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Nederlog

July 6, 2018

Crisis: Scott Pruitt, Detained Mothers, Trump's Anti-Journalism, Corrupt Computers, The ECU


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 6, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, July 6, 2018. 
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 two 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 July 6, 2018:
1. Scott Pruitt Exits, Sticking You With the Tab
2. Detained Mothers Are Organizing to Find Their Kids
3. Trump's Ever More Powerful Weapons Against Journalism
4. The Creator of the World Wide Web Is ‘Devastated’ by What It Has
     Become

5. 'Actions Speak Louder Than Words'
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. Scott Pruitt Exits, Sticking You With the Tab

This article is by The Editorial Board of The New York Times. It starts as follows:
Just when America had all but given up hope, Scott Pruitt’s appalling reign as Environmental Protection Agency administrator is finally over. Thursday afternoon, Mr. Pruitt delivered President Trump his resignation letter, replete with references to “God’s providence” and how “blessed” he was to have had the opportunity to serve not the nation, but this president. He sadly noted that “the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.” And so Mr. Pruitt heads for the door, leaving behind a dark, oily stain on the office that he has spent the past year and a half vigorously defiling.
In fact, there are many articles about Pruitt's resignation. I chose this one because it is clear and by The New York Times, which is one of the two mainstream daily papers I still look at every day. (The other is The Guardian. And I will keep reading them, simply to have a standard of comparison between the mainstream and the non-mainstream.)

And the NYT is right. That is, Pruitt seems to have been one of the many self-enrichers from Trump's government, who rewarded himself in very many financial ways, quite a few which were evidently corrupt.

I do not think Pruitt was very important, but I agree he was quite sickening. Here is more by the NYT:

Mr. Pruitt’s departure did not come as a total shock. Word around Washington in recent weeks was that the stench of corruption wafting from E.P.A. headquarters was getting to be too much even for Mr. Trump. Someone in the White House no doubt noticed that, with the midterms approaching, Mr. Pruitt was not playing well with any voter who retains some common sense. In an administration characterized by extreme swampiness and ethical flexibility, the E.P.A. chief had nonetheless distinguished himself with pathological grifting to the point that even some Republican lawmakers and reliably conservative commentators had begun publicly slapping him.

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

Still, for months, Mr. Pruitt held on to his job as the embarrassing revelations piled up like so many used mattresses: his profligate spending on posh travel, over-the-top security, and ridiculous, self-aggrandizing office supplies; his directing agency staffers to run his personal errands, including finding him a place to live in Washington and combing hotels for his favorite skin cream; his attempts to score his wife a high-paying job, possibly involving chicken nuggets and waffle fries. Every week seemed to bring fresh examples of Mr. Pruitt’s shameless and yet surprisingly petty misuse of his office.

Precisely, although "surprisingly petty" misuses are - to an extent - a matter of taste. But it is true he does not seem to have somehow illegally appropriated millions of dollars, "just" several hundreds of thousands (as far as I could see, by some quick glances and additions).

Anyway... this was an example of Trump's government, perhaps a bit greedier and a bit more stupid than most. O, and the NYT is correct that Pruitt's letter of resignation consists mostly of sick flatterings of Trump. And this is a recommended article.


2. Detained Mothers Are Organizing to Find Their Kids

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

While the government struggles to reunite families who have been separated at the border under President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, one detained Honduran woman has been organizing mothers behind bars to help find their children. The New Yorker reports that Mabel Gonzales has carefully documented the cases of mothers who have been separated from their children at a detention facility in El Paso, Texas, where she is currently jailed. Gonzales herself was separated from her two teenage sons eight months before the Trump administration announced its “zero tolerance” policy. She records the details of other separated mothers despite not being allowed to have a notebook while detained. She then shares the information with the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso to help separated mothers locate their children. We speak with Linda Rivas, executive director and lead attorney of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center.

Yes indeed - and please note that this falsely detained woman with two sons who were kidnapped and abducted by ICE seems to have been treated as a terrorist by Trump's government, for she was not even allowed a notebook (rather like the Communists who were detained by the Italian fascists in the Thirties).

Here is some more:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And if she is—if Mabel Gonzales is, in fact, deported, will she be deported with her children?

LINDA RIVAS: So, that is an impossible choice that many of these parents are being forced to make. Even after the news of this injunction, which, again, was very, very good news, in demanding that this administration reunify kids in a short amount of time, there’s still now a form being passed out to parents saying, “Would you like to return with your children or not?” We have already heard reports on the ground that they are being presented with this information without an attorney present, even if we have the proper documentation submitted to these deportation officers saying, “We are the attorneys. We are representing them.” They’re still going without—you know, not asking them if they want representation. And they’re saying, “Do you want to go back with your children or not?” That is an impossible choice to make, when they have made that sacrifice. They have fled violence. They came, together with their child. They were ripped away from them. And now have to make a decision: Does my child go back to be in danger with me, after all the sacrifice we made, or do I choose for my child to stay, and potentially never see them again? And it is a decision that Mabel and I have—really still need to explore, because it’s such a difficult decision to make.

