October 25, 2018

Crisis: ICE & Amazon, Bombs, ExxonMobil´s Fraud, Bolsonaro & Bannon, Privacy Is Dead


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 25, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, October 25, 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 25, 2018:
1. How Amazon, Palantir, Microsoft & Tech Giants Are Powering Trump’s

2. Potential Explosive Devices Sent to Obama, Clintons, CNN Offices
3. New York Sues ExxonMobil for Defrauding Investors by Hiding Climate

4. There’s a Growing International Alliance of Right-Wing Demagogues
5. Conclusion, privacy has been all but eliminated from the digital

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. How Amazon, Palantir, Microsoft & Tech Giants Are Powering Trump’s Deportations

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
A shocking new investigation by immigrant rights groups reveals how corporations like Amazon, Palantir and Microsoft are profiting from and expediting Trump’s incarceration and deportation operations. Some 10 percent of the Department of Homeland Security’s $44 billion budget is dedicated to data management. The report was published as new documents obtained by the Project on Government Oversight show Amazon is pushing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to start using its controversial facial recognition technology that could identify immigrants in real time by scanning faces in a video feed. We speak with Jacinta González, organizer with Mijente, a national political hub for Latinx organizing. The group partnered with the Immigrant Defense Project and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild on the new report titled “Who’s Behind ICE? The Tech and Data Companies Fueling Deportations.”
In fact, I normally reproduce the introductions on Democracy Now! simply because they are good summaries of the interview and the subject(s) that follow them. And if you are interested in the present article, you should be interested in ¨the new report¨.

Next, here is more:

JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: (...) You know, what we really found in this report is understanding that the tech industry, Silicon Valley, is really changing the way we see Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the ground. We’ve been seeing for a while added capabilities to be able to surveil people, be able to input new sources of data, including private sources, like medical bills, different records from different companies. Even your phone bill, for example, is getting into these records. And that’s how immigration is able to conduct their raids and go door to door, terrorizing communities and really impacting families every day that are devastated by their separations.

Quite so - and my own guesses on the subject of surveillance in general are these two:

(1) At least someone in national security, Facebook, Google etc. knows much more than
     anyone knows about himself, and national security may know everything there is
     on your internet computer; and
(2) the only reason I cannot be more precise is that national security, Facebook, Google etc.
     are keeping almost everything they do a deep secret.

Also, I definitely think that

(3) Surveillance of everyone´s personal data is - by far - the strongest argument neofascism
     will be soon arriving.

Here is more from the interview:

JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: One of the primary companies that we identified was a company named Palantir. And Palantir was literally founded by money that was invested from the CIA and Peter Thiel, who many of us know is a strong supporter of Mr. Trump, to create this company that would be able to do data processing, data mining, has been involved in multiple international scandals, including Cambridge Analytica, and is basically creating the backbone of ICE. It is creating the investigative case management system that ICE uses to be able to track immigrants, to be able to surveil them and, finally, organize their deportation. But what we’re seeing is that they’re able—Palantir is able to develop this technology to attack immigrants, yet, somehow, whenever they separate children from their parents at the border, they lose track of them and aren’t able to find out where they are. So we really are able to see, through these technologies, what they’re prioritizing, but also who is behind this. It’s the CIA. It’s Peter Thiel. It’s business interests that are trying to expand Trump’s agenda.

Yes, I agree, and like to add that the fact that ¨whenever [ICE] separate children from their parents at the border, [ICE] lose track of them and aren’t able to find out where they are¨ must be an absolute lie intended to fuck up the lives of these children and their parents.

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

JACINTA GONZÁLEZ: (..) I mean, what we’re seeing now more than ever is we have corporations in Silicon Valley and other places in the world that are amassing more power, more money, more information than anyone else has. I mean, Amazon at this point literally knows what your favorite type of blender is and is holding your entire police file. We have to be able to have more accountability from these corporations. We need to be able to ensure that they are respecting basic human rights. And if the government isn’t willing to step up to do it, we know that workers inside are going to be able to organize, and also the general public is able to push back on them. But we know that more and more corporations are starting to influence international politics.

Precisely - and for me, the (presumed) fact that ¨corporations in Silicon Valley and other places in the world that are amassing more power, more money, more information than anyone else has¨ - and I wrote ¨(presumed)¨ because I think that the American national security has at least as many data - is a strong sign that the corporations in Silicon Valley also are at the foundation of neofascism, that indeed will make them profit enormously.

You may disagree, but if you do my guesses are that you know less about computers and programming than I do, and have not read (or properly thought about) my definition of neofascism.

Also, I think I should add I have somewhat less trust in ¨
workers inside¨ than Jacinta González appears to have, and that getting ¨more accountability from these corporations¨ will be extremely difficult without specific laws, which again will be very difficult to introduce and get accepted because the corporations are against it, and have very many billions to alllow them to enforce their views on the many. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Potential Explosive Devices Sent to Obama, Clintons, CNN Offices

This article is by Michael Balsamo on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
Disrupting a rash of targeted attacks, the U.S. Secret Service intercepted a bomb that was addressed to Hillary Clinton and a possible explosive that was sent to former President Barack Obama.

