February 5, 2019

Crisis: On The Dollar, The State of the Union/Disunion, Terrorists From Google, On The Democrats

“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 February 5, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, February 5, 2019.

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 February 5, 2019:
1. Goodbye to the Dollar
2. A More Honest State of the Union

3. The State of Our Disunion

4. Google Screenwise: An Unwise Trade of All Your Privacy for Cash

5. Beware the Moderate Democrat
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. Goodbye to the Dollar

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The inept and corrupt presidency of Donald Trump has unwittingly triggered the fatal blow to the American empire—the abandonment of the dollar as the world’s principal reserve currency. Nations around the globe, especially in Europe, have lost confidence in the United States to act rationally, much less lead, in issues of international finance, trade, diplomacy and war. These nations are quietly dismantling the seven-decade-old alliance with the United States and building alternative systems of bilateral trade. This reconfiguring of the world’s financial system will be fatal to the American empire, as the historian Alfred McCoy and the economist Michael Hudson have long pointed out. It will trigger an economic death spiral, including high inflation, which will necessitate a massive military contraction overseas and plunge the United States into a prolonged depression. Trump, rather than make America great again, has turned out, unwittingly, to be the empire’s most aggressive gravedigger.

The Trump administration has capriciously sabotaged the global institutions, including NATO, the European Union, the United Nations, the World Bank and the IMF, which provide cover and lend legitimacy to American imperialism and global economic hegemony.

I think this is mostly true, but I also admit that I do not really know, mostly because I was never interested in speculations with money (in part because I never had any money to speculate with).
Then again, I do agree that "
The Trump administration has capriciously sabotaged the global institutions" etc.

Here is some more:

When George W. Bush unilaterally invaded Iraq, defying with his doctrine of preemptive war international law and dismissing protests from traditional allies, he began the rupture. But Trump has deepened the fissures. The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, although Iran had abided by the agreement, and demand that European nations also withdraw or endure U.S. sanctions saw European nations defect and establish an alternative monetary exchange system that excludes the United States. Iran no longer accepts the dollar for oil on international markets and has replaced it with the euro, not a small factor in Washington’s deep animus to Teheran. Turkey is also abandoning the dollar. The U.S. demand that Germany and other European states halt the importation of Russian gas likewise saw the Europeans ignore Washington. China and Russia, traditionally antagonistic, are now working in tandem to free themselves from the dollar. Moscow has transferred $100 billion of its reserves into Chinese yuan, Japanese yen and euros. And, as ominously, foreign governments since 2014 are no longer storing their gold reserves in the United States or, as with Germany, removing them from the Federal Reserve. Germany has repatriated its 300 tons of gold ingots. The Netherlands repatriated its 100 tons.

Again I have to say that I believe this is mostly true, but that I do not really know. In fact, I did not even know that the Netherlands (I am Dutch) has "repatriated its 100 tons" (and I admit that although I live in Holland, I mostly avoid Dutch news, in part because hardly any Dutchman has reacted to my site the last 22 years).

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

The U.S. intervention in Venezuela, the potential trade war with China, the withdrawal from international climate accords, leaving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the paralysis in Washington and disruptive government shutdown and increased hostilities with Iran bode ill for America. American foreign and financial policy is hostage to the bizarre whims of stunted ideologues such as Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Elliott Abrams. This ensures more global chaos as well as increased efforts by nations around the globe to free themselves from the economic stranglehold the United States effectively set in place following World War II. It is only a question of when not if the dollar will be sidelined. That it was Trump, along with his fellow ideologues of the extreme right, who destroyed the international structures put in place by global capitalists, rather than socialists these capitalists invested tremendous resources to crush, is grimly ironic.

I also do not know to what extent the last quotation may be true. There is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.

2. A More Honest State of the Union

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

By many measures, America is thriving. The economy is humming, and unemployment is at 4 percent. High-school graduation rates are at an all-time high, and teenage pregnancy rates are at an all-time low. The crime rate is way down, and illegal immigration has been declining for over a decade.

And yet: Polls show that three in five Americans think the country is on the wrong track. A majority expect things to get worse in the coming year. The president’s job approval numbers are underwater; Congress’s even more so.

As President Trump prepares to deliver his delayed State of the Union address on Tuesday, he might want to ask himself why people are so unsettled.

Our dysfunctional political system is surely taking a toll. Witness the recent partial government shutdown over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion in border-wall funding: For 35 days, a quarter of the federal government was derailed and 800,000 workers stripped of their livelihood, at an estimated loss of $3 billion in economic activity. All in service of nothing but a presidential tempest.

One certainty: There was not — and is not — a border emergency meriting the infliction of such pain and damage, or the waste of billions on a futile wall.

I think the first two paragraphs are not honest, for while I suppose it is true that "three in five Americans think the country is on the wrong track" it is also true that they have very good reasons (read the Crisis series of the last five or ten years, although this is a great amount of reading), while none of these reasons is as much as hinted at.

The other three paragraphs are correct.