I say. Well... to me it seems as if ICE is persistently and on purpose raping US law. Also, as I said above: The US government illegally detained refugees; it illegally kidnapped and abducted more than 2000 of their children, many of whom are younger than 5 years; and now it asks their parents (having kidnapped and abducted their children, often to unknown places) whether they want to go back with their children to the places they fled from.

It's sick. Here is the last bit I'll quote on this article, which is on the refugees:

LINDA RIVAS: Almost every single person that we speak to at the detention center is escaping some form of violence. Some vary in the severity, but we see many people—we see many women escaping domestic violence, whether that be through a partner that they are actually legally married to or potentially a live-in partner or a boyfriend, where these people, these women, are viewed as property of these men. They are sexually assaulted on numerous occasions. They are escaping kidnapping and death threats. And they come to this country, many times, after having sought help from their own government, being turned away or seeing that the government is absolutely inefficient in being able to protect them. Again, this is something that we see often. Gang violence and extortion, these are also themes. But domestic violence is something that we here at Las Americas have defended, and defended these claims before the court.

Yes. Well... all I am saying is that refugees should not be arrested by the US government and the children of refugees should not be kidnapped nor abducted by the US government. And as long as the US government is doing that, I conclude it is neofascistic, racist, and criminal.

3. Trump's Ever More Powerful Weapons Against Journalism

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:

Last month, after spending the better part of two years railing against purveyors of “fake news,” the president called the media the “enemy of the American people.” Now the Department of Homeland Security is reportedly compiling a database of journalists, editors, correspondents and bloggers to identify the leading voices in their respective fields.

According to an April 5 report in Bloomberg Government, DHS was searching for a contractor to help it monitor more than 290,000 global news sources in over 100 languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Russian, all of which will be translated to English in real time. These outlets would include newspapers and magazines, television and radio, podcasts and social media.

You might ask at this point (although you may know that the main point of introducing the computer by the DARPA was to get all the information - including all privacies and all private mails - from absolutely anyone living anywhere to the NSA) why one should be worried about the Department of Homeland Security's desire to set up such a global news sources system.

Here is the answer:

“The DHS request says the selected vendor will set up an online ‘media influence database’ giving users the ability to browse based on location, beat, and type of influence,” Bloomberg’s Cary O’Reilly reveals. The database would include, “[f]or each influencer found, present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.”

If the project sounds like a First Amendment violation waiting to happen, that’s because it is. While DHS insists that the database will “protect and enhance the resilience of the nation’s physical and cyberinfrastructure,” perhaps against foreign interference in future elections, the potential for censorship and other abuses of power is virtually limitless.

Precisely, for this means that the DHS may soon be telling the security forces from Arabia, China or Russia that such-and-such a person wrote critically about the Arab, Chinese or Russian government, and that he or she lives there-and-there, has two young children, owns 10,000 dollars, and might be arrested and questioned by the security forces.

Here is a final more general bit of information I quote from this article:
“Unfortunately, increasing government encroachment on the freedom of the press is the sinister backdrop to all of this,” writes Forbes’ Michelle Fabio. “Freedom House, which has monitored the status of the press for nearly 40 years, recently concluded that global media freedom has reached its lowest level in the past 13 years.”

Yes, and my own inference is that "global media freedom" will - unless there is an enormous crisis - mostly disappear in the next 10 years, precisely because the secret services from anywhere know all there is to know about anyone (in principle: it may not have been read by human eyes, bit it has been almost certainly collected since 2001). And this is a recommended article.


4. The Creator of the World Wide Web Is ‘Devastated’ by What It Has Become

This article is by Ilana Novick on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Tim Berners-Lee isn’t a household name like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. He is, however, the inventor of a tool that has dramatically remade the way the world communicates, shares information, even lives. In 1989, Berners-Lee created what became the World Wide Web, releasing the code for free. Now, after multiple privacy scandals involving Facebook and Twitter, and especially after revelations of how Russian hackers used Facebook to attempt to influence the 2016 U.S. election, Berners-Lee is redoubling his efforts to save the internet, as he explains in a newly published interview with Vanity Fair.

He has, as the article observes, “never directly profited off his invention” and “spent most of his life trying to guard it.” He always knew that his creation could fall into the wrong hands, but the web’s role in the 2016 election shocked him. “I was devastated,” Berners-Lee told writer Katrina Brooker. “Actually, physically—my mind and body were in a different state.”

Well... I first learned to program in 1973, although that was mostly useless, for this was for - currently - extremely oldfashioned IBMs that were at that time still programmed by computer cards (with holes in them), and that could do little else than summing columns of numbers.

In 1979 I had a good friend who bought an Apple II, which could not do much and still had to store whatever was written on it on tapedecks, but which did have Applebasic (I think but am not sure anymore it was already then called so), and that was a very fine introduction to the new style of programming one could do on PCs.

