This starts as follows:
Since at least the end of World War II, supporting the world’s
worst despots has been a central plank of U.S. foreign policy, arguably
its defining attribute. The list of U.S.-supported tyrants is too long
to count, but the strategic rationale has been consistent: In a world
where anti-American sentiment is prevalent, democracy often produces leaders who impede rather than serve U.S. interests.
Imposing or propping up dictators subservient to the U.S. has long
been, and continues to be, the preferred means for U.S. policymakers to
ensure that those inconvenient popular beliefs are suppressed. None of
this is remotely controversial or even debatable. U.S. support for
tyrants has largely been conducted out in the open, and has been
expressly defended and affirmed for decades by the most mainstream and
influential U.S. policy experts and media outlets.
The foreign policy guru most beloved and respected in Washington,
Henry Kissinger, built his career on embracing and propping up the most
savage tyrants because of their obeisance to U.S. objectives. Among the
statesman’s highlights, as Greg Grandin documented, he “pumped up
Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize
Afghanistan”; “began the U.S.’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with
Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran”; and “supported coups and death
squads throughout Latin America.” Kissinger congratulated Argentina’s military junta for its mass killings and aggressively enabled the genocide carried out by one of the 20th century’s worst monsters, the Indonesian dictator and close U.S. ally Suharto.
I think the above is quite correct, but I admit I am a radical (which I do because I also know lots of people reject or qualify the above).
There is rather a lot more that supports
the above introduction, which I leave to your interests. And this is
from the ending, adding a twist to the above introduction:
I think that is also true, and this is a
recommended article (and I am trying to keep my reviews brief because
there are 6 items to review today, and I started late ).
Cultivating authoritarian leaders is everything except a “shift
in American foreign policy.” Nonetheless, this propagandistic lie has
now become commonplace among über-patriotic journalists eager to tell
the world that the U.S. before Trump had been devoted to liberating the
oppressed peoples of the world from tyranny.
2. How Our Worlds Are Decided for Us From Behind the Computational Curtain
article is by John Cheney-Leopold on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
If we are made of code, the world fundamentally changes. This codified
interpretation of life is, at the level of our subjectivity, how the
digital world is being organized. It is, at the level of knowledge, how
that world is being defined. And it is, at the level of social
relations, how that world is being connected. Of course, we don’t have
to use Microsoft products to unleash our potential. That’s beside the
point. But Microsoft’s iconic corporate monopoly works as a convenient
stand-in to critique the role that technology has in not just
representing us but functionally determining “who we might become.”
Actually, we are not made of code, indeed just as little as a house is made from electricity: we are made of flesh and bone, and to say otherwise is either silly or
Representation plays second fiddle if Microsoft can quite literally
rewrite the codes of race, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship,
celebrity, and terrorist. Rewriting these codes transcodes their meaning
onto Microsoft’s terms. They become the author of who ‘we’ are and can
So the world does not fundamentally change, but Cheney-Leopold is quite correct that much of what we see (and also of what we are denied to see!) is organized by some "codified interpretation" that co-determines - and I write "co-determines" because we
also make some (influenced) decisions - what we see (and desire and
believe) and that "codified interpretation" that co-determines these
things generally, is the trade secret of companies like Google or Facebook or Microsoft or Apple.
As to representation and "the codes of race, class, gender, sexuality, citizenship,
celebrity, and terrorist":
It is true that writing code for what these terms mean (in some sense, to some) "transcodes their meaning
onto Microsoft’s terms" and also true that Microsoft's codes are only known to Microsoft's people, which in turn means that these terms probably have meanings for Microsoft that they don't have for others, but - at least for now - these meanings must be fairly close to what these terms mean for ordinary speakers and in ordinary dictionaries.
So, at least for now, the terms must mostly
represent what the terms mean for fairly naive users. The problem is -
now, at least - rather that what these terms mean for computers is not only what they represent, but whether they may be seen, and if so, in what form they should be presented to the naive viewer. And these possibilties combine censorship and propaganda.
There also is a further danger, that Cheney-Leopold describes as follows:
(...) Google, Facebook,
and others are on their way to privatizing “everything.”