Then again, there is more in this article, that mostly deals with Trump's promises to his voters and to Americans in general that were never kept, that covers the following subjects: Health care, opioids, economic inequality, infrastructure, foreign policy, the high price of higher ed, gun safety and climate change.

I think that is mostly correct but I quote none of it for reasons of space and time. This is a recommended article.

3. The State of Our Disunion

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

Donald Trump says his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening will be about “unification”. But Trump discussing the state of the union is like pyromaniac discussing lighter fluids. His goal is, and has always been, disunion.

The man thrives on divisiveness. It’s how he keeps himself the center of attention, fuels his base and ensures that no matter what facts are revealed, his followers will stick by him.

There’s another reason Trump aims to divide – and why he pours salt into the nation’s deepest wounds over ethnicity, immigration, race and gender.

He wants to distract attention from the biggest and most threatening divide of all: the widening imbalance of wealth and power between the vast majority, who have little or none, and a tiny minority who are accumulating just about all.

I think this is mostly correct, and especially the ending. Here is some more to support that ending:

Over the last four decades, the median wage has barely budged. But the incomes of the richest 0.1% have soared by more than 300% and the incomes of the top 0.001% (the 2,300 richest Americans), by more than 600%. The net worth of the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans almost equals that of the bottom 90% combined.

This grotesque imbalance is undermining American democracy.

Yes, this is all quite true - and please note that "four decades" more or less equals the full period of work that most men do in their lives, which again means that the vast majority has not gotten any more than they received forty years ago (corrected for inflation), while the few rich have three to six times more riches than they ever had.

Here is some more:

Sitting behind Trump’s left shoulder on Tuesday night when he delivers his State of the Union will be a Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who refused to blink when Trump closed the government in an attempt to fund his wall at the Mexican border.

Has Trump met his match? The real question is whether, and to what extent, Pelosi and other Democrats will also unblinkingly take on America’s increasing concentration of wealth and power.

In recent weeks, senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, both eyeing the White House, have with 29-year-old freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for sharp increases in taxes on the super-rich. Democratic presidential hopefuls are also proposing to expand access to health insurance by creating Medicare for all.

Polls show strong public support but the corporate Democrats who bankroll much of the party are not happy with this drift to the putative “left”.

I think this is a little misleading: I strongly dislike Pelosi, because I do have a reasonable idea who and what she is for, and she is and was mainly for the rich, at least if these are Wall Street bankers or pay considerably to the Democrats.

I also think I can answer Reich's question with a high probability of truth:

If "t
he real question is whether, and to what extent, Pelosi and other Democrats will also unblinkingly take on America’s increasing concentration of wealth and power", then my answers are that the past shows that Pelosi and the majority of the elected Democrats mostly and mainly support the rich, and they also will do so until they are removed - somehow - from power.

This article ends as follows:

But Democratic leaders and candidates appear to understand that the largest threat to the state of the union – one that trumps all others, rendering it all but impossible to address anything else – is the deepening divide of wealth and power between the many and the few.

No, I am sorry, for I do not think so. What I think is much rather that while the majority of the so-called moderate Democrats do know about "the deepening divide of wealth and power between the many and the few" (and they must be utterly crazy or moronic not to know this), they also decided that as long as there is a fair chance that they will be paid and re-elected, they will be paid and probably re-elected, and do nothing or very little for the non-rich. For more, see item 5.

4. Google Screenwise: An Unwise Trade of All Your Privacy for Cash

This article is by Sydney Li and Jason Kelly on Common Dreams and originally on the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It starts as follows:

Imagine this: an enormous tech company is tracking what you do on your phone, even when you’re not using any of its services, down to the specific images that you see. It’s also tracking all of your network traffic, because you’re installing one of its specially-designed routers. And even though some of that traffic is encrypted, it can still know what websites you visit, due to how DNS resolution works. Oh, it’s also recording audio from a custom-microphone that’s placed near your TV, and analyzing what it hears.

It’s an always-on panopticon. In exchange for your privacy (and the privacy of any guests who may be using your Internet connection, or talking near your television), you receive a gift card for a whopping $20.

No, we’re not talking about Facebook—we’ve already detailed the frightening consequences of Facebook’s sneaky, privacy-invading and security-breaking “user research” program. This is Google’s “ScreenWise Meter,” another “research program” that, much like Facebook’s, caused an upheaval this week when it was exposed.

Well, I think that those responsible for the above are sick, degenerate, immoral, illegal and criminal pieces of stealing and peeping shits, who ought to be removed as fast as possible from destroying everyone's privacy so as to get incredibly rich themselves.

This is also why I do not want anything to do with Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, for to get programs or computers of these suppliers in your home is inviting the peeping criminals to your everything and exploiting the knowledge they got to bombard you with personalized advertisements.

Here is more about the latest peeping spy constructed by Google:

The Screenwise Meter mobile app and web extension basically allow Google to see what you see on your phone screen and web browser window. The application could monitor all your app usage and network traffic via side-loading a “custom” app on your smartphone. Since Google doesn’t ask you to install a root certificate like Facebook did, they can’t decrypt HTTPS traffic, but the app can see anything on your screen, as detailed by the “Content on Screen” section of its privacy policy.

