October 16, 2018

Crisis: On Israel, On The Internet, Family Separations, Trump´s Economy, Capitalism


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 16, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, October 16, 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 October 16, 2018:
1. Israel Is Captive to Its 'Destructive Process'
2. As the Internet Splinters, the World Suffers
3. Trump Admin Hints It May Resume Family Separation at Border
4. The Truth About the Trump Economy
5. Food, Justice, Violence and Capitalism
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. Israel Is Captive to Its 'Destructive Process'

This article is by Chris Hedges and is in fact a reposting of an article originally published on July 14, 2014. I reviewed it then, but quite briefly. Today I´ll pay some more attention. The article starts as follows:

Raul Hilberg, in his monumental work “The Destruction of the European Jews,” chronicled a process of repression that at first was “relatively mild” but led, step by step, to the Holocaust. It started with legal discrimination and ended with mass murder. “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint,” Hilberg wrote.

The Palestinians over the past few decades have endured a similar “destructive process.” They have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank.

I like and admire Raul Hilberg (as a child of two parents in the Dutch resistance against the Nazis, with a father and a grandfather convicted by collaborating Dutch judges to concentration camp imprisonments as ¨political terrorists¨) but the above comparison is only partially correct:

Over 6 million Jews were exterminated within 8 years, many in concentration camps and extermination camps, and while I dislike the present Israeli goverment (and the previous one as well), they did not make themselves guilty of ¨a similar “destructive process”¨, although I agree that the Israelis were and are wrong, immoral and mistaken in their treatment of the Palestinians, indeed probably mostly for religious reasons.

In fact, Chris Hedges seems to agree with me:

There will never be transports or extermination camps for the Palestinians, but amid increasing violence against Palestinians larger and larger numbers of them will die, in airstrikes, targeted assassinations and other armed attacks. Hunger and misery will expand. Israeli demands for “transfer”—the forced expulsion of Palestinians from occupied territory to neighboring countries—will grow.

The Palestinians in Gaza live in conditions that now replicate those first imposed on Jews by the Nazis in the ghettos set up throughout Eastern Europe. Palestinians cannot enter or leave Gaza. They are chronically short of food—the World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of children in Gaza and the West Bank under 2 years old have iron deficiency anemia and reports that malnutrition and stunting in children under 5 are “not improving” and could actually be worsening. Palestinians often lack clean water. They are crammed into unsanitary hovels. They do not have access to basic medical care. They are stateless and lack passports or travel documents. They live with massive unemployment. They are daily dehumanized in racist diatribes by their occupiers as criminals, terrorists and mortal enemies of the Jewish people.

I think the above also is (or was in 2014 - and matters may now be worse and are quite unlikely to be better) correct - and people who do not know should realize that the state Israel was in fact founded by taking the country in 1948 from the Palestinians who had lived there for centuries.

Here is something on the racism of the Israelis:

The belief that a race or class is contaminated is used by ruling elites to justify quarantining the people of that group. But quarantine is only the first step. The despised group can never be redeemed or cured—Hannah Arendt noted that all racists see such contamination as something that can never be eradicated. The fear of the other is stoked by racist leaders such as Netanyahu to create a permanent instability.

I think that is mostly correct, though indeed I should add that neither all Israelis nor all religious Israelis are racists. (But no, I dislike all religion and the Jewish religion is no exception.)

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

The late Yeshayahu Leibowitz, one of Israel’s most brilliant scholars, warned that, followed to its logical conclusion, the occupation of the Palestinians would mean “concentration camps would be erected by the Israeli rulers” and “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.” He feared the ascendancy of right-wing, religious Jewish nationalists and warned that “religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism.”

And Yeshayahu Leibowitz was a very intelligent man, and an orthodox Jew, and indeed he wrote the above. This is a recommended article. 
2. As the Internet Splinters, the World Suffers

This article is by The Editorial Board of The New York Times. It starts as follows:

In September, Eric Schmidt, the former Google chief executive and Alphabet chairman, said that in the next 10 to 15 years, the internet would most likely be split in two — one internet led by China and one internet led by the United States.

Mr. Schmidt, speaking at a private event hosted by a venture capital firm, did not seem to seriously entertain the possibility that the internet would remain global. He’s correct to rule out that possibility — if anything, the flaw in Mr. Schmidt’s thinking is that he too quickly dismisses the European internet that is coalescing around the European Union’s ever-heightening regulation of technology platforms. All signs point to a future with three internets.

The received wisdom was once that a unified, unbounded web promoted democracy through the free flow of information. Things don’t seem quite so simple anymore. China’s tight control of the internet within its borders continues to tamp down talk of democracy, and an increasingly sophisticated system of digital surveillance plays a major role in human rights abuses, such as the persecution of the Uighurs. We’ve also seen the dark side to connecting people to one another — as illustrated by how misinformation on social media played a significant role in the violence in Myanmar.

