April 5, 2019

Crisis: On Surveillance Capitalism, On Turkey, On NATO, On Assange, On The Republicans

“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 April 5, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Friday, April 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 April 5, 2019:
1. Surveillance Capitalism Is Destroying Our Freedom and Our Intimacy
2. Erdogan’s AK Party Suffers Major Defeat in Local Turkish Elections

3. The Forgotten, Anti-Democratic History of NATO

4. Assange ‘Will Be’ Arrested in ‘Hours to Days,’ WikiLeaks Says

5. Republicans Have Put Our Country on a Path of Warp-Speed Decline
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. Surveillance Capitalism Is Destroying Our Freedom and Our Intimacy

This article is by Eve Ottenberg on Truthout. It has a subtitle:

Actually, I do not quite know what is the precise point of the above quotation, but I agree if it is meant as follows: Industrial capitalism is busy killing the planet by destroying nature, while surveillance capitalism is busy killing the persons living under industrial capitalism, by taking away - illegally - all the freedoms that persons had, until 2000.

Incidentally, I like Zuboff's analysis, but I also compiled my own analysis of where capitalism is going now that all "security organizations" (the states' anonymous spies) plus anyone rich enough can obtain all information about anyone who is on the internet, while both do so now for nearly 20 to 15 years, and I made it in 2012 (and reprinted it several times in Nederlog). The original is called Crisis: Christmas sermon: Hypotheses about CF+SS and it is strongly recommended.

The article starts as follows:

For Google, Facebook, Twitter and their ilk, ad revenues are sacred. As Shoshana Zuboff observes in her new book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, users are not tech companies’ customers — the businesses who purchase ads are. And those ads derive from data invasively captured, to which the tech behemoths have unilaterally laid claim. The data is secret, and so are the behavioral predictions based on it. With the ads — as with the novel ways of invading privacy afforded by new technologies — something new is going on; because although advertising has been around for generations, in the twenty-first century it suddenly exploded into a titanic fountain of wealth for tech companies.

How did this happen? And why is the machinery that works that fountain kept so secret? The answers lie in Zuboff’s book, and they are alarming. Late-stage capitalism has birthed a monster called surveillance capitalism, which is seeking to do to human nature what the old industrial variety of capitalism did to the earth.

In fact, I believe that almost everything that is being captured (in secret) by the secret services (from anywhere) and everything that is captured (in secret) by very rich organizations like Google and Facebook, is being captured either illegally (as e-mails and private data) or its capturing should have been declared illegally - and in fact everything is captured, including one's friends and family, and the friends and families of these.

Besides, I think "surveillance capitalism" (or as I like to say: corporate fascism) was the explicit aim of - at least - the American DARPA (that also employed Berners-Lee) since the late 1960ies, that is, even before there were personal computers, as I have also argued in 2012: Crisis: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968. This is also strongly recommended (and all data that supported it in 2012 have "miraculously" disappeared).

Here is some more:

Users are surveillance capitalists’ raw materials. By invading users’ privacy — your searches, emails, texts, tweets, likes, online shopping, online friends, contacts, your entire activity on your phone and computer, your face, your voice — they claim data. This is what Zuboff calls Google and Facebook’s proprietary surplus. They have fantastic quantities of information on billions of users, which they can render into ads tailored to individuals. Their customers are the businesses who advertise, not you — you are the raw material. And the invasiveness does not stop there.

Yes, I quite agree, although Zuboff seems to forget about the secret services, who do the same, but not for the purpose of advertizing but for the purpose of finding out who anyone is - and as to that, for me "your searches, emails, texts, tweets, likes, online shopping, online friends, contacts, your entire activity on your phone and computer, your face, your voice" should all be fully private and should not be locatable other than in strongly encrypted form.

But they are not: Everything that is on the internet can be caught by those powerful or rich enough. And I agree with Zuboff that this spells the death of free persons, if all you know and all you are and all you think and all you write and all you value is obtainable by the rich and by the powerful, who can use it as they please - which is since 2001 the standard.

