June 20, 2019

Crisis: Big Tech & Your Money, American Inequality, Trump´s Corrupt State, On ¨Socialism¨

“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 20, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, June 20, 2019.

I realize that I did not commemorate the fact that I am writing Crisis files for six years now, since I started to do so after June 10, 2013, which taught me about Snowden.

I am registering it now, and may write about it the coming days, but I am also somewhat worse at present than I was for a long time.

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 20, 2019:
1. Big Tech’s War for Your Wallet
2. American Inequality Creates the Fascism We Fight Against
3. Trump’s “Deep State” is Trump’s Corrupt State
4. Bernie Sanders’ Economic Bill of Rights
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. Big Tech’s War for Your Wallet

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

In a move that could reshape the world’s financial system, Facebook has unveiled plans to launch a new global digital currency called Libra. Facebook announced its plans on Tuesday after secretly working on the cryptocurrency for more than a year. It will launch Libra next year in partnership with other large companies including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and Uber. Facebook said it wants to create “a simple global currency and infrastructure that empowers billions of people.” The plan has already come under fierce criticism from financial regulators and lawmakers. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown tweeted, “Facebook is already too big and too powerful, and it has used that power to exploit users’ data without protecting their privacy. We cannot allow Facebook to run a risky new cryptocurrency out of a Swiss bank account without oversight.” We speak with David Dayen, the executive editor of The American Prospect. He recently wrote a piece for The New Republic headlined “The Final Battle in Big Tech’s War to Dominate Your World.”

Yes indeed. I wrote yesterday about this and said that I am an opponent of the whole idea of money being created by non-states. I quote myself:
I think it is utterly ridiculous that Facebook - Mark Zuckerberg, in fact, in majority - should be allowed to create its own currency, just as I think it would be utterly ridiculous if it should be allowed to create its own laws and punishments.

My reason is the same in both cases: Money and laws are some of the things that should be limited to governments of countries, and not to some spooky private business (and yes, this applies to Bitcoin as well).

Then again, this plan of Facebook illustrates how strongly corporatism has grown - that is: the tendency to make governments as small as possible, and give all power to the rich corporations - which again is a clear sign of neofascism.

So that is what Facebook plan amounts to:

A major shift towards neofascistic corporate dominance - and see my 2012 fundamental exposition on this: Corporate Fascism and the Surveillance State, about which I can add that since it is nearly 7 years old at the moment, it seems to me that this outline has been strongly supported since by many facts I did not and could not know in 2012, notably by Snowden´s revelations.

Here is more by Dayen:

DAVID DAYEN:  (..) It’s a way to transfer money to other people on the Facebook app. Obviously, you know, we have, what, over 2 billion people that use Facebook. It’s a way to transfer something of value between those users. And because it’s backed by international currencies and can be used across borders, it’s really supplanting the need to exchange money. You don’t have to go from dollars to euros, necessarily; you can just pay in Libra. So, that’s sort of the pitch that Facebook would make.

The other side of this is that there’s no real regulatory setup. It’s displacing global currencies in some ways. There are serious monetary policy concerns, serious regulatory concerns. Could this be used to facilitate money laundering or tax evasion? There are a whole host of unanswered questions around this.

Yes indeed. Incidentally, it is my strong opinion that Facebook´s Libra will make it a whole lot easier ¨to facilitate money laundering or tax evasion¨, in part because it will all be controlled by Zuckerberg, in part because Facebook is a private company that is hardly controlled, and in part for other reasons having to do with money and finance.

Here is some more:

DAVID DAYEN:  (..) And if you think about the scale, the potential scale of something like this, where you’re talking about 2 billion users, any—this is almost an operating system for money. Any other organization can build something to create payment services in this fashion. The possibilities are really endless, and so, you know, the financial possibilities are also endless. And as you correctly cite, Juan, I mean, the governance questions of how this currency will be managed, how capital flows will be understood and facilitated, if you have a country that is experiencing an economic downturn and—Libra is an excellent way for capital flight, which is something we don’t really want when a country is in financial trouble. How is that going to be mitigated or managed? There are just, as I said, just way too many unanswered questions with this.