By privatizing “everything,” I really mean everything. Love, friendship,
criminality, citizenship, and even celebrity have all been datafied by
algorithms we will rarely know about. These proprietary ideas about the
world are not open for debate, made social and available to the public.
They are assigned from behind a private enclosure, a discursive
trebuchet that assails us with meaning like rabble outside the castle
I don't think everything (or "everything") is privatized yet, and one must keep in mind that what is privatized, at least now, and gets "privatized" by firms like Google and Facebook, are associations of moral values and desires with certain terms, and that these private associations determine what you will see and how it will be presented to you. And these things are privatized because Google
or Facebook control the associations, the values and the desires they
think certain terms had and should have, and use them only for their
And here is one very important consequence - that is in fact mostly due to the fact that private computers are and have been mostly not encrypted, rather than to computers as such:
The consequence of this privatization means that privacy has become
inverted, not in its definition but in its participants and
circumstances. A site like OkCupid has privacy from us, but we don’t
have privacy from OkCupid. We don’t know how our data is being used. We
can’t peek inside its compatibility match algorithm. But every little
thing we do can be watched and datafied.
Yes, and this should either be completely undone (by encrypting everything from the bottom up) or indeed be inverted: It is bloody sick, bloody immoral and also bloody theft
that Facebook or secret services know more about you than you recall
about your own life or yourself, but indeed for the moment they do, and
they will continue to do so in the future, apart from total encryption (which I am very strongly for) or an enormous economical collapse (that may allow the survivors to make the necessary choices otherwise than they were in the past).
What in fact happened is this:
scholar Christian Fuchs has detailed, the data gathered in these
privatized spaces became the constant capital by which profit would be
produced, echoing the most basic of capital relations: we legally agree
to turn over our data to owners, those owners use that data for profit,
and that profit lets a company gather even more data to make even more
In fact, these "legal agreements" are all cases of legal theft (of data you don't know you are producing, that are taken and used from you for minimal or no payment, or the utterly insane offering of "personal advertisements"), in programs you do not know anything about, for purposes you also do not know anything about) and the legal theft at bottom is the same
as the legal theft that made the capitalists rich, by offering minimal
wages to people that would otherwise have died, followed by taking the
product of their labor for themselves. (In case you want an explanation
of these principles of capitalism try chapter I and II by Alexander Berkman in his "What Is Communist Anarchism". )
Here is the ending of Cheney-Leopold:
When privacy is reversed,
everything changes. Our worlds are decided for us, our present and
futures dictated from behind the computational curtain.
Yes, and the privacy can be reversed precisely because it has been - intentionally, I am morally certain - a matter of course NOT to properly encrypt everything you write in your e-mails or say in your cellphones: Your private information has been given deliberately to firms like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple.
Finally (and I doubt I am speaking for Cheney-Leopold here): Without
proper encryption, that is also safe-guarded by laws, computers and
cellphones will be the tools with which the very rich can and probably
will enslave or control everybody else.
That seems the probable future to me, and this is a recommended article (although I don't quite agree).
3. Our Political Reality Is the Stuff of Nightmares
This starts as follows:
The third article is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:
That is, this is another "100 Days" article, of which I have published at least 5 files in the previous week. (Check the index
if you are interested.) This doesn't mean the present article is
uninteresting, but it does mean I can make this review brief (and see
It’s become the new abnormal: Trump’s decrees, accusations and
posturing; his transparent lies, threats and reversals. Then comes the
cleanup crew, the White House propagandists, pretending he’s serious.
Half the media plays it straight, according Trump a gravitas
unsupported by facts or details. Others, from TV comedians to seasoned
political columnists, cannot keep a straight face. Whatever being
presidential or serious governing is, they know that’s not Trump.
One hundred days in, what are we to make of this confusing mess?
Here is the first point I want to quote:
Trump’s ascent appears to be morphing into an open invitation for
Washington’s right-wing lifers to get back in the game and take another
whack at the same lousy ideas they have been peddling since Ronald
Yes I agree, although this is a fairly easy conclusion. Here is the second and last point from this review:
The only thing that’s clear 100 days into Trump’s presidency is that the
country has entered a downward spiral and it’s unclear which factions
or forces on the right will emerge with either political power or
personal fortunes, or both. But politics and capitalism abhor
vacuums—even in a deepening dystopia. Wherever this is headed, it has
yet to hit bottom.
