January 23, 2019

Crisis: On "Russia-gate", Economic Apartheid, The Extremely Rich, Pence vs. Trump, The Internet

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 23, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, January 23, 2019.

As I briefly explained yesterday, my old modem stopped working last Friday, but I now have a new working modem.

Also, I started yesterday with an MLK quotation, and I decided to keep it for some time, simply becaus King's idea is what I have been thinking since over 50 years now.

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 three 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 January 23, 2019:
1. A N.Y. Times Story Just Accidentally Shredded the Russiagate Hysteria
2. Just as MLK Warned, We're Headed Toward Economic Apartheid

3. The Fall of Davos Man

4. Is Pence as Unfit for Office as Trump?

5. Want to Heal the Internet? Ban All Collection of User Data
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. A N.Y. Times Story Just Accidentally Shredded the Russiagate Hysteria

This article is by Lee Camp on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Every once in a while, one of those stories comes along that makes the mainstream corporate media look like a bunch of middle-school kids filming their “news show” on an iPhone with their neck ties crooked. Recently, one of those stories splashed down into the middle of our cultural zeitgeist like a small meteor landing in the middle of an elite dinner party.

It made our mass media pundits look like hardened fools. But they have kept spouting their nonsense anyway, hoping no one notices the soup dripping down their faces.

But to talk about that, I have to talk about this: Last month we finally got to see the Senate report spelling out the Russian meddling in our last election. And it was a bombshell.

Actually, the Senare report was not "a bombshell", but then Lee Camp is a comedian (whom I like). There is a considerable amount more, but this is one of the problems of the supposed "bombshell":

So now we’ve got former Wall Street, former State Department, former Obama White House, former NSA, former DARPA, and former JSOC writing this completely legitimate completely factual report for the Senate about the powerful Russian impact of Facebook ads that no one ever saw.

I love it. This is like a report written by a hungry virus telling you not to wash your hands.

Precisely - and of course this is irony, and the irony consists in the facts that (1) no one saw the Facebook ads, while (2) all kinds of American (neo-)conservatives insist that these Facebook ads were done by Russia (without evidence), there were an enormous amount of them (without evidence), and they impacted the last presidential elections (without evidence).

I agree with that, and here is some more on the supposed facts of the
supposed "bombshell":

Well, there’s one itsy bitsy problem:

 … one of Hamilton 68’s founders, Clint Watts, admitted that the Twitter accounts it follows may actually be real people who are not Russian at all.

Real people? Who aren’t Russian? Call me crazy, but what I personally look for in a Russian bot is something that is at least Russian. And if not that, then a bot. And if neither, then you don’t have much of a goddamn Russian bot, do ya? Claiming these are Russian bots is like saying, “I just met the Queen of England, except she may have been a small Icelandic goat.”

Yes indeed - and this is what is being done: Insisting without any evidence whatsoever that Russian bots managed by Russians did all the very awful things that no one saw and that no one really know about because only Facebook's chiefs know Facebook's data.

This is from the ending of the article:

Sometimes the ability of the legacy media to believe (or at least regurgitate) their own bullshit is truly breathtaking.

To sum up this fuck de cluster:

1) The Senate report is laughable.

2) Any journalist who quotes Hamilton 68 should have their face sewn to the carpet.

3) If you want ridiculous pathetic reporting on nonsense that seduces us all to the edge of nuclear annihilation, turn to your mainstream corporate media.

4) If you want someone to actually put together the truth about these issues, you’ll have to turn to alternative outlets like Truthdig or the Grayzone Project.

Yes, I basically agree and this is a recommended article.

2. Just as MLK Warned, We're Headed Toward Economic Apartheid

This article is by Jessicah Pierre on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

January 15th marked what would’ve been Dr. Martin Luther King’s 90th birthday.

Most known for his famous “I Have Dream Speech,” King envisioned a future in which deep racial inequalities — including deep economic inequality — were eradicated. He worked tirelessly towards that mission.

Over 50 years after his assassination, sensational media stories have focused heavily on the black unemployment rate, which has reached historic lows.
new report by the Institute for Policy Studies takes a more holistic look at where the country is in terms of racial economic parity. It reveals deep, pervasive, and ongoing racial economic division.

The study shows that wealth is concentrating into fewer and fewer hands over time. And though working white people also struggle, the hands at the very top are overwhelmingly white. Far from closing, America’s polarizing racial wealth divide is continuing to grow between white households and households of color.

Over the past three decades, the report notes, “the median black family saw their wealth drop by a whopping 50 percent, compared to a 33 percent increase for the median white household.”

King foreshadowed that if we maintain our exploitative economic and political systems, then we’d get not only racial apartheid, but economic apartheid as well.

I say, which I do because I did not know that the median black family's wealth has dropped by 50% in the last 30 years. And in the same time the median white family's wealth increased by 33%. (All according to the report mentioned in the quotation.)

