July 21, 2018

Crisis: Migrant Children, Trump on Tape, On¨Social Media¨, On Trump, War on the Poor


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 21, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, July 21, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from July 20, 2018:
1. Migrant Children Detained in Shelters Being Drugged, Told Not to Hug,
     Forced to Bathe in Sinks

2. Trump on Tape About Paying Off Playboy Model, Report Says 
3. How Social Media Became Infested with 'Computational Propaganda'
     Designed to Control Society

4. 3 Main Theories That Explain Trump’s Approach to Putin and Russia
5. Trump Is Ramping Up the GOP's War on the Poor — And No One's

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. Migrant Children Detained in Shelters Being Drugged, Told Not to Hug, Forced to Bathe in Sinks

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts as follows:
The Trump administration has less than a week to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite children and parents separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under its “zero tolerance” policy. This comes as advocates say some migrant children have been released from federally contracted shelters with scabies and lice. In Illinois, officials are investigating the Chicago nonprofit Heartland Alliance over allegations it housed children separated from their parents at the border, with many of the children reportedly suffering abuse and neglect. We speak with Reveal reporter Aura Bogado, who has exposed a second office used by military contractor MVM to hold migrant children. This time, the children had to bathe in bathroom sinks.
I say! And no, I will not quote Aura Bogado (you can read her by clicking on the above title) for I will only quote Amy Goodman:

AMY GOODMAN: The Trump administration has less than a week to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite thousands of children and parents separated at the U.S.-Mexico border under its “zero tolerance” policy. Federal officials reported Thursday just 364 of more than 2,500 families with children age 5 and older have been brought back together. Another 848 have been cleared for reunification, but 229 parents have been deemed ineligible, reportedly because of criminal records or because they waived reunification. More than 700 of the parents have been ordered deported.

This comes as advocates say some migrant children have been released from federally contracted shelters with scabies and lice. In Illinois, officials are investigating the Chicago nonprofit Heartland Alliance over allegations it housed children separated from their parents at the border, with many of the children reportedly suffering abuse and neglect. The Washington Post reported one boy at Heartland Alliance’s facility Casa Guadalupe was repeatedly injected with a drug that made him drowsy, while another boy was denied medication for weeks after injuring his arm.

The Washington Post also says children were surveilled with hidden cameras, prevented from hugging their brothers and sisters. They’ve been separated from their parents.

A report by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting shows taxpayers paid more than one-and-a-half billion dollars in the last four years to companies operating immigrant youth detention centers that faced accusations of serious lapses in care. Children held at Shiloh Treatment Center near Houston, Texas, were restrained and injected with powerful anti-psychotic drugs against their will, making them dizzy, listless, obese, even incapacitated.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military and CIA contractor MVM has admitted it detained migrant children overnight inside a vacant Phoenix office building with dark windows, no kitchen, only a few toilets.
Well... I have been saying since I first heard the news that Trump stole children from their parents that what Trump and his government are doing amounts to kidnapping, and I still think that is the case. I now add that the American government consists of sadists who treat immigrants from South America as if they are sub-humans. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Trump on Tape About Paying Off Playboy Model, Report Says

This article is by Eric Tucker and Jennifer Peltz on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer secretly recorded Trump discussing a possible payment to a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with him, a person familiar with an investigation into the attorney told The Associated Press on Friday.
The FBI has the recording, which lawyer Michael Cohen made two months before Trump’s 2016 election, according to the person who spoke to the AP. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing inquiry, said the payment was never made.

The FBI raided Cohen’s office, home and hotel room in April amid an investigation into his business dealings, including any information on payments made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal. She says she had an affair with Trump in 2006. He denies it.

I review this article because I expect more will come from this. Then again, I am quite willing to agree that the present article, like many similar ones elsewhere, doesn´t say much.

Here is one bit about Michael Cohen:

Cohen, a self-described fixer for Trump for more than a decade, said last year that he “would take a bullet” for Trump. But Cohen told an interviewer earlier this month that he now puts “family and country first” and won’t let anyone paint him as “a villain of this story.”

I suppose we shall see, eventually. 
3. How Social Media Became Infested with 'Computational Propaganda' Designed to Control Society

This article is by Jake Johnson on AlterNet and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

While much of the world's attention is currently centered on efforts by Russian operatives to sow discord among the American electorate with fake social media posts and "troll farms" during the 2016 presidential election, an Oxford Internet Institute study published Friday found that use of social media by governments looking to "spread junk information and propaganda to voters" has become a global phenomenon.