Also Wednesday, a police bomb squad was sent to CNN’s offices in New York City and the newsroom was evacuated because of a suspicious package.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press that investigators believe the explosive that was discovered near the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua, New York, is linked to one found Monday at the compound of liberal billionaire George Soros.

Yes, quite so. I could also have reported this news from The New York Times but did not, mostly because I think The Associated Press is better on the real facts.

Here is a bit more:

Neither Clinton nor Obama received the packages, and neither was at risk of receiving them because of screening procedures, the Secret Service said in a statement.

The White House condemned “the attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures.”

“These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that that referred to the senders as “these cowards.”

Well... I notice Ms. Sanders did not say ¨these criminals¨, which would have been factually correct. Besides, I think the White House is lying, but that must these days be seen as a matter of course. And this is a recommended article.

3. New York Sues ExxonMobil for Defrauding Investors by Hiding Climate Threat

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

After a three-year probe and amid mounting demands that the fossil fuel industry be held accountable for driving the climate crisis, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Wednesday filed suit against ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil and gas company, for defrauding investors by downplaying the financial threat of regulations crafted to mitigate human-caused global warming.

"Big oil may finally face some consequences for its role in wrecking the climate," declared co-founded Bill McKibben. "The New York Attorney General is standing up for investors who may have been swindled, and indirectly for the seven billion of us who will suffer from Exxon's lies."

I say, for I did not know this. I more or less agree with Bill McKibben, although I probably am a bit less optimistic that Exxon Mobile will have to pay, what with the conservative Supreme Court, but I quite agree that in any case this is a good step.

Here is more on the case against ExxonMobil:

"Investors put their money and their trust in Exxon—which assured them of the long-term value of their shares, as the company claimed to be factoring the risk of increasing climate change regulation into its business decisions. Yet as our investigation found, Exxon often did no such thing," Underwood said in a statement.

New York investigators, she said, concluded that "Exxon built a facade to deceive investors into believing that the company was managing the risks of climate change regulation to its business when, in fact, it was intentionally and systematically underestimating or ignoring them, contrary to its public representations."

The complaint (pdf) details years of troubling actions by Exxon's leaders—including former CEO Rex Tillerson, who spent more than 40 years at the company prior to his short-lived tenure as the President Donald Trump's first secretary of state.

I think this is all quite correct, but I also want to point out a possible weakness of the Underwood´s case: ExxonMobil might defend itself by claiming they did manage ¨the risks of climate change regulation to its business¨ and they might have been ¨systematically underestimating or ignoring¨ these risks according to Underwood.

Here is more:

Exxon's "colossal climate denial operation"—which was also detailed in a Harvard study published last year—"significantly impacted how the climate change debate played out in business, science, and politics," noted Naomi Ages of Greenpeace USA.

And as Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity, observed, "Climate change deception is central to Exxon's business model." The company pocketed immense profits while it "bankrolled a 30-year, multi-million denial campaign, manufacturing doubt about climate science when it knew there was none."

I think Wiles and Ages are quite correct, but I am considerably less certain these correct ideas hold up in court (although I think they should). And this is a recommended article.

4. There’s a Growing International Alliance of Right-Wing Demagogues

This article is by Vijay Prashad on Common Dreams. This starts as follows and is in fact about Brazil, that probably will democratically elect Jair Bolsonaro, who seems most like a new Hitler to me - with this difference that Brazil has many more inhabitants than Hitler´s Germany.

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

This is what it has come to.

Lula in His Cell

Lula da Silva—Brazil’s former president—is sitting in his prison in Curitiba, a small town southwest of São Paulo. He should not be there. Evidence of corruption against him hangs on the words of a felon. Lula should have been on the ballot. But the oligarchy refused to allow this most popular man to run for the presidency.
Quite so. Here is more on Bolsonaro:

Bolsonaro’s Fraud

Jair Bolsonaro, the candidate of the far-right who is now the candidate of the oligarchy, leads in the polls. He is nostalgic for Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) and wants to use unconstitutional force against those whom he sees are a problem for Brazil. His targets are the poor and the social minorities—Afro-Brazilians, Gays, Leftists. The oligarchy flooded the Bolsonaro camp with money.
Quite so again. Here is more on Bannon and Bolsonaro:

Bannon’s Fascist International

Steve Bannon said as he left the White House that the shackles were off his hands. He was no longer imprisoned by propriety. He wanted to be in the trenches, building his white supremacist, fascist international. Bannon calls his group The Movement. One of Bolsonaro’s sons said that Bannon has advised his father’s campaign, that Bannon—in sum—has drawn Bolsonaro into The Movement.
This seems a bit less certain, but may well all be correct. O, and Prashad calls Bannon´s ¨Tje Movement¨ ¨Fascist International¨, which seems a good descriptive title to me (although I do think that in fact Bannon is a neofascist).