And Pierre is quite right that one should not only investigate racial apartheid by economic apartheid as well.

Here is one other bit from this article:

The widening of the racial wealth divide has coincided with the extreme concentration of U.S. wealth. We’re currently living in an economy where the Forbes 400 own more wealth than all black households, plus a quarter of Latino households, combined.

As much as we cite the vision that MLK laid out for America, decades later we’ve not moved in the right direction.

This dynamic is the result of public policies that favor the wealthy, not the “invisible hand” of the market.

Yes indeed, and this is a recommended article.

3. The Fall of Davos Man

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

The annual confab of the captains of global industry, finance, and wealth is underway in Davos, Switzerland at the World Economic Forum. 

Meanwhile, Oxfam reports that the wealth of the 2,200 billionaires across the globe increased by $900 billion last year – or $2.5 billion a day. Their 12 percent increase in wealth contrasts with a drop of 11 percent in the wealth of the bottom half of the people of the world. In fact, the world’s 26 richest billionaires now own as much as the 3.8 billion who comprise the bottom half of the planet’s population.

Yes indeed - and this is, apart from a nuclear war, about the sickest and most degenerate fact I know about the present world: That 26 persons hold as much wealth as more than 50% of all persons, that is (bolding added) "3.8 billion persons who comprise the bottom half of the planet’s population".

And while it is possible that some of my readers really admire or love these 26 billionaires, I take it because they think they may (or ought to) be one of them - and in that case I think you are sick (with incredibly excessive greed and egoism) as well.

In any case: In a democracy, the laws that are ruling most of the behaviors of most men are supported by most in the democracy, and that applies to all laws, including those on wealth and riches.

My own "solution" to the sick difference between the very few extremely rich and the very many extremely poor is to legally bind wealth in such a way that no one can earn more than 20 times as much as the poorest, and no one also can owe more wealth than 20 times as much as the poorest.

And I wrote
"solution" between quotes, because while I think this would be a real solution if the laws were adjusted in that way, I do not know whether the excessive greed, the excessive egoism, the extremely many lies that the few rich engage in (or have their menials engage in), and the extreme amounts of wealth the rich may use to propagandize and influence the many, may not make this real solution impossible (perhaps until virtually the whole economy has collapsed).

Also, the solution is known as "(democratic) socialism" (which is not at all the same as "social democracy") and was favored by men like George Orwell and Albert Einstein, and it is described to some extent and defended in my
Crisis: On Socialism that is strongly recommended - though indeed it may be impossible to practice because of the greed, the egoism, the ignorance and the lack of intelligence that mark the many as well as the few.

Back to Reich's article:

The real source of the rise of repressive authoritarianism, nativism, and xenophobia in the United States as well as Italy, Spain, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, Bulgaria, Greece, France, and Britain is a pervasive sense that elites are rigging the world economy for themselves. And, guess what? They are.

Message to Davos Man (and Women): Either commit to pushing for broader prosperity and democracy, or watch as trade wars, capital controls, and isolationism erode global prosperity (including yours) and global peace.

Yes, I totally agree with Reich (except that Reich wrote a book called "Saving Capitalism") and this is a recommended article.

4. Is Pence as Unfit for Office as Trump?

This article is by Mike Lofgren on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In the last two years, the press has spilled a Niagara of ink to describe President Donald Trump’s lies, flipflops, personal weirdness, and sheer unsuitability for office. As for Vice President Michael Richard Pence, despite his hectoring insistence on being the chosen instrument of the Almighty, many observers have resignedly noted that at least he has had the relevant experience in state and federal government his boss lacks, and remains (if barely) within the spectrum of behaviors of the typical American officeholder.
But his January 16 speech announcing ISIS’s defeat should dispel any notion that Pence has the competence and good judgment necessary to govern. With his characteristic combination of smugness and robotic stiffness, he declared, “We are bringing our troops home. The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated."

One need not even engage in the argument over whether U.S. forces must withdraw from Syria or not—one could line up arguments on either side of the case—to recognize the fallacy of the vice president’s pronouncement. Conventional military force can seize territory from a group like ISIS and kill its adherents, but it cannot kill an ideology. Nor can military means alone “defeat” terrorism, which is a method, rather than a discrete and countable armed contingent with an order of battle. At best, military force can contain terrorism—but with the significant risk of stimulating local disaffection and terrorist recruitment.

Well... I like Mike Lofgren, but with regard to madness, personalities, characters, values and ideas I have two advantages that he lacks: I have - excellent - academic degrees in philosophy and psychology, and also it was (and is) especially my knowledge of psychology that makes me oppose Trump as much as I do, for I think (since almost three years now) that Trump is insane.