I more or less agree, although I would say some more things have become clear or clearer. But I do agree with the end: "Wherever this is headed, it has
yet to hit bottom."
And this is a recommended article.
4. Lessons in History from Donald Trump, Who Has 'a Very Good Brain'
The fourth article is by Heather Digby Parton on AlterNet:
This starts as follows, and it is here not
only to enjoy you, but also to make (once again) a serious
psychological point (and I am a psychologist):
This means - taken for what it said, at least - that Donald Trump must be an extremely special person: He understands taxes better than any of the billions of men there are and have been, and he also understands money better than any of the billions of men there are.
President Donald Trump said something profoundly ignorant on
Monday. I know that shocks you. He is, after all, a man who has told us
over and over again that he is smarter than just about anyone you’d
want to mention. He has said:
“I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world.”
“I understand money better than anybody. I understand it far better than Hillary, and I’m way up on the economy when it comes to questions on the economy.”
But this is not all (according to Donald Trump):
He has also said:
“Nobody knows more about trade than me.”
“Nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump.”
Regarding the legality of his travel ban, he opined:
I was a good student. I understand things. I comprehend very well, better than I think almost anybody.
Plus he has said:
“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.”
“I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.”
That is: Trump understands trade better than any of the billions of men there are and have been, and Trump understands infrastructure better than any other American (did he grow more polite, for this is quite humble, in Trump's terms).
Also - according to Trump - he was not only a good student, but he thinks better than than almost any of the billions of men there are and have been (including Aristotle, Newton, Euler, Gauss, Russell and Von Neumann).
Not only that: According to Trump he understands the military better than any of the billions of men there are and have been (including Napoleon or Eisenhower), and he certainly knows more about ISIS than any of the Americans, including all their generals.
Here is Heather Parton's sum-up of Trump according to Trump:
That’s just a small sampling of the times that Trump has asserted he is
gifted with vast knowledge and a prodigious intellect that far outstrips
anyone else in the entire world, perhaps anyone else who has ever
I think she must be right: Leonardo da
Vinci and Michelangelo, to take two examples, were geniuses at two or
possibly three things, but compared to Donald Trump, who
outthinks almost anybody else (he says) and is - in his own opinion -
something like (at least) a five-fold genius, they amount to hardly
anything at all (and I haven't heard Trump's opinion on Trump's
mathematical, physical, musical, artistic and quite a few other gifts,
that - I take it - are as amazing, in his opinion).
What do you call a man who so grossly, so systematically, and so hugely overestimates his own capacities? You call him a megalomaniac (<-Wikipedia) or alternatively (but I don't like psychiatrese) a grandiose narcissist (<- the link is to testimony by pstychologists and psychiatrists) and you deplore his craziness.
And that is what I think he is, although he has convinced about half of the American voters - who do neither excel in intelligence nor in knowledge - to be their president.
Ah well... this is a recommended article.
5. Trump’s Banksters and the Rollback of Dodd-Frank
The fifth article article is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
Donald Trump has ordered a rollback of regulations over Wall
Street, including the Dodd-Frank Act, passed in 2010 to prevent another
too-big-to-fail banking crisis.
Perhaps Trump thinks that we’ve forgotten what happened when Wall
Street turned the economy into a giant casino, and then – when its bets went
sour in 2008 – needed a giant taxpayer funded bailout.
Maybe Trump thinks Americans forget losing their jobs, homes, and
savings in the fallout.
I agree Trump "has ordered a rollback of regulations over Wall
Street, including the Dodd-Frank Act", but I don't think he thinks "Americans forget losing their jobs, homes, and
savings in the fallout" in 2008: I think he doesn't care. (It will not happen to him and/or he will profit from the losses of others, so why should he
Here is some of what Dodd-Frank implies:
Getting rid of
Dodd-Frank triples the odds of another financial crisis.