Well... this requires two remarks, that have to remain sketchy:

First, I recommended an alternative internet around 10 or more years ago, except that I had different principles than Eric Schmidt: What I wanted (i) had a different front from ¨www.¨ such as ¨wwf.¨ or something simillar; (ii) that was explicitly ONLY for people and groups who did not want to make any profit that way; and (iii) removed all who tried to make a profit by way of the new internet.

I do not know whether anyone picked that up. In fact, I also wonder whether Schmidt ever contemplated an internet with a different prefix than ¨www.¨ and indeed what he means in the quotation by ¨different internets¨ is something quite different - except that it seems to imply that, in Schmidt´s opinion, the internet as was advertised from 1996 till 2001 (roughly: ¨a unified, unbounded web [that] promoted democracy through the free flow of information¨) seems to be quite dead. (And in fact I think that was a delusion from the start.)

Second, I think that the basic problems with the internet-as-is are far more serious than this Editorial says or indicates:

I think the two basic problems are that the internet-as-is (1) seems essentially an enormous extension for the governmental spies that form ¨the security forces¨ in every state: By now (and since 2001) the internet´s ¨security forces¨ of every state can, in principle, follow everyone with an internet computer, and get everything he or she does with an internet computer, which also means that everyone can be checked (far more thoroughly than the KGB ever could do) in everything he does, or says or writes, while also (2) it gives essentially the same opportunities to any corporation large enough to pay for it, such as Google and Facebook: These too can follow everything anyone does on the internet, and do so, to sell the results to advertisers.

For me, this means that the internet essentially functions as an arm of the governmental spies everywhere and as an arm of the rich corporations, and is little else besides - and certainly NOT ¨a unified, unbounded web [that] promote[s] democracy through the free flow of information¨, but rather its opposite (which it also was designed as): the internet promotes full control of everyone with an internet computer by stealing all private information from everyone with an internet computer.

Back to the article and to Google:

In 2010, Google shut down its operations in China after it was revealed that the Chinese government had been hacking the Gmail accounts of dissidents and surveilling them through the search engine. “At some point you have to stand back and challenge this and say, this goes beyond the line of what we’re comfortable with, and adopt that for moral reasons,” said Sergey Brin, a Google co-founder, in an interview with Der Spiegel at the time.

But eight years later, Google is working on a search engine for China known as Dragonfly. Its launch will be conditional on the approval of Chinese officials and will therefore comply with stringent censorship requirements. An internal memo
written by one of the engineers on the project described surveillance capabilities built into the engine — namely by requiring users to log in and then tracking their browsing histories. This data will be accessible by an unnamed Chinese partner, presumably the government.

Well... it seems to me as if Sergey Brin´s moral principles melted away as his billions (Brin is a billionaire) increased, and by now he is willing to spy on over a billion of Chinese (and help betray everyone with opinions the Chinese government dislikes).

Here is the conclusion of this article:

If things continue along this path, the next decade may see the internet relegated to little more than just another front on the new cold war.

No, I don´t think so - see above for what I think.

3. Trump Admin Hints It May Resume Family Separation at Border

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
The Trump administration is reportedly considering plans to resume its policy of forcibly separating migrant children from their families along the U.S.-Mexico border, even as the full number of people torn apart the last time it carried out the widely condemned practice remains unclear. A new report by Amnesty International suggests immigration officials separated some 6,000 families between April and August, a far higher number of children and parents torn apart than previously thought. Trump administration officials are now considering plans to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days and then force parents to choose either to stay detained together for months or years while their immigration case proceeds or to allow their children to be taken to a government shelter where their relatives or others can seek custody. We speak with Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. He is the lead lawyer on the ACLU’s national challenge to the Trump administration’s family separation practice.
I say, which I do because what Trump´s goverbment seeks to do seems illegal (and immoral and cruel) to me, and because I did not know this.

Here is more on Trump´s plans:

AMY GOODMAN: Trump administration officials are now considering plans to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then force parents to choose to either stay detained together for months or years while their immigration case proceeds or allow their children to be taken to a government shelter, where their relatives or others can seek custody.

This comes as an Associated Press investigation has revealed parents who were deported from the U.S. after being separated from their children may lose their children to adoption without their knowledge. The AP found holes in the system that allow for state judges to put children of deported Central American immigrants in the custody of U.S. families without notifying the parents.

So asylum-seekers are to be locked up with their children for years or else have their children adopted by others, without their knowledge.

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: And now the president, once again, even with hundreds of children still separated from their parents, saying that they’re going to separate them again.

LEE GELERNT: Yeah, it’s remarkable. I mean, anybody who was opposed to it, hopefully, spoke out at the time. I mean, people need to speak out in real time and stop it, not after the fact. I cannot believe that the administration is thinking about going back to this. This is the only place the administration has ever pulled back, and that’s because of the public outcry. I’m urging the public to have that same outcry if they try it again. That’s what’s critical. The ACLU will be in court, but the public outcry is critical.

Well... I agree with Gelernt, except - perhaps - that I can ¨believe that the administration is thinking about going back to this¨.