Yes indeed, although I also think that it is a virtual certainty that the control of this kind of money will be by Facebook and its partners, and not by other people, and the rules of this game will be mostly hidden by Facebook.

Here is some more:

DAVID DAYEN:  (..) And that’s Facebook’s, I think, end goal. If you add payments onto this social media application that is incredibly dominant, you’ve basically locked people into Facebook. And if you’ve done that, then, you know, whether you’re taking a little bit out of every transaction that 2 billion people make on a daily basis, or whether you are just locking people onto the site, knowing what purchases they’ve made and then selling very data-rich ads based on that, you have a prospect of real domination.

Yes, I agree, although I also think there is more of neofascism involved in Zuckerberg´s plan.

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

DAVID DAYEN: (..) So, we’ve been seeing, over the last several months, the big tech companies—Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook—try to figure out how to become that sort of one partner. I mean, you have Apple, that put out this thing that’s a credit card, called the Apple Card. You have Amazon partnering with other global payment systems on what they call World Pay—or, what they call Amazon Pay, I should say. Google has its own digital wallet. And now you have Facebook with this thing that is—who knows what it is? Is it a bank? Is it a prepaid card? Is it a digital wallet? Is it a global currency? So you have all these companies, that were kind of competing separately, are now all moving into the payment space and also moving into other spaces that are overlapping, like entertainment, to become that thing that is sort of the only kind of digital tool that you will need. So you can make all of your purchases, you can talk to all your friends, you can access all your entertainment, you can do everything that you wish inside this world, whether it’s Facebook, Google, Amazon or Apple.

And that’s really their intention. And that’s why I call it sort of the war of all against all. This is like the final battle for global domination here.

No, not quite. First of all, it is a war of the very rich few agains the rest (and not a ¨war of all against all¨) and secondly this is neofascism, as I defined it: The major corporations trying to take over from governments and from the state (and succeeding). And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. American Inequality Creates the Fascism We Fight Against

This article is by Lee Camp on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:

This is from Nomi Prins at TomDispatch:

“… [I]f you really want to grasp what’s been happening, consider that, between 2009 and 2017, the number of billionaires whose combined wealth was greater than that of the world’s poorest 50% fell from 380 to just eight.”

And in the U.S., it’s even worse. It’s three. Three dudes have the same wealth as the bottom 50% of everyone! Yet most Americans seem fine with it—at least in the sense that we’re only expressing our anger via strongly worded tweets rather than hurling flaming bottles filled with lighter fluid and urine.

Could you imagine how fucking angry people would be if this were about anything other than money?

As to the last question: I do not really know, and I have been following politics now for over 50 years. But I do have a general idea, and that is that the basic reason for most political developments we have seen since 1979-1980, which is the last 40 years, is that a large majority of ordinary adults in fact have few decent, fact-based, rational ideas about politics and most other things, basically because they are mostly both ignorant and stupid.

At least, that is the best general explanation I can think of, and while I do realize this is not a popular idea at all (¨What?! You´re calling me stupid or ignorant?! I will show you...¨) I am pleased to find Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seems to have agreed with me.

Here is some more:

Not too long ago, Walmart was caught having a canned food drive for their own employees on Thanksgiving. If you work at Walmart and you can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner, that doesn’t mean customers need to donate some Spam. It means working at Walmart is less a job and more a partial enslavement opportunity. Think about that: Workers at one of the largest corporations in the world within one of the richest countries in the world can’t even afford to feed their families.

Yes, I agree that is a great shame. Here is some more: has a chart that shows the top 0.1%’s share of total U.S. income over time. It’s peaking right now, and the previous peak on the chart happened just before the 2008 collapse. The only other peak occurred just before the Great Depression.

The top 400 U.S. earners have hugely increased how many millions they bring home every year. The top tier is still benefiting from that peak on the chart from just before the 2008 financial collapse … for which our Justice Department prosecuted nobody.

Actually, the graphics as are quite good - except that they seem to have the crazy idea of partially blocking them. You can see all of them, but it takes some trouble.

Here is a brief explanation of inequality in the USA:

So what has caused this breathtaking level of inequality? There are several culprits. One is Bill Clinton’s gutting of the Glass-Steagall Act, which former opponent of desegregation and fervent Amtrak rider Joe Biden supported as well. Another is the Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing,” which is basically a massive giveaway to Wall Street (..) And yet another reason for the inequality we now see is the near obliteration of strong unions.