Meanwhile, Trump has
brought more banksters into his administration than any in any previous
administration – mostly, from Goldman Sachs.
The head of Trump’s economic
council is Gary Cohn who was president of Goldman Sachs. Other Goldman alumni
include Trump’s right hand man, Steve Bannon, Trump’s pick for Treasury, Steve
Mnuchin, Trump’s pick for the securities and exchange commission, Jay Clayton
and another White House advisor, Dina Powell.
In fact, in 2008 it has turned out that the big American banks can do what they please; defraud whom they please; and be rewarded with trillions of money for thefts and frauds, and they could do so with the help of Obama and with the assistance of Goldman's own Hank Paulson and later Timothy Geithner.
My guess is that - since there will
be another crisis following that of 2008, though I do not know when -
the Goldman Sachs people who now crowd Trump's economical council
expect to do a similar thing in the next crisis as they did in the last: Transport as much as possible of the money from the non-rich and the government to the bankaccounts of the very rich, like themselves. It worked in 2008, so why not again?!
I agree this is my guess; I insist there is very good evidence for it. And this is a recommended article.
6. How Much to Buy a Congressional Vote? New Research Seeks Answer
The sixth and last article today is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams, and she asks a quite interesting question:
This starts as follows:
While it is conventional wisdom that money influences politics,
researchers released a report Tuesday aiming to answer the longstanding
question of exactly how much political spending it takes to sway a Congressional vote.
Fifty Shades of Green
(pdf), published by the Roosevelt Institute, analyzes "the role
political finance has played in securing the privileged positions of
both high finance and big telecom" by examining how lawmakers evolved in
supporting efforts to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and
Specifically, the authors looked at Democratic representatives who
originally voted in favor of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and
Consumer Protection Act and then later voted to dismantle key provisions
This is a quite interesting report (and it can be downloaded by the above last link).
This is quoted from its introduction:
(...) the authors found "the link between campaign contributions from the
financial sector and switching to a pro-bank vote to be direct and
"The results indicate that for every $100,000 that Democratic
representatives received from finance, the odds they would break with
their party's majority support for the Dodd-Frank legislation increased
by 13.9 percent," the report states. "Democratic representatives who
voted in favor of finance often received $200,000 – $300,000 from that
sector, which raised the odds of switching by 25–40 percent."
The authors further noted that Democrats who were nearing the end of
their House term as well as members of the House Financial Services
Committee "were far more likely to support the banks on repealing
elements of Dodd-Frank."
That is: A couple of $100,000s, which is very little money for a billionaire, can move the votes from "for the people" to "for the banks", whereas for helping Google or Netflix, a few $1000s are sufficient to move the votes from "for the people" to "for the rich who own computer firms".
I say. That is how it goes, and this is one of the conclusions drawn by the authors of the report:
The report continues:
Recipients of money from firms in favor of network
neutrality, such as Netflix or Google, whose access to users could be
affected, were considerably more likely to vote in favor of Markey's
amendment: Every additional $1,000 dollars decreased the odds of voting
against by 24 percent. Similarly, contributions from firms opposed to
network neutrality were also telling: every $1,000 increased the chances
of a vote against by 2.6 percent. The more conservative a
representative was, the more likely he or she was to vote against
network neutrality. Telecom employment in the district did not seem to
matter, but district median income did: Every $1,000 in additional
income decreased the odds of a vote against network neutrality by 7.2
In the report's conclusion, the authors write that they don't "want
to overstate" the results, however, they add that "the long history of
skepticism toward claims that money powerfully influences legislative
voting should come to an end."
Without mincing words, they add that the documented pattern of
lawmakers "is too obvious to need much emphasis: Substantial numbers of
legislators sell out the public interest in exchange for political
money. This may not be the best Congress money can buy—the coefficients
in our equations could be even larger, after all—but the reality is bad
Yes indeed. Or in other words: "Democracy" in the USA is sold to the highest bidder, who generally are banks or computer firms, who profit enormously, while real democracy gets drowned completely by the corruption of the people elected to keep it up.
It might have been even worse than it is, but that is about the only "good" thing about it.