Here are both speakers once more:

AMY GOODMAN: Who would force the administration to engage in lawful activity? Who can do that?

LEE GELERNT: Well, I think it’s going to have to be the courts. But I think, like all big civil rights cases, it has to have that public outcry around it. There has to be this atmosphere. And I think what you saw in the summer is the public pushing back, not just liberals and Democrats, but conservatives and Republicans, saying, “Look, in the United States, we just don’t do this to children.” If the administration is going to do it again, we have to see that public outcry again. We have to.

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article. 
4. The Truth About the Trump Economy

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

I keep hearing that although Trump is a scoundrel or worse, at least he’s presiding over a great economy. 

As White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow recently put it, “The single biggest story this year is an economic boom that is durable and lasting.”

Really? Look closely at the living standards of most Americans, and you get a very different picture.

Yes, the stock market has boomed since Trump became president. But it’s looking increasingly wobbly as Trump’s trade wars take a toll.

Over 80 percent of the stock market is owned by the richest 10 percent of Americans anyway, so most Americans never got much out of Trump’s market boom to begin with.
Yes indeed, and in fact I guess it is a relatively fair estimate to say that about 10 percent of the Americans profited financially from the ¨economic boom¨ that Kudlow was speaking about, and the remaining 90% did not.

Here is more on the American economy:

What about economic growth? Data from the Commerce Department shows the economy at full speed, 4.2 percent growth for the second quarter.

But very little of that growth is trickling down to average Americans. Adjusted for inflation, hourly wages aren’t much higher now than they were forty years ago.

Trump slashed taxes on the wealthy and promised everyone else a $4,000 wage boost. But the boost never happened. That’s a big reason why Republicans aren’t campaigning on their tax cut, which is just about their only legislative accomplishment.

Quite so - and I can extend my previous remarks by adding that the 90% who did not profit from Kudlow´s boom also did not make any realistic economic advance in the last 40 years or so (a few excepted).

Here is more on the minimum wage and unemployment:

Trump and congressional Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 an hour. Trump’s Labor Department is also repealing a rule that increased the number of workers entitled to time-and-a-half for overtime.

Yes, unemployment is down to 3.7 percent. But jobs are less secure than ever. Contract workers – who aren’t eligible for family or medical leave, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, or worker’s compensation – are now doing one out of every five jobs in America.

Quite so. Here is more on American health care:

Healthcare costs continues to rise faster than inflation. Trump’s response? Undermine the Affordable Care Act. Over the past two years, some 4 million people have lost healthcare coverage, according to a survey by the Commonwealth Fund.

Pharmaceutical costs are also out of control. Trump’s response? Allow the biggest pharmacist, CVS, to merge with the one of the biggest health insurers, Aetna – creating a behemoth with the power to raise prices even further.

Here is Reich´s conclusion:

Too often, discussions about “the economy” focus on overall statistics about growth, the stock market, and unemployment.

But most Americans don’t live in that economy. They live in a personal economy that has more to do with wages, job security, commutes to and from work, and the costs of housing, healthcare, drugs, education, and home insurance.

These are the things that hit closest home. They comprise the typical American’s standard of living.

Instead of an “economic boom,” most Americans are experiencing declines in all these dimensions of their lives.

I quite agree and add that - to the best of my knowledge - ¨most Americans¨ approximates the 90% that were not rich enough to profit from Trump´s changes, and this has been so (roughly) for the last 40 years. This is a strongly recommended article.

5. Food, Justice, Violence and Capitalism

This article is by Colin Todhunter on The Off-Guardian. This is from near its beginning:
Resistance against similar practices and injustices is happening across the world. And for their efforts, campaigners are being abused, incarcerated and murdered. Whether people are campaigning for the land rights of tribal communities in India or for the rights of peasant farmers in Latin America or are campaigning against the fracking industry in the UK or against pipelines in the US, there is a common thread: non-violent protest to help bring about a more just and environmentally sustainable world.

What is ultimately fuelling the push towards the relentless plunder of land, peoples and the environment is a strident globalised capitalism, euphemistically termed ‘globalisation’, which is underpinned by increasing state surveillance, paramilitary-type law enforcement and a US-backed push towards militarism.

I more or less agree, but like to point out that ¨globalisation¨ seems to me to be a propaganda term for what was in fact mostly reached by deregulation, i.e. the withdrawal of laws that protected the non-rich.

Here is some more:

The deregulation of international capital movement (financial liberalisation) effectively turned the world into a free-for-all for global capital. The ramping up of this militarism comes at the back end of a deregulating/pro-privatising neoliberal agenda that has sacked public budgets, depressed wages, expanded credit to consumers and to governments (to sustain spending and consumption) and unbridled financial speculation.

I agree. The article ends as follows:

There is an emerging unity of purpose within the food movement and the embracing of a vision for a better, more just food system that can only deliver genuine solutions by challenging and replacing capitalism and its international relations of production and consumption.

Well... yes, but as stated this is at best a hope and not a fact.


[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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