June 2, 2019

Crisis: Google & Anti-Trust Laws, On Israel, Impeaching Trump, Chomsky Interviewed

“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 June 2, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, June 2, 2019.

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, though not yet quite decently working computers.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

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 four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 2, 2019:
1. Justice Department Readies Antitrust Probe of Google
2. The Israeli Government Is Collapsing Before Our Eyes

3. Impeach Trump and watch what Mitch McConnell does

4. Noam Chomsky: Trump’s “Economic Boom” Is a Sham
The items 1 - 4 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. Justice Department Readies Antitrust Probe of Google: Reports

This article is by Anonymous on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

The U.S. Justice Department is readying an investigation of Google’s business practices and whether they violate antitrust law, according to news reports.

The search giant was fined a record $2.72 billion by European regulators in 2017 for abusing its dominance of the online search market. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission made an antitrust investigation of Google but closed it in 2013 without taking action.

Now the Justice Department has undertaken an antitrust probe of the company’s search and other businesses, according to reports by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Bloomberg News.
I say, for I did not know this. And while I think this is a good idea, I add that I doubt much will come from it, mainly because the European laws are different from the American laws and the American laws are to a considerable extent corrupted.

Here is some more:

Justice Department spokesman Jeremy Edwards declined to comment Saturday. Google declined any comment.

Google, owned by Alphabet Inc., has faced mounting scrutiny as regulators around the world have focused on tech companies’ business practices over the past year. In addition to the 2017 record fine, European regulators also slapped a $1.7 billion penalty on the company in March for barring websites from selling ads from rivals alongside some Google-served ads near search results.

Yes, but again the differences between the European and the American laws remain unmentioned.

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

Google commands the lead in digital ad revenue by a wide margin, controlling 31.1% of global digital ad dollars, according to eMarketer’s 2019 estimates. Facebook is a distant second with 20.2%.

Politicians and outside antitrust analysts have expressed concern in recent years that Google controls too much of the digital ad process. It makes the technology, hosts the largest search site where ads appear and collects data from all ad campaigns that it runs.

I did not know that Google + Facebook control slightly over 50% of ¨global digital ad dollars¨. And while I agree that ¨Google controls too much of the digital ad process¨ I doubt it can - at present - at least be tamed by American laws. And this is a recommended article.

2. The Israeli Government Is Collapsing Before Our Eyes

This article is by Juan Cole on Truthdig and originally on Informed Comment. It starts as follows:

We’ll know later today whether prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu will succeed in forming a government. If not, Israel will have snap elections in September. In parliamentary systems, coalitions are often made after the election. In the US, the two big parties have already made their coalitions before the election (the GOP is a combination of wealthy entrepreneurs, prairie farmers, and Evangelicals, which Trump manages to bring together around economic nationalism and hatred of certain ethnic groups, or maybe most of them.) In Israel, they have to put together the coalitions afterward. The Israeli far right, which dominates, has both secular and religious constituencies, and they absolutely despise one another.

Israeli society is, like that of the United States, deeply polarized between the secular-minded and the religious. Some 40% of Israelis report themselves not religious, and 23% say they do not believe in God.

If you read the daily news as I do, you know that meanwhile there will be new Israeli elections in September. The article is here because it taught me a few things, notably that 2 out of 5 Israelis deny they are religious, which is considerably more than I thought.

Also, I refer you to an article I reviewed yesterday, in which I discussed the question ¨Who are Jews?" and decided that - in my opinion at least - being Jewish is a matter of religion (like Catholicism and Protestantism) and that those who have a Jewish religion are Jews, whereas those who do not have a Jewish religion but have Jewish religious parents or grandparents are better said to have a Jewish background.

And I do know (I think) that at present and since the murder of 6 million Jewish persons by the Nazis this difference between a religion and a background is kept far vaguer than it is for (ex-)Catholics, (ex-)Protestants etc.

Here is some more:

The Russians and Ukrainians who came in the 1990s are often themselves irreligious and they don’t like the style of life of the Haredim. They are typically grouped in the Yisrael Beitenu (Israel is our Home) party. The recent Eastern European immigrants dislike that the Haredim essentially get stipends from the state and subsidized food, and most important, they mostly don’t have to serve in the army.