Here is some more:

Tech companies have moved from snatching data in the virtual world to grabbing it in the real world, mining location data from phones, personal data from microphones in smart surveillance TVs and information from home computer assistants and soon, Zuboff reports, self-driving cars.
Invasive smart devices are also being readied for people’s homes. Zuboff quotes a software developer: “We can tell the fridge, ‘Hey, lock up, because he shouldn’t be eating,’ or we can tell the TV to shut off and make you get some sleep, or the chair to start shaking, because you shouldn’t be sitting so long, or the faucet to turn on, because you need to drink more water.”

So, Zuboff reports, behavior modification, once reviled as humiliation and exploitation, is back: “The fundamental purpose of most people at Facebook working on data is to influence and alter people’s moods and behavior.”

Well... yes and no:

For me both the fundamental purpose of Facebook and Google and the fundamental purpose of all secret services is simply to know everything about anyone (in a dossier, that may be read only by machines), although their ends are different: Facebook and Google use your private data to make billions in advertising, while the secret services use your private data to know whether you may be some sort of danger to the governments these services serve.

Here is some more:

Zuboff gives many definitions of surveillance capitalism, but three stand out:

  • A parasitic economic logic in which production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioral modification.
  • A rogue mutation of capitalism marked by concentrations of wealth, knowledge and power unprecedented in human history.
  • The foundational framework of a surveillance economy.

No, I think Zuboff is confused here (and also she should have paid more attention to the secret services). As far as I am concerned, I call what she calls "surveillance capitalism" by two other names, depending on who they work for, I call corporate fascism and the surveillance state, and I defined them (in 2012) as follows:

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.

Here is some more:

Google defined “human experience as free for the taking, available to be rendered as data and claimed as surveillance assets.” The company deliberately obfuscated this process. According to Zuboff, the many reasons it succeeded include: unprecedentedness; invasion by declaration, namely, taking what it wanted and calling it theirs; the neoliberal historical context; fortifying relationships with elected officials; habituating users to once-outrageous facts; inevitabilist rhetoric; weaponizing the ideology of human frailty; the public’s ignorance born of tech giants’ deliberate secrecy; and velocities that outrun democracy. Zuboff writes that “in the nearly two decades since the invention of surveillance capitalism, existing laws centered on privacy and antitrust have not been sufficient to disrupt growth.” A culture of secrecy enabled Google’s and Facebook’s run around the law.

I do not know whether Google defined "human experience" as (it seems) Zuboff said it did, but the rest is more or less as stated, except that the surveillance state was already designed by the late 1960ies - see: Crisis: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968

Here is some more:

Secrecy is crucial, because Google “took things from users without asking and employed these unilaterally claimed resources” for others’ profit. When asked what Google is, co-founder Larry Page answered, “personal information.” Google’s leaders thus have aggressively defended their right to freedom from law, Zuboff writes, despite their corporate colossus expanding to become more formidable than any other in the world. Google’s leaders “insist on lawlessness as a natural right.”

As I said: I consider almost everything Google (and Facebook and others) do as illegal crimes, that should have been stopped by applying the existing laws (e.g. those applied to the paper post) properly (but virtually nothing was done) or that should have been stopped by new laws (but nothing was done, except the contrary: Now people are even loosing the few rights they did have, again simply because this is convenient for the secret services or the very rich).

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

Surveillance capitalism promotes what Zuboff calls a “machine hive in which our freedom is forfeit to perfect knowledge administered for others’ profit.” She observes that while we live a sixth extinction due to industrial capitalism, a seventh looms on the horizon. “This ‘seventh extinction’ will not be of nature but of what has been held most precious in human nature: … the sanctity of the individual, the ties of intimacy, the sociality that binds us together in promises and the trust they breed.” Destroying freedom, autonomous personhood and the politics based on them, surveillance capitalism is chillingly incompatible with democracy.

Again it seems to me as if Zuboff or the journalist writing this - very good - article are only interested in one aspect of what they call "surveillance capitalism" and that I call "corporate fascism", but not in what I call the "surveillance state", that is surrected by the secret services.

But she is right either of them are destroying, and destroying most intentionally, what is the "most precious in human nature: … the sanctity of the individual, the ties of intimacy, the sociality that binds us together in promises and the trust they breed" and are thus destroying all personal "freedom, autonomous personhood and the politics based on them", while they are replacing them by the absolute freedom of the secret services and the rich internet corporations to do what they want with each and every person. And this is a very strongly recommended article.