Yes, I agree. Here is the ending of this article:

So let’s go back to our if / thens:

If inequality, then instability.

If instability, then popular uprisings.

If popular uprisings, then either lefty leaders or neo-fascists.

This will all be on the exam, so write it down.

Well... I like Lee Camp (I think) and know he is a comedian, but I would like it better if his serious articles were written without comedy. As to the above bit:

The first line is at most a probability (and there have been many centuries of enormous inequalities with few instabilities); the second line idem; and the third line idem (and the alternative may be true for the last hundred years or so, but not for more). But this is a recommended article.

3. Trump’s “Deep State” is Trump’s Corrupt State

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

Trump has been ramping up his “Deep State” rhetoric again. He’s back to blaming a cabal of bureaucrats, FBI and CIA agents, Democrats, and “enemies of the people” in the mainstream media, for conspiring to remove him from office in order to allow the denizens of foreign shi*tholes to overrun America.  

But with each passing day it’s becoming clearer that the real threat to America isn’t Trump’s Deep State. It’s Trump’s Corrupt State.

Not since Warren G. Harding’s sordid administration have as many grifters, crooks and cronies occupied high positions in Washington.

Trump has installed a Star Wars Cantina of former lobbyists and con artists, including several whose exploits have already forced them to resign, such as Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price, and Michael Flynn. Many others remain.

Yes, I agree, though perhaps I should add that I do believe in some deep state, and notably in Eisenhower´s military-industrial complex, in fact because that seems rather obviously true.

Anyway. Here is some more:

All this takes conflict-of-interest to a new level of shamelessness.

What are Republicans doing about it? Participating in it.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, who also happens to be the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has approved $78 million in grants for her husband’s home state of Kentucky, including a highway-improvement project that had been twice rejected in the past. Chao has even appointed a special liaison to coordinate grants with McConnell’s office. 

Oh, did I say, McConnell is up for reelection next year?

News that a Cabinet secretary is streamlining federal funding for her husband’s pet projects would be a giant scandal under normal circumstances. But in the age of Trump, ethics are out the window.

Yes, I agree, except that most ¨ethics are out of the window¨ since Bill Clinton´s presidency.

Here is some more:

Trump claims the Deep State allows foreigners to take advantage of America. The reality is Trump’s Corrupt State allows Vladimir Putin and his goon squad to continue undermining American democracy.

“I’d take it” if Russia again offered campaign help, Trump crowed last week, adding that he wouldn’t necessarily tell the FBI about it. Just days before, Trump acknowledged “Russia helping me get elected” the first time.

Despite evidence that Russia is back hacking and trolling its way toward the 2020 election, Republican defenders of Trump’s Corrupt State won’t lift a finger.

Well... I don´t know that Russia is undermining American democracy, and I don´t know because neither myself nor anybody else has any good ideas about how much Russia does do.

So what I believe is that (i) Russia does interfere some in American politics, precisely as (ii) the USA has been interfering in Russian politics for more than 25 years, but the major forces to destroy American democracy is not Russia, but are or were Bill Clinton´s presidency, Bush Jr.´s presidency, Obama´s presidency and Trump´s presidency.

Here is Reich´s ending:

Trump and his Republican enablers are playing magicians who distract us by shouting “look here!” at the paranoid fantasy of a Deep State, while creating a Corrupt State under our noses.

But it’s not a party trick. It’s the dirtiest trick of our time, enabled by the most corrupt party in living memory.

As I said above, I do believe in some Deep State, if only Eisenhower´s military-industrial complex, but I agree Trump is also creating a corrupt state (as were former American presidents). And this is a recommended article.

4. Bernie Sanders’ Economic Bill of Rights

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a full-throated defense of democratic socialism in his June 12 speech at George Washington University. Sanders quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 State of the Union address: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”

Sanders, like FDR, proposed an Economic Bill of Rights, including the rights to health care, affordable housing, education, a living wage and retirement.