The Haredim are defined as follows on Wikipedia (minus note-numbers):

Haredi Judaism (Hebrew: חֲרֵדִי Ḥaredi, IPA: [χaʁeˈdi]; also spelled Charedi, plural Haredim or Charedim) consists of groups within Orthodox Judaism characterized by a strict adherence to their interpretation of Jewish law and values as opposed to modern values and practices. Its members are often referred to as strictly Orthodox or ultra-Orthodox in English, although the term "ultra-Orthodox" is considered pejorative by many of its adherents. although this claim is contested by other streams. Haredi Jews regard themselves as the most religiously authentic group of Jews, although this claim is contested by other streams.

There seem to be about 8% of Haredis (or 1% more) in the present Israel. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

With 120 seats in parliament, Netanyahu needs 61 to govern. His Likud Party has 35 seats.

Netanyahu needs the Yisrael Beitnenu seats to get to 61. But he also needs the votes of some small Ultra-Orthodox Parties. They want the government to soften the military service provision.

As I said at the beginning of this review, meanwhile the Israelis will get new elections in September. Also, I quoted less from this article than I might have done, if Cole had been more honest, for while he agrees that there are at present 8% of Haredis in Israel, he argues that in 40 years (!!) the proportion of Haredis in Israel is or may be 29%, and uses the last - quite speculative - percentage to argue things, which I do not think is quite honest.

3. Go ahead — impeach Trump and watch what Mitch McConnell does

This article is by Lucian K. Truscott IV on Salon. It starts as follows:

Everyone knows, including Republicans, that all Donald Trump has done since taking office is tell lies and commit crimes. The Washington Post has tried to keep up with Trump’s lies. In April, the Post reported that he had passed the 10,000 mark. A special counsel, Robert Mueller, was appointed to try to keep up with Trump’s crimes. In March, Mueller submitted his report to Attorney General William Barr. In April, Barr released a heavily redacted version of the report, revealing that Mueller determined Trump attempted to obstruct justice no less than 11 times.

Well... yes and no, for while I agree with most in this first quoted paragraph I definitely disagree that ¨[e]veryone knows, including Republicans, that all Donald Trump has done since taking office is tell lies and commit crimes¨, for that is simply false.

I take it one reason for Truscott´s writing the above is that he is quite angry with Trump:

Nobody can keep up with the man. He lies as he breathes. He steals money. He conspires with foreign powers – Russia and Saudi Arabia anyone? — to do deals that would benefit himself, his family, and people close to him. He has charged the government tens of millions of dollars so he can travel to his own resorts to play golf. He charges the government rent for the Secret Service agents who protect him. He charges the government for meals for the agents eat which is prepared by his resorts because there are no other sources of food nearby for his protection detail. He refused to divest himself of his personal businesses or to put them in blind trusts and continues to run them as president for his own benefit.

I know or suppose that the most in the above quoted paragraph is true, but I still think it is not correct to write that ¨[e]veryone knows, including Republicans, that all Donald Trump has done since taking office is tell lies and commit crimes¨.

Here is some more (and there is more about Clinton´s impeachment in the article):

If you think the impeachment of Clinton was a gigantic clusterfuck, just wait for the Trump impeachment, if the House decides to hold its hearings and issue its articles and vote on them.

And just wait to see what Majority Leader Mitch McConnell does with it. You know what word pops up in the impeachment clauses in the constitution again and again? “Shall.” The House “shall” have the power of impeachment. The Senate “shall” have the sole power to try all impeachments.

I agree that this is somewhat ambiguous. Then again, I also think it is far more important that the majority of the Senate is Republican and that majority will almost certainly refuse to impeach Trump.

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

Similarly, the constitution doesn’t say how the Senate has to go about handling articles of impeachment, other than “When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside.” There’s that word again, “shall.” Doesn’t say the Senate “must” hold a trial. It simply says “when.”

Yes, though ¨when¨ is a bit more definite than ¨if¨, I´d say.

4. Noam Chomsky: Trump’s “Economic Boom” Is a Sham

This article is by C.J. Polychroniou on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump ran a campaign — and won the 2016 presidential election — based on unorthodox tactics, whereby he used irrational provocation to defy traditional political norms and make a mockery of established beliefs on both domestic and international issues confronting the United States. Amazingly enough, Trump has continued his instinctual political posturing even as president, dividing the nation and causing severe friction with the traditional allies of the U.S. Yet, his unorthodox tactics and irrational leadership style appear to remain a winning formula as current polls indicate that, unless something dramatic happens, Trump may very well be re-elected in 2020 by an even bigger margin.