2. Erdogan’s AK Party Suffers Major Defeat in Local Turkish Elections

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party suffered major setbacks in local elections this weekend after dominating the country’s political system since 2003. The AK Party lost control in both of Turkey’s largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, and is now disputing the results. Voters expressed frustration with Erdogan’s autocratic rule and are also facing soaring inflation and rising unemployment. Now the results are being disputed, and recounts are underway. “Whoever is criticizing Erdogan right now is held accountable for either terrorism charges or libel against the president,” says The New School professor Koray Caliskan, faculty fellow at the Heilbroner Center for Capitalism Studies at The New School who has been indicted 25 times in Turkey. “This is how he’s silencing dissent.”

I say, for I did not know this. I am also glad about it, for I strongly dislike Erdogan, among other things because he is responsible for the fact that "Whoever is criticizing Erdogan right now is held accountable for either terrorism charges or libel against the president" (which is dictatorial utter bullshit).

Incidentally, also see the previous item, for the European and American counterpart of Erdogan's  technique, but this is an aside.

Here is some more:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We begin in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party suffered major setbacks in local elections this weekend, after dominating the country’s political system since 2003. The AK Party lost control in both of Turkey’s largest cities, Istanbul and Ankara, and is now disputing the results. Voters expressed frustration with Erdogan’s autocratic rule and are also facing soaring inflation and rising unemployment.

This is very good (although I do not know what pressures Erdogan and his menials can submit the recounts to).

Here is some more:

KORAY ÇALISKAN: It’s a small earthquake in Richter scale, but it’s the beginning of the fall of Erdogan’s authoritarianism. It has a great potential, for two reasons. Firstly, 75% of Turkish GDP is produced by five cities that Erdogan lost
So, I think it’s a great moment for democracy now—not the program, but the world—because people have been seeing now that authoritarian leaders, who swing their competitive authoritarian regimes to full authoritarianism, who work on that, can actually lose when three things happen, which are the reasons of his loss. The first is, if the democratic forces do not buy into the polarization of the authoritarian leader, they win. If they have spent addressing Erdogan on the ground, they would be losing right now. Instead, they focused on their own agenda. They forgot Erdogan and just said, “This is what we are going to do. This is why we have to come to power.” Polarization off. Second, they didn’t take social media very seriously. Social media works to polarize. You’re a social democrat? Social media wants you to be a Stalinist. You’re right-wing? Social media wants you to be a fascist. All right? So they stayed away from social media polarization. They build coalitions with other sectors of the society, including right-wing democrats. Plus, the economic recession, that was the product of Erdogan’s mismanagement of the economy, helped them, too.

I think this is a decent analysis, although I do not know whether this is "the beginning of the fall of Erdogan’s authoritarianism". But I do hope it is.

And I have one remark on what I call the a-social media (run by digital gangsters who rape the law, morality, personal freedom and anything else that stands in the way of their maximal profit): I think it is meanwhile quite fair to call the 4 billion members of Facebook 4 billion Archie Bunkers, at his very worst, also, simply because Caliskan is right that "Social media works to polarize. You’re a social democrat? Social media wants you to be a Stalinist. You’re right-wing? Social media wants you to be a fascist." (And your family is Polish? You are a Polack meathead.)

Here is one more bit on the economical situation in authoritarian Turkey:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to go to the economic conditions in Turkey, which are really striking. In August 2018, the value of the lira, the Turkish lira, plummeted, losing 28% of its value against the dollar. Inflation is at 20%. The federal minimum wage has fallen by about 10%, etc.

I take it this is all correct, and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. The Forgotten, Anti-Democratic History of NATO

This article is by Sharmini Perles on Truthdig and originally on The Real News Network. It starts as follows:

SHARMINI PERIES: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary is this week and it was met with anti-NATO protests across the world, including right here in Washington D.C. where the alliance is expected to meet this week with all the foreign ministers. On April 4th 1949, the alliance’s treaty was signed by twelve organizations and today it has grown to 29 members.

