomination that “I alone can fix it.” Donald Trump has chipped away at the pillars of democracy ever since. According to a new report from Freedom House, an independent watchdog group that has monitored democracy globally for decades, “The past year brought further, faster erosion of America’s own democratic standards than at any other time in memory.” The nation’s core institutions, the report says, have been “attacked by an administration that rejects established norms of ethical conduct across many fields of activity.”

In his first year as president, Trump often appeared driven by his urges for self-aggrandizement, self-enrichment, and revenge against anyone and everyone he perceived to be his political enemies—targets to be punched 10 times harder
or screwed 15 times harder than they’ve punched or screwed him. He has used the presidential platform to taunt and threaten, going after federal judges, members of Congress, law enforcement leaders, celebrities, professional athletes, private citizens, and, of course, his greatest bÍte noire: the “Fake News” media, which he has blasted hundreds of times since taking office.

Yes indeed, although the two paragraphs address two rather different ideas:

The first paragraph addresses the fact that "
Donald Trump has chipped away at the pillars of democracy ever since" he was nominated (and indeed also before), and this has brought "faster erosion of America’s own democratic standards than at any other time in memory."

I think that is - or at least ought to be - quite clear at the moment, and it is so independently from what the second paragraph addresses, namely "
his urges for self-aggrandizement,
self-enrichment, and revenge against anyone and everyone he perceived to be his political enemies

The second is quite different from the first, but unfortunately they are somewhat mixed up in the next bit that I quote:
Another new report assessing Trump’s first year in the White House, “The Republic at Risk,” reaffirms the importance of documenting the daily absurdities: “The turn away from democracy need not be premeditated; an incompetent leader with authoritarian tendencies can pose as much of a threat as one with a systematic plan to dismantle checks and balances.” The bipartisan joint report from Protect Democracy and Stand Up Ideas, two groups comprised of government and legal experts, further warns that if Trump were to follow the path of other emerging authoritarians, “he would first erode the norms and ideals integral to a democratic society, then move into actual institutional changes once the public is sufficiently distracted, exhausted, and cynical.”
As I said, I think that the daily absurdities by Trump are one thing, while the quite conscious furtherance of the interests of the very rich and their corporations, at the cost of the many non-rich, and at the cost of democracy and freedom, are quite different.

But I agree that Trump seems "
to follow the path of other emerging authoritarians", even if he does so in a rather absurd way (in considerable part because I think, as a psychologist, that he is mad).

Here is more on what Trump did do in the first year of his presidency:
The report breaks down the dangers—politicizing independent institutions, spreading disinformation, amassing executive power, quashing dissent, delegitimizing communities, and corrupting elections—in a way that points with alarming accuracy to much that we’ve documented from Trump’s first 365 days in office:
Yes indeed, and Mark Follman also has worked out some of these dangers, and does so under five headings that I merely list here, while I suppress the texts associated with them, that I leave to your interests:

Attacks on national security institutions
Endless war on the media
Corrupt use of the office
Targeting minorities
Undermining confidence in elections

The above texts - suppressed here - comprise a good part of the article, that is recommended. And indeed each of these is something that no honest and democratic president - whatever his or her political color - would engage in.

5. Facebook Will Trust Its Untrustworthy Users to Rank the Trustworthiness of News

This article is by Sam Biddle on The Intercept. It starts as follows:
Facebook users, by and large, are not very good at differentiating between what’s fact and what’s false. Many users will eagerly share both reliable news and the fake stuff without any hesitation. It happens because users either want the falsehoods to be received as true or simply can’t tell the difference. Rampant media illiteracy is the root cause of the fake news handwringing we’ve been dealing with since before the election, and will be fretting over until the end of time (or the end of Facebook, whichever comes first). Today, Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg said he is setting out to fix this fundamental problem of digital media illiteracy — by putting more power in the hands of the illiterate.
Let me put my own attitude to Facebook quite clearly (and see my article of 2011):

I think Facebook is the sickest neofascist corporation I know of. It is led by lying neofascists, who succeeded in defrauding over 2 billion of its mostly computer-ignorant members from their very own privacies; it does so deliberately; and it "rewards" its 2 billion suckers by sending them advertisements of things they like. It is an instrument that has been designed to serve almost exclusively the money interests and the power interests of its founder. It is sick; it is immoral; it is degenerate; and the sooner it gets closed down the better it is for everybody.

Here is the owner of this sickness who manipulates around 2 billion computer morons:
In a new Facebook post today, Zuckerberg said he “asked our product teams to make sure we prioritize news that is trustworthy, informative, and local.” Why this has only become a priority in the company’s 14th year of existence is left unsaid. Zuckerberg admitted that “there’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today,” and that his website “enables people to spread information faster than ever before.”
More specifically:
So, rather than relying on the subjectivity and biases of a team of outside experts, Facebook will rely on the subjectivity and biases of two billion people around the world. Specifically, Facebook said it will decide which media outlets are prioritized at least in part by just asking people which outlets they like:

At the outset of the year
, Zuckerberg declared it his personal challenge to fix what’s broken at his company. Today, he said to everyone, Here, you deal with it
In fact, I do not know what else Zuckerberg could have done, that is, without attacking his enornous profits.

But in fact I consider Facebook and the surveillance of everyone's privacies by both the NRA and other secret services and by Facebook, Apple, Google etc. as two sides of the very same coin, and that coin I call neofascism (check the definition if you didn't yet!):

The destruction of all privacies made the secret services very many times stronger than the KGB or the Gestapo was in the Soviet Union or Hitler's Germany. I keep this as being understood and now consider the destructions of intelligence, rational discussion and informed debate that Facebook has been engaged in ever since it started.

For until Facebook arose, most indvidual people got their information and their news from the papers and/or the TV, and (i) both were essentially local media (limited to the city or the country in which they were published), that (ii) to some extent preserved their traditions by - at least - keeping away most messages from the insane, the prejudiced, and the stupid. (And I am sorry, but at least half of the people there are have an IQ that is at best 100, and I am sorry, but that is too low to understand most more or less complicated things.)

With Facebook the insane, the prejudiced, the stupid and the dishonest (in brief: the morons) get all the chances they desire to upset the complete streams of information that existed before Facebook: Facebook is not local in any sense, and has over 2 billion members (all of whom signed away any rights they have over their private information); and it will be quite impossible to oversee the reactions of close to 2 billions of morons
that will enormously deflate the honesty, the information and the restraints that were present in the papers and the TV that Facebook mostly replaced.

It is all very sad in my opinion, and it will continue as long as the laws that permit spying on all or most people are in existence, and as long as Facebook can be used to publish the opinions from the non-intelligent, and multiply this by 1 1/2 billion as if these opinions are and should be  reigning.

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 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 (!!). 

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