"Social media manipulation is big business," the researchers found. "We estimate that tens of millions of dollars are being spent on social media manipulation campaigns, involving tens of thousands of professional staff."

I think that the Oxford Internet Institute is quite right - and indeed that their estimates may well be too low.

My main reason is that we are all living in surveillance states, where the anonymous devotees of the secret services in principle know everything about anyone, and can (ab)use their gigantic amounts of knowledge (that dwarf the knowledge of the KGB and the Gestapo) to mislead, deceive, delude, and propagandize anyone.

And the main tools for that are the a-social media (which themselves also know everything about their members, although in their cases it may be to help sell things to them).

Here is more:

While there is nothing new about political parties and governments using disinformation to manipulate elections at home and abroad, the Oxford researchers note that the massive, easily accessible, and lightly regulated platforms offered by Facebook and Twitter have become enormously powerful tools in the hands of political actors, who have used social media to kick their propaganda campaigns into overdrive and cast doubt on science and public institutions.

"Although closely related to some of the  dirty tricks and negative campaigning we might expect in close races (and which have always played a part in political campaigning ), what makes this phenomenon unique is the deliberate use of computational  propaganda to manipulate voters and shape the outcome of elections," the study notes.

Precisely - but it are not merely the social media or the secret services who are at fault: I think a very important part of the reasons that deceptions, delusions and propaganda work so well is that the majority of people alive are too stupid, too ignorant, too conformist or too much of wishful thinkers to see through the facts that they are lied to, deceived and propagandized. (In case you doubt this, you should realize that half of mankind has an IQ lower than 100 - which is already pretty low.)

Here is more:

In 30 of the 48 countries examined, Oxford researchers discovered "evidence of political parties using computational propaganda during  elections or referenda. In emerging and Western democracies, sophisticated data analytics and political bots are being used to poison the information environment, promote skepticism and distrust, polarize voting constituencies, and undermine the integrity of democratic processes."

Despite recent efforts by Facebook, Twitter, and governments to rein in the proliferation of fake stories on social media, Oxford researchers found that the use of bots to quickly spread disinformation is growing exponentially.

I believe all of that, except that Facebook´s and Twitter´s efforts were honest: Especially Facebook is one enormous attempt to mislead and propagandize everyone, which it mainly does by copying everything any member said, wrote, photographed or published, and selling that information to advertisers.

And I also believe that as long as Facebook and Google are not forbidden, the a-social media will continue to mislead, deceive, delude, and propagandize everyone they can reach - and incidentally see businesses below.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

"Social media have gone from being the natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement, to being a computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants, and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike," the study concludes. "We cannot wait for national courts to sort out the technicalities of infractions after running an election or referendum. Protecting our democracies now means setting the rules of fair play before voting day, not after."

I mostly agree, except that I reject the thesis that the a-social media ever were ¨the natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement¨: They ran on deceptions and lies from the very start, and they worked from the very start for their advertisers and not for their members.

And besides, while I agree in one sense that ¨"We cannot wait for national courts to sort out the technicalities of infractions after running an election or referendum¨ I disagree in another sense:
Laws will only come into place long after they ceased to apply, for the simple reason that the law has been doing mostly nothing to regulate the internet since 20 years at least. This is a strongly recommended article.

4. 3 Main Theories That Explain Trump’s Approach to Putin and Russia

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

There are three general theories to explain Trump’s behavior toward Russia (and other hard-right broadly autocratic regimes), and for unknown reasons the two most likely ones are almost entirely absent from our electronic media. The three theories, in ascending order of likelihood, are:

  1. The Manchurian Candidate: He’s being blackmailed or has been a Russian asset for years.

  2. The Wannabe Dictator: He believes that countries should be run like companies—essentially autocracies.

  3. The Deadbeat: He’s not only not rich, but he’s badly in debt, and Russian billionaires are among his main creditors.

I agree these are all somewhat likely theories to account for Trump´s behavior to Russia. Also, if I must choose from these three, my selection is the third - and as it happens this is also Hartmann´s choice.