I say, for I did not know this (precisely) either, although I was conscious of the fact that the NATO existed all my life (I was born in 1950) and was created after the second World War.

Here is some more:

SHARMINI PERIES: Alright now. NATO’s 70th anniversary is important to remember and that is why you have written a four-part series about its anti-democratic roots. So Yves, tell us about the four that we are publishing on The Real News that one can go and read.

YVES ENGLER: I have four different articles dealing with different elements of NATO and specifically, Canada’s role dealing with the foundation of NATO which was designed to blunt the European Left and then to really bring the world under the U.S. geopolitical umbrella. I also have a piece dealing with how NATO has become more belligerent since the end of the Cold War and how NATO was used within Canada to promote increased military spending. And then the fourth part of the series is dealing with how the Left in Canada has responded to NATO and it’s been an issue that’s been very controversial within the mainstream N.D.P. For a couple decades, the party had an official “get Canada out of NATO” position. So the series is really just trying to unpack what the alliance is in this context of the 70th anniversary.

I take it this is all correct, although I am less interested in Canada's specific role, but that is mostly because I am not a Canadian.

Here is some more:

SHARMINI PERIES: Alright, so that’s the question to you, Yves. Why has NATO stood the test of time? Why is it necessary today?

YVES ENGLER: Well it stood the test of time because it was never designed primarily about countering the Soviet Union. From the beginning, even when it may be correct to say it was about countering communism, but that was communism internally. After World War II, the Soviet Union was not a threat to Western Europe, but indigenous, socialist, and communist parties in Italy, in Greece, in France, had a lot of support and they would have won an election in Italy, almost won 30 percent of the vote in France, and would have took power in Greece if it wasn’t for U.S. intervention. And so what NATO was designed to do was to– there were tens of thousands of Canadian-U.S. troops that were stationed in France and Germany and elsewhere in Europe– designed to blunt the European Left and in the words of Canada’s Foreign Minister, “a conquest from within.” That was the objective of NATO, to stop a conquest within (i.e. a socialist or communist taking power internally). The real reason, the secondary reason for the creation of NATO and why it continues to exist today is because NATO was designed to reinforce European colonial power in Africa and Asia and bring it under a U.S.-led geopolitical umbrella and basically to have this alliance that brings the leading capitalist countries together to dominate the world under Washington’s lead.

I say. Well... I agree with the first point, namely that "what NATO was designed to do was" (..) "to stop a conquest within (i.e. a socialist or communist taking power internally)", although I do not think this was the only thing it was designed for, since I think it was also designed to stop a conquest by the Soviet Union and its allied states (which Engler seems to forget).

Anyway... there is lots more in this article, which is recommended.

4. Assange ‘Will Be’ Arrested in ‘Hours to Days,’ WikiLeaks Says

This article is by Joe Lauria on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
WikiLeaks warned Thursday that its founder “will be expelled within ‘hours to days'” from Ecuador’s London embassy and that Ecuador has an agreement with Britain to have him arrested.

President Lenin Moreno will use the pretext of a scandal engulfing his presidency to oust Assange, a “high level source” in the Ecuador government told WikiLeaks.
    BREAKING: A high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told @WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within "hours to days" using the #INAPapers offshore scandal as a pretext–and that it already has an agreement with the UK for his arrest.
    — WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) April 4, 2019
Moreno has accused WikiLeaks of leaking documents allegedly implicating him and his family in a corruption scheme with a Panamanian investment firm, INA Investments Corp.  WikiLeaks has denied being behind the leaks and no documents related to the scandal appear on its website. 

Moreno said the alleged leak by WikiLeaks is a breach in a “protocol” with Assange that allows him to remain in the London embassy in exchange for his public silence on all political matters. Assange has never agreed to the protocol.  His social media accounts were shut down by Ecuador in March 2018.

Because of this so-called “breach,” Assange will be made to leave the embassy and would be arrested by British authorities. Assange has been a refugee inside the embassy since 2012, fearing that if he were to be arrested the UK would extradite him to the United States to stand trail for publishing classified information.
In fact, this is again from the - in view of its html - pretty horrible Consortium News, simply because they are the first to bring this news, at least in so far as I know.