Here is more on Bolsonaro:


Bolsonaro has been proud to say that he is “Brazil’s Trump.” But this is not a good comparison. It is clearer to say that Bolsonaro is Brazil’s Duterte. Rodrigo Duterte is the president of the Philippines. He came to office with a gun in his hand. Duterte was the mayor of Davao, where he empowered death squads to kill anyone deemed to be a criminal. “Kill them all,” he said in 2015 in reference to criminals. “Kill a drug dealer and I’ll give you a medal,” he said. He likes to be photographed with a gun in his hand, preferably a machine gun.
I agree with Prashad. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

No Neutrality

Five hundred people of good sense—from Bernie Sanders to Angela Davis, from Noam Chomsky to Pablo Iglesias—signed a short document, an international declaration against fascism in Brazil. The document calls upon the Brazilian population to reject Bolsonaro, whose presidency would be a “threat to any free, tolerant and just society.” Brazilians will have to choose between “liberty and pluralism” on one side and “retrograde authoritarianism” on the other. “There can be no neutrality,” the signatories write, “in the choice between democracy and fascism.” This is a document. It might have a small impact.
I agree with Chomsky etc. but indeed I also agree with Prashad that it probably will have little impact on the Brazilian elections. This is a strongly recommended article.

5. Conclusion, privacy has been all but eliminated from the digital environment

This article is by Rick Falkvinge on It is from May 2018, which is mostly due to the fact that I saw more of some years earlier, but there is less now there and I don´t often look at it.

Anyway... this has a subtitle:
In a series of posts on this blog, we have shown how practically everything our parents took for granted with regards to privacy has been completely eliminated for our children, just because they use digital tools instead of analog, and the people interpreting the laws are saying that privacy only applies to the old, analog environment of our parents.
I suppose at 68 and I belong to the class of ¨our parents¨, although I have no children. I very probably would have had them if both myself and my ex had not fallen ill in January 1979 with a disease that I am only since March 2018 (!!!) ¨medically allowed¨ to say is a ¨serious chronic disease¨, but in fact I am now happy I have no children, simply because their most probable future will be a neofascist future.

And I think the above is fundamentally correct. Here is the start of this article:

Once you agree with the observation that privacy seems to simply not apply for our children, merely for living in a digitally-powered environment instead of our parents’ analog-powered one, surprise turns to shock turns to anger, and it’s easy to want to assign blame to someone for essentially erasing five generations’ fight for civil liberties while people were looking the other way.

So whose fault is it, then?

It’s more than one actor at work here, but part of the blame must be assigned to the illusion that that nothing has changed, just because our digital children can use old-fashioned and obsolete technology to obtain the rights they should always have by law and constitution, regardless of which method they use to talk to friends and exercise their privacy rights.

Well... yes and no. Yes, I agree that ¨part of the blame must be assigned to the illusion that that nothing has changed¨ that is to the stupidity and ignorance of the majority of computer users, but no, I think that the national security organizations (i.e. the anonymous spies of some government) and Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple etc. are far more liable than the majority of computer users.

Then again, as to ¨the illusion that that nothing has changed¨ there is this:

We’ve all heard these excuses.

“You still have privacy of correspondence, just use the old analog letter”. As if the Internet generation would. You might as well tell our analog parents that they would need to send a wired telegram to enjoy some basic rights.

“You can still use a library freely.” Well, only an analog one, not a digital one like The Pirate Bay, which differs from an analog library only in efficiency, and not in anything else.

“You can still discuss anything you like.” Yes, but only in the analog streets and squares, not in the digital streets and squares.

“You can still date someone without the government knowing your dating preferences.” Only if I prefer to date like our parents did, in the unsafe analog world, as opposed to the safe digital environment where predators vanish at the click of a “block” button, an option our analog parents didn’t have in shady bars.

The laws aren’t different for the analog and the digital. The law doesn’t make a difference between analog and digital. But no law is above the people who interpret it in the courts, and the way people interpret those laws means the privacy rights always apply to the analog world, but never to the digital world.

In considerable part this is sarcasm or satire, but I mostly agree, although as I said, I hold the national security organizations and Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple etc. much more responsible.

Then there is this, which is in bold in the original:

It’s going to be a long uphill battle to win back the liberties that were slowly won by our ancestors over about six generations, and which have been all but abolished in a decade.

In fact, I think this is quite unlikely without a revolution.

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

I fear the failure to pass on the civil liberties from our parents to our children is going to be seen as the greatest failure of this particular current generation, regardless of all the good we also accomplish. Surveillance societies can be erected in just ten years, but can take centuries to roll back.

Yes, I agree. And ¨surveillance societies¨ are neofascist societies, where a very few totally control everyone else, and surveillance as it has been happening since 2001 will keep happening apart from a revolution that allows a nearly totally different set of politicians and a partially destroyed internet. 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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