Here is more:
The Manchurian Candidate theory was largely the one Democrats implied during the election, and most have implicitly embraced since then, along with many commentators on MSNBC and CNN. It’s the least likely, although if it’s true Robert Mueller will probably be letting us all know soon.
Yes, I quite agree. Here is the second theory:

The Wannabe Dictator theory has a lot more credibility, and explains much of why Trump gravitates to strongman types like Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan, the Philippines’ Duterte, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, and China’s Xi.

Trump knows very little about the history behind democratic republics (it would be shocking if he could even identify Thomas Hobbes or John Locke, or define the Enlightenment) and virtually nothing (based on public pronouncements) about the fundamental reasons why “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

I more or less agree, although I like to add two remarks about ¨“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”:

In the first place this is explicit propaganda. ¨The consent of the governed¨ does in no way imply that the powers of the government are ¨just¨, and indeed in the present age ¨The consent of the governed¨ is far more likely derived by their successful deceptions. (Besides, I am in fact an opponent of all governments-as-are, but this is a much larger and quite theoretical judgement I only mention here as an aside.)

And in the second place the propagandistic phrase describes democracies, which are in actual fact pretty rare in the world; nowhere exist in any remotely clear form (because personal wealth and personal power are everywhere uncontrolled); and besides exist less than 250 years at most.

There is also this in the present context, which is an aside, but I like it (and indeed never thought anything else about ¨businesses¨)

Businesses are basically serfdoms. The CEO is the king, the board and senior executives are the courtiers and landed gentry, and the workers are the serfs. This has been Trump’s experience ever since he inherited his daddy’s business, and he’s never in his life been accountable to any principle (like “democracy”) or to any persons.

Precisely! And businesses are ¨basically serfdoms¨ because they definitely are not democracies; because they tend to be owned by a few rich; because they are extremely hierarchical; and because hardly anyone on the lower rungs of the hierarchy has much to say about his or her conditions of work, of payment or about the ends and values of the business.

And they are serfdoms precisely because hierarchy, and inequality in everything that relates to wealth and power come with bussines-as-they-are and have been the last hundreds or indeed several thousands of years.

Here is the third theory:

The Deadbeat theory is the most likely, although it doesn’t preclude either or both of the above.

When given a variety of possible explanations for something happening, usually the most simple and direct answer is the correct one. And there’s one huge, simple, straightforward explanation for Donald Trump’s perpetual unwillingness to even hint at a direct criticism of Putin.
After Trump’s last bankruptcy, so far as press reports indicate, he could no longer borrow money at reasonable rates here in the U.S., and a real estate developer who can’t borrow money is rapidly out of business.

So Trump, as his son Eric tells it, turned away from U.S. banks and went to a number of Russian billionaires for his money. In 2014, when asked directly how he could have acquired $100 million in cash for new golf course acquisitions, Eric Trump famously said, “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia.”

I agree with Hartmann that this is ¨the most likely¨. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

Occam’s razor dictates that, like with everything else in Trump’s entire life, this is all about money and its relationship to his own fragile self-image. If a few Russian oligarchs said, “Nyet,” he would suffer severe damage, both reputational and business-wise, and it may well be damage from which he couldn’t recover.

This is one of the few scenarios that explain pretty much everybody’s behavior within the Trump Crime Family, as well as the people in their immediate orbit.

As Mark Felt (“Deep Throat”) famously said to Bob Woodward: “Follow the money.”

In fact (and I am a philosopher) I fail to see how Occam´s razor enters, but I agree that ¨Trump’s entire life¨ ¨is all about money¨ and I also agree with Mark Felt that trying to follow the money (who gets paid how much by whom) is in most cases the best way towards the truth.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Trump Is Ramping Up the GOP's War on the Poor — And No One's Noticed

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from close to its beginning:
Recently, a United Nations special rapporteur named Philip Alston, who "acts as a watchdog on extreme poverty around the world," as the Guardian puts it, has condemned the Trump administration for its institutional cruelty, suggesting that it is "deliberately forcing millions of Americans into financial ruin" and "depriving them of food and other basic protections while lavishing vast riches on the super-wealthy." 

“This is a systematic attack on America’s welfare program that is undermining the social safety net for those who can’t cope on their own. Once you start removing any sense of government commitment, you quickly move into cruelty,” Alston told the Guardian.