As to the above bit: I'd say that Moreno is lying about - at least - two different things, namely about Wikileaks and about the "protocol" that he in fact did not have with Assange.

Anyway... the news is pretty horrible, and especially for Assange, who runs the risk of being seriously tortured by the U.S. government.

Here is one more bit from this article:
Award-winning journalist and filmmaker John Pilger wrote via Twitter: “WikiLeaks reports that Julian Assange is on the verge of being expelled from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Please fill the street outside the embassy and protect him, and show solidarity with a courageous man, whose struggle ought to touch us all.”  A marathon online vigil for Assange will begin Friday at 4 pm EST, to be webcast by Consortium News.

Christine Assange, whose Twitter account has twice been restricted in the past two weeks, is expected on the vigil.
Well... I agree Assange is a very courageous man, but I fear it is too late to save him now. And this is a strongly recommended article. 

5. Republicans Have Put Our Country on a Path of Warp-Speed Decline

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Common Dreams. It has a subtitle:

As long as the GOP can fool some of the people all of the time, they don't give a rat's ass about the rest of us

Well... I think this is quite true as long as the "some of the people" that gets fooled by the GOP are around 50% of the U.S. population. Then again, since 50% of the U.S. population has an IQ that is maximally 100, the GOP can be pretty sure it can manage, that is, if it throws enough money at it.

The article starts as follows:

Listening to Republicans, it’s apparent they don’t have much respect for the intelligence of the American people.

Over 70 percent of Americans want a national health care system like every other developed country in the world has, but the GOP tells us that we just aren’t smart enough to make it work. It’ll be too confusing and complex for average Americans, they say, and, besides that, if the government “takes over” our health care system, we’re on our way to tyranny.

About two-thirds of Americans think that we should have free college education for anybody intellectually capable of attending, and free trade schools as well—like pretty much every other developed country in the world (and quite a few of the developing countries). Republicans tell us that we can’t use government funds to pay off our nation’s $1.5 trillion in student debt because we just borrowed that exact amount last year to give tax rebates to billionaires, so there’s nothing left. We’re just not smart enough to fix the problem.

In fact, I do not know whether the GOP does insist that Americans "just aren’t smart enough" to get what a large majority of them want, if this is not what the GOP wants, but I am willing to believe it, mostly because of the reason I started with.

There is considerably more like the above in the article, that I mostly leave to my readers' interests, but I will quote on more bit:

Nearly eight out of ten Americans think taxes should be raised on the wealthy, but, the Republicans tell us, that would create economic chaos and destroy the economy. We’d end up like all those other countries where there’s a strong and vibrant middle class, but the billionaires can’t hoard their wealth without limit, and that would be a disaster... because... freedom. Americans who think rich people should pay their fair share of taxes to help the country are just, well, not that bright, says the GOP.

Just under two-thirds of Americans think our minimum wage should be $15 and look at Denmark, where MacDonald’s pays $20 an hour and a Big Mac costs only 80 cents more than in the United States (and Danish workers can easily afford that!). “Can’t we do that or even three-quarters of that?” they ask. “No,” Republicans say, “it’ll be too much of a burden on the poor executives and stockholders who might have to take slightly lower pay and dividends. It’s not possible.” We’re just not clever enough to figure out how to do such things, they tell us.

I have the same remark as I did under the previous quotation.

And this is from the ending of the article:

Whether it’s strengthening environmental regulations, breaking up monopolies, restraining CEO pay, fully funding our public schools, or getting money out of politics—all things that have been done by most if not all of the fully developed countries in the world—Republicans tell us we just can’t do those things here in America. We’re just not that intelligent.

The story goes that Lincoln, during his debates with Stephen Douglas, said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Clearly the modern Republican Party, its billionaire funders and its media oligarchs have decided to stick with Lincoln’s logic. As long as they can fool some of the people all of the time, they don’t give a rat’s ass about the rest of us; that’s enough to win elections, particularly if they can continue to strategically suppress millions of votes.

In brief, what the GOP is against is anything that might limit the earnings or the freedoms of the rich corporations that support them and that they support - which I think is correct.

As to the last quoted paragraph: See the reason with which I started my comments on this article. And this is a recommend 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 3 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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