“Economic rights are human rights,” Sanders declared. “That is what I mean by democratic socialism.”
No, I am sorry: This just is not so, as indeed I argued two days ago in Why Bernie Sanders Isn’t Afraid of ‘Socialism’ : I like Bernie Sanders; I think Sanders + Warren us the best choice for the next American presidency; but I am quite definite that Sanders is not speaking the truth about what he calls ¨democratic socialism¨.

See the last link, and realize that if Sanders were correct about ¨democratic socialism¨ I would have been living in a democratic socialist country, since more than 60 years also, because the economic rights that Sanders says define ¨democratic socialism¨ mostly exist in Holland and Western Europe - in spite of which these are not democratic socialist countries, but capitalist countries.

Here is some more:
Sanders cited figures of vast wealth disparity in the United States, where “the top one percent of people own more wealth than the bottom 92 percent.” He said there is higher income and wealth inequality today than at any time since the 1920s. And, Sanders stated, “Despite an explosion in technology and worker productivity, the average wage of the American worker in real dollars is no higher than it was 46 years ago and millions of people are forced to work two or three jobs just to survive.”

He also noted, “In America today, the very rich live on average 15 years longer than the poorest Americans.”
I think these purported facts are all true, but like to add that one major reason is that while the United States did agree with most other Western countries about political rights, it never agreed about economic rights, which is also one of the major legal differences between Western Europe (where I have always lived) and the USA.

Here is some more:
President Donald Trump and his fellow oligarchs oppose democratic socialism, Sanders said, but “they don’t really oppose all forms of socialism.” Indeed, “they absolutely love corporate socialism that enriches Trump and other billionaires.”

Sanders cited the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street in 2008 by the Treasury Department “after their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior created the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression — with millions of Americans losing their jobs, their homes and their life savings — Wall Street’s religious adherence to unfettered capitalism suddenly came to an end.”

He also mentioned tax breaks and loopholes for fossil fuel companies, pharmaceutical companies, Amazon, and the Trump family.

As Dr. Martin Luther King observed, the United States “has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.”
No, I am sorry, but this is again false: Just as Roosevelt´s economic rights (which were never signed by the USA) are not - at all - the same as socialism, the corporate billionaires do not enrich themselves by any kind of socialism, but by capitalist solidarity and cooperation.

Here is an outline of Roosevelt´s economic rights:
“In 1944, FDR proposed an economic bill of rights but died a year later and was never able to fulfill that vision. Our job, 75 years later,” Sanders said, “is to complete what Roosevelt started.”

He then set forth his vision of a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights, which would recognize that all Americans should have:

    The right to a decent job that pays a living wage
    The right to quality health care
    The right to a complete education
    The right to affordable housing
    The right to a clean environment
    The right to a secure retirement

Sanders listed Democratic presidents vilified by the oligarchs of their time for their programs of alleged “socialism.” Lyndon Johnson was attacked for Medicare, Harry Truman’s proposed national health care program was dubbed “socialized medicine,” and Newt Gingrich called Bill Clinton’s health care plan “centralized bureaucratic socialism.”
No, I am sorry again: Holland and Western Europe had these rights - more or less, and excepting a clean environment, for over 50 years, without being socialist in any good sense.

And while I agree with Sanders it would be a very good thing if these economic rights were rights in the USA as well, I disagree with Cohn who says this is socialism: If it were, I´d be living in a socialist country the last 50+ years.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Moreover, a 2018 Gallup poll determined that a majority of young Americans have a positive opinion of socialism. According to a recent Axios poll, 55 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 54 would prefer to live in a socialist country.

Sanders said the U.S. and the rest of the world face two different political paths. “On one hand,” he noted, “there is a growing movement towards oligarchy and authoritarianism in which a small number of incredibly wealthy and powerful billionaires own and control a significant part of the economy and exert enormous influence over the political life of our country. On the other hand, in opposition to oligarchy, there is a movement of working people and young people who, in ever increasing numbers, are fighting for justice.”
No, I am sorry: I disagree with the first of the avobe quoted paragraphs, for the simple reason that I am fairly to very certain that few of the ¨young Americans¨ are able to give any halfway decent definition of socialism - as indeed Cohn isn´t, for which reason I do not recommend this article, because it is fundamentally confused.


[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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