The last link is to an article I wrote in the end of 2016, but it consists mostly of the definition of narcissistic personality disorder (by psychiatrists) that I used to found my own conclusions about Trump plus some quite interesting comments and explanations by psychologists and psychiatrists.

Next, while Lofgren is correct about Pence, he also lacks my M.A. in psychology, which tells me that while I have very good evidence that Trump is insane, I lack that evidence for Pence and indeed, while I think his morals may be nearly as bad as those of Trump, I also think it is unlikely that Pence is mad (among other things because I insist madness is a fairly rare event).

I have one more bit by Lofgren:

Nor were the Syria comments a fluke. The weekend after that incident, the day before the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday, Pence attempted to justify Trump’s border-wall obsession by repeating what he alleged was one of his favorite quotes from King: “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

While Republicans typically reveal a premeditated cynicism and effrontery whenever they invoke King (“If Martin Luther King were alive today, he’d be a Republican” is a common trope), it is possible that Pence’s characteristic sanctimonious guilelessness actually led him to believe that echoing a martyred exponent of nonviolence would vindicate throwing hundreds of thousands of people out of work to extort Congress’s capitulation to the wall. 

While he has been heavily overshadowed by the wall-to-wall coverage of his boss’s antics, there has always been plenty of available evidence of Mike Pence’s deeply troubling dogmatism and sycophancy.  His remarks on Syria are further indication of his indifference to facts, his intellectual incuriosity, and his incompetence—qualities that make him unqualified for his present job, let alone the only higher one.

In fact, I started today's Nederlog with a much better quote from Martin Luther King. And while I agree with Lofgren on "Pence’s deeply troubling dogmatism and sycophancy" and also on his factual incompetence for the presidency, I think I would feel a little more safe with Pence than with Trump about the next nuclear war. But this is a recommended article.

5. Want to Heal the Internet? Ban All Collection of User Data

This article is by Charles Hugh Smith on Washington's Blog. This is from near its beginning:

If you’ve followed any of my analyses, it will come as no surprise that I’ve concluded the only way to restore the health of the Internet is to ban all collection of user data. That’s right, a 100% total ban on collecting any user data whatsoever.

We need to distinguish between customer/supplier data and user data. If a social media or other corporation wants to collect data from people who pay it money for services rendered, or from suppliers that it pays for services, then that process of data collection should be 100% transparent.

A customer pays for a service in cash; a user pays nothing. A company might want to collect data from its paying customers in order to upsell them or serve them better, and corporations who produce goods and services might want to collect data from the suppliers they pay.

Banning the collection of any data from users would of course destroy much of the revenues of companies such as Facebook, Google , Twitter, Instagram et al. It would also destroy the perverse incentives these corporations have institutionalized and excused as “garsh, you can’t stop the advance of technology,” as if their pursuit of Surveillance Capitalism were somehow an inevitable outcome of the Internet rather than a malign disease that’s undermining democracy and the free flow of diverse opinions and dissent that is the foundation of functional democracy.

I like Washington's Blog, but the above shows why I normally do not treat the articles of Smith appearing there, namely because he starts each paragraph with a bolded sentence.

Now you may well think that is unimportant, and you may also object that I use quite a lot of boldings in my Nederlogs (of which this article forms a part).

And you are right - but you do not have my eyes, that collapsed in the summer of 2012, and that still are not normal and quite sensitive. This in turn increased my sensitivity to italics (which I never liked) that also explains why I use boldings to stress the terms I think that are important, much rather than italics.

But I disagree with boldings as Smith uses, which are apparently there for no other reason than to mark the beginnings of paragraphs.

Anyway... this time I made an exception, and the reason is that I completely agree with Smith: All collections of user data should be stopped - and as long as they go on, I also think that the internet has been expressly designed to steal as much user data as possible, and to introduce a new kind of capitalism.

That new kind of - totalitarian, authoritarian and repressive - capitalism may be called neofascism or it may be called surveillance capitalism, and I also think that, as long as the present kind of internet persists, it is the gravest danger for anybody who is not very rich, not totalitarian, not authoritarian, and not repressive.

You may learn more about 
surveillance capitalism by pressing the last link.

Here is the last bit that I quote from Smith:

If you think this is unrealistic, look at craigslist. Craigslist is free to individual users, and it doesn’t collect and sell user data to make billions of dollars. It sells adverts to businesses such as auto dealers and companies placing employment ads. These income streams are more than enough to fund the operational expenses and reap the owners a substantial profit.

Surveillance Capitalism is all about creating the illusion of privacy controls. The social media/search giants have mastered the dark arts of obfuscating how they’re reaping billions of dollars in profits from monetizing user data, and lobbying technologically naive politicos to leave their vast skimming operations untouched.

Keep it simple: ban all collection of user data–no exceptions. That will be easy to enforce and easy for all participants to understand.

Yes, I fundamentally agree and this is a strongly recommended article (with quite a few references).

[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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