How do we make sense of Trump’s continuing popularity? Noam Chomsky, one of the most respected public intellectuals alive, shares his insights on Trump’s actions in the exclusive Truthout interview that follows.

I think most of the first paragraph is correct, but my own explanation of Trump´s successes is that the majority of the American voters are stupid or ignorant - and see Martin Luther King above - though I grant that they also are subjected to very many lies and a lot of propaganda.

Here is Chomsky on the reasons for Trump´s considerable approval:

Noam Chomsky: Whatever one thinks of Trump, he is a highly skilled politician, with a good sense of how to gain popular approval, even virtual worship in some circles. His job approval just passed 50 percent for the first time, according to the latest Zogby poll.

He certainly has taken control of the GOP, to quite a remarkable extent. He’s been very successful with his two constituencies: the primary one, wealth and corporate power; and the voting base, relatively affluent fairly generally, including a large bloc of Christian evangelicals, rural whites, farmers, workers who have faith in his promises to bring back jobs, and a collection of others, some not too admirable.

As I said under the first quoted paragraph, I only partially agree with Chomsky (who, as far as I recall, did not think in 2016 that Trump ¨is a highly skilled politician¨, though this is an aside).

Then there is this about tariffs in the USA:

Tariffs are in effect a tax on consumers (contrary to Trump’s pretenses about China paying for them). The New York Fed estimates the cost to consumers at $1.6 billion annually, a tax of $831 for the average American household. Hence Trump’s tariffs tax the general public to maintain the loyalty of a prime constituency.

Yes, I think that is quite correct. Here is more:

It’s quite true that huge numbers of jobs have fled to China, but who is responsible for that? China? Is China holding a gun to the heads of Apple, GM, IBM, GE … and forcing them to ship jobs to China? One can’t even say that it’s the fault of the managers of the corporations. Their responsibility, in fact legal obligation, is to make profits for shareholders, and that purpose is served by shifting jobs to China, Mexico, Vietnam, Bangladesh….

Those who object to these practices should be demanding that such decisions should not be in the hands of management and the board of directors, but rather in the hands of those who actually do the work of the enterprise, as democratic principle might suggest. Perhaps along the lines of a 19th century writer whose initials are K.M.

To the best of my knowledge, this is somewhat misleading:

As to the first paragraph, to the best of my knowledge ¨
huge numbers of jobs have fled to China¨ (and India), but this was mostly caused by two things: the decisions of the rich owners and the changes in the laws made over the last 40 years.

As to the second paragraph, I think the reference to Karl Marx (¨K.M.¨) is misleading, and besides, there is a third alternative: The laws of a country and of the USA in particular should have made it impossible to transplant whole industries from the USA to India and China.

Here is a bit about the economic power of the USA:

As an aside, it should be noted that U.S. economic power is in fact astonishing. In recent articles and an important forthcoming book titled American Power Globalized: Rethinking National Power in the Age of Globalization, international economist Sean Kenji Starrs argues persuasively that in the recent years of globalization, national accounts mean much less than they used to. A more realistic estimate of economic power is the share of global wealth owned by nationally based multinational corporations. For the U.S., that comes to the staggering figure of about half of world wealth, more than U.S. national economic power at its height after World War II.

I say, for I did not know this.

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

It seems that more and more Democrats may be warming up to the idea of an impeachment. Is this a good idea? My personal view is that such a course of action will only serve to increase Trump’s popularity among his base, and maybe even beyond.

I agree. Charges of impeachment go to the Senate for trial. Trump’s lock on the Republican majority should be enough to clear him of any charges. The effect will then be much like that of the Mueller investigation. He will claim to have been proven innocent of the charges, which he will depict as a malicious and underhanded effort by the Democrats and the Deep State to silence the Tribune of the People, behavior that may even be treasonous, as he is now intimating with regard to the Mueller investigation. His base will be energized, if not infuriated, by what these “traitors” are trying to do to their defender.

Yes, I think that is probably correct, and 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 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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