Let's say you open the Snapchat app. Google could see that. Let's say you need to type in your password. Google could see that, too. Let's say you send a Snapchat to a friend. Yes, Google could see that as well.

The web extension even goes beyond the level of tracking that Facebook was willing to do. Like Facebook, apparently being able to track 80% of all Internet traffic wasn’t enough: the web extension reports all of your web browsing back to Google, even if it’s over HTTPS. It can also collect every single action you make on any website (from composing private messages to browsing a shopping site), and any information stored or saved in your browser.

If I knew a single person who did the above to me, I would go to the police or to a lawyer and demand that my privacy gets protected.

But in fact (1) the privacies of 4 billion users of computers are almost completely open to all security services (the anonymous spies of your country, and eighty or a hundred more) and also since 15 to 20 years to (2) the
sick, degenerate, immoral, illegal and criminal pieces of stealing and peeping anonymous shits from Google, from Facebook, from Apple and from Microsoft (and quite a few more: some tenthousand of corporations are doing similat things now).

The police, the courts and the laws all are without any say, for the privacies of everybody with an internet computer are in fact almost completely lost. And that applies to 4 billion persons now.

Here is more about
the sick, degenerate, immoral, illegal and criminal pieces of stealing and peeping anonymous shits from Google:

In addition, Screenwise invades your private living spaces through a custom router. It can’t intercept HTTPS traffic. But because DNS lookups are currently unencrypted, Google can record every single site that anyone visits while connected to your WiFi. And, of course, it can see any unencrypted app and web traffic on your home WiFi, too.

To top it all off, there’s the “TV Meter,” which is an always-on microphone in your house that collects and sends Google audio from your TV as well as any nearby chatter it picks up—a wiretap for your living room.

I said these are criminals (and I do not care what any judge says, for judges are in general far more ignorant of computing, politics, psychology and philosophy than I am).

Here is a conclusion from this article:

With each passing day, it’s increasingly clear that we can’t rely on the “ethics” and “value systems” of corporations to judge their own messaging around consent. Jargon-filled dialog boxes, pages of fine print, and hidden privacy policies aren’t enough. When profits are driven by collecting and selling our data, companies are incentivized to manipulate as many people to “opt in” as possible.

Facebook’s and Google’s extensive “research” into user behavior, in exchange for a few gift cards, is more evidence of the dire need for new carefully-tailored rules to protect user privacy, and an end to the era of companies dictating users’ legal rights.

Yes indeed, but unfortunately I think that the only way to get the peeping terrorists from Google and Facebook etc. etc. out of your house is an international collapse of the economy - which will come, but I do not know whether this will be large enough to remove these spies forever into a jail. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Beware the Moderate Democrat

This article is by Les Leopold on Common Dreams. This is from near its beginning - and it can well be construed as an answer to item 3:

But what is the substance of all this centrism and moderation?

First and foremost, these moderates are united by their unwillingness to take on Wall Street. And because of that unwillingness, they are unable to confront the defining problem of our era—runaway inequality.  They cannot face up to the fact that the wages of the average worker have been stagnant for an entire generation. Meanwhile the pay gap between the top 100 CEOs and the average worker has risen from 40 to 1 in 1980 to an obscene 800 to 1 today.

The centrists run away from this problem in large part because they are in a desperate race to win the very first primary—the fundraising primary. And it is no secret that victory goes to the candidate who garners the most financial support from Wall Street/corporate Democrats. 

I think this is mostly quite correct (and it goes considerably further than Robert Reich did in item 3, although the facts that Leopold and Reich use to support their ideas are the same).

Here is more from this article:

From this coziness with Wall Street flows the trope about being "socially liberal" and "fiscally conservative."  The moderate centrists, and their Wall Street donors, support LBTQ rights, the advancement of women in business, immigration and criminal justice reform, gun control, and abortion rights.  At the same time, they believe the entire progressive runaway inequality platform is an affront to economic reason: High taxes on the rich will discourage initiative and innovation; single-payer health care and free higher education will bankrupt the country; breaking up the big banks will cripple investment and jobs.  

Of course, the moderates must ignore the reams of data from all over the world that show that these progressive reforms would reduce inequality and enhance the well-being of nearly everyone (..)

Yes, I think this is also quite correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Given enough financial support, a "moderate" might be able to buy her or his way through the Democratic primaries, especially if many candidates split the progressive populist vote. One could imagine one of the "moderates" becoming a media darling of the center, which might further enhance his or her status.

But should one of them squeak through to become the nominee, we might have a Democratic debacle. The nativist economic populists on the right might flock back to Trump along with the arch conservatives who will never leave him. Trump may look incredibly weak now, but a Wall Street-backed Democratic "moderate" with a natural base of 3.8 percent could give the worst president in American history a real chance.

Quite possibly so. In any case, I do not like moderate Democrats, although I fear Leopold's expectations may be correct. 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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