Millions of Americans already struggling to make ends meet faced “ruination”, he warned. “If food stamps and access to Medicaid are removed, and housing subsidies cut, then the effect on people living on the margins will be drastic.”

Yes indeed. I completely agree and in fact do so since 2012 at the latest, for then I formulated a theory to account for the politics I saw and see developing the last forty years, and that theory - here it is, and here a later installment - still is the best theory I know.

Here is section 7 from that theory:

In principle, corporate fascism - defined as: the state is de facto owned and run by and for the major international corporations, that are multinationals and beyond state or judicial control [Note 1] - in combination with the surveillance state - defined as: the state's surveillance and recording of the activities, interests, concerns, ideas, values, of its population - means effective absolute power for a small corporate élite plus their executives and effective slavery for the rest. [N.7]

Principles that one may see at work are like the following, that are rather like the principles Stalin practised, except that the beneficiaries are not the élites of the CO but the corporate élites: [N.7.bis]

  1. What or whoever cannot be exploited for some corporate profit deserves not to be at all.
  2. Truth is what the state organs state.
  3. Good is what the state organs order. 
  4. Whoever does not collaborate with state officials and state policies is - effectively - a terrorist.
  5. Whoever is a terrorist deserves to die.
  6. Anything is permitted against any terrorist (suspect).
And in case you missed the first of the above points, this is also from 2012:
To bring about a radical and fast diminution of the world population, now that unskilled human labor can be mostly replaced by computers. [N.14.4]
In brief, for a man like Trump (whom I did not foresee in 2012), who is only interested in profit and the rich, and who knows there are too many people in the world to feed properly (there are now at least as many poor people alive as there were people in 1968!), the solution is to force the poor to suicide by taking away even the minimal resources that permitted them to stay alive.

Here is a major lie that serves as an important bit of propaganda:

The Trump administration shows no signs of ending their willing addiction to cruelty. Earlier this week, in a move that attracted almost no notice amid the constant madness of the news cycle, the Trump administration announced that the War on Poverty is over. Why? Because the problem of poverty has supposedly been eradicated in the United States.

And here is the true reason for that major lie:

Of course, such claims about poverty in America are not true. For Donald Trump, his administration, and members of his political cult, such lies are akin to the oxygen that nurtures fire. These claims about the success of the War on Poverty are also profoundly disingenuous: Trump and other Republicans believe these programs do not work and want to eliminate them.

The facts are clear: The United States has one of the highest childhood poverty rates in the developed world. Infant mortality rates are the worst relative to other wealthy countries, and increasing as well. When including other measures such as homelessness and overall well-being, the United States ranks near the bottom among its wealthy peers. 

Yes - and ¨the cure¨ Trump and his government offer is to take away the minimal resources that are available to the poor at present, which will leave them no other option but to suicide - which will probably be depicted by Trump and his government as ¨their own choice¨.

Here is some background:

Wealth and income inequality continues to increase in the United States to such an extreme that 1 percent of families own roughly 40 percent of America's wealth. Wages are stagnant if not decreasing. Unions are under assault by Donald Trump and the broader right wing, although that is certainly nothing new. The very idea of the commons is also being further eviscerated by the American right, as further empowered by Trump’s regime. This is a form of collective violence that diminishes individuals’ life chances and thus increases poverty in America.

I agree but will only make a remark about ¨wealth and income inequality¨: I formulated a minimalistic set of ideals that define ¨socialism¨ for me (which is not the ¨socialism¨ of social democrats) which again is based on my notion that inequalities of wealth are the main source of all inequalities, of most wars, and of most injustices:

Nobody is allowed to earn or owe more than 20 times as much as the poorest have, and the poorest should have an income that allows them to survie decently.

In fact - see my On Socialism - this was derived from Orwell, who was stricter than I am, for he insisted - in the 1940ies - that no one should earn or owe more than 10 times as much as the poorest have.

Here is a version by DeVega that comes close to what I´ve said:

This gangster capitalist effort to expand the neoliberal nightmare is an example of Social Darwinism and Malthusian thinking, imported from the early 19th century to the present.

For right-wing ideologues, poor people and other vulnerable populations, are “useless eaters.” The problem of poverty is best solved by making them literally disappear.

Yes. And you make them ¨literally disappear¨ by literally forcing them to suicide by taking away all their sources of income. And this is a strongly 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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