In 1987 I got my first personal computer, which was an Osborne with 42 Kb of memory, but also with Visicalc, Wordstar and more, and then in 1988 a Philips, which sported than 256 MB of memory and a 10 MB hard disk, but which was quite useful, for I stopped typing on a typing machine by the end of 1987.

In brief, I do know a reasonable amount about computers, and I can program in six languages, and I learned most of that before I acquired internet in 1996, indeed mostly from CDs that came with computer monthlies (that meanwhile also all disappeared).

But by now - and now is 1996, for the moment - I also distrust Tim Berners-Lee, and I have two main reasons to do so.

The first is that he worked for DARPA, and I have the following bit on the DARPA, which is selected from March 24, 2018, and it is about Zbigniew Brzezinski, who knew what the users of the present PCs and cellphones would get, already in 1967:

    ----

Here is Mr. Brzezinski writing in 1967 (!!!!), a mere 51 years ago, in ¨New Republic¨ of December 13, 1967:

Our society is leaving the phase of spontaneity and is entering a more self-conscious state; ceasing to be an industrial society, its is being shaped to an ever-increasing extent by technology and electronics, and thus becoming the first technotronic society. This is at least in part the cause for much of the current tensions and violence, and largely the reason why events in America today do not fit established categories of analysis.

Mr Brzezinski realises that the technotronic society fills some people with uneasiness (in this respect the reactionaries and the revolutionaries are as one).(...)

However Mr Brezezinski does not expect that the Luddite lovers of freedom and anarchy will seriously obstruct the new order. For one thing,
'it will soon be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in addition to the more customary data.'
Moreover it will be possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.
I read that quotation more than ¨a few years ago¨, namely in 2012 (and before that in 1970 [2], but in 1970 I did not recognize what Brzezinski did say in 1967):

He said that he was designing (what I think is) a fully neofascist system of spying on absolutely everyone that would make it possible (for secret spies from the NSA, presumably):
¨to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen¨
That was in 1967 and Mr. Brzezinski was fully served around 1992, when the DARPA opened the internet that was planned to do as Mr. Brzezinksi said it would do 25 years earlier (which means thay he either is a most extra-ordinary genius who could see 25 years in the future, or else that he had been planning what he or his mates received in 1992 - and no: Mr. Brzezinski undoubtedly was fairly smart, but he was no extra-ordinary genius).

My own conclusion is that the internet was developed by DARPA to spy on absolutely everyone who used a computer connected to the internet, and indeed that is precisely what DARPA produced.

    ----

The part between "----" is quoted from March 24 last, and as I said: Brzezinski - who died in 2017 - did know in 1967 what "computer users" of 2017 would get:

The perfect instrument to spy on every user of a computer, about absolutely everything a user would do with a computer, which would give the secret services the complete information about absolutely anyone.

Brzezinski knew that in 1967 and Tim Berners-Lee produced it in 1989. I do not trust Berners-Lee but indeed I did not know the above until 2012.

Also, I do not know anything about his relations with Brzezinski or with DARPA, but I do know one thing that made me already quite distrustful in 1996, when I got connected to internet:

It had been decided then that all e-mails - personal information, that was meant not to be read by anyone but the addressee - would be sent as plain text, which would make them readable to anyone who could intercept them.

I did not know then that DARPA and the NSA could intercept them, but I found this out - I think - by 2008: They can, for they can intercept absolutely everything (and have been doing so since 2001 or before).

Et voilà: The perfect spying instrument Brzezinski already announced in 1967.

Back to the article:
He had spent years advocating for a free and open internet but consolidated his efforts in 2009, starting the World Wide Web Foundation to, as explained on the organization’s site, “advance the open web as a public good and a basic right.”
This is just some background. Here is some more:

A New York Times/Observer investigation found Facebook had sold user data to the voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica, which had close ties to the Trump campaign.

“Looking at the ways algorithms are feeding people news and looking at accountability for the algorithms—all of that is really important for the open Web,” Berners-Lee said.

Well... "algorithms" (programs in English) indeed "are feeding people news", but unfortunately almost all programs are owned by private corporations, and therefore secret, while if these programs are owned by the NSA they are secret for that reason.

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

To achieve his goal of accountability, Berners-Lee is also focused on building Solid, a project housed at MIT that, Vanity Fair explains, aims to “re-decentralize the Web.” The platform is designed to “give individuals, rather than corporations, control of their own data.”

The idea is still in its infancy, but if Berners-Lee and his team can turn it into reality it will have potential to democratize the web:

The system aims to give users a platform by which they can control access to the data and content they generate on the web. This way, users can choose how that data gets used rather than, say, Facebook and Google doing with it as they please. Solid’s code and technology is open to all—anyone with access to the internet can come into its chat room and start coding.

I briefly looked at it, but what I saw looked like propaganda. Perhaps it is useful, but if the operating system that is used is secret (as are Microsoft and Apple), forget it.

Anyway - the situation-as-is is as I said (apart from Tor and some encrypted e-mails):

The internet is the perfect instrument to spy on every user of a computer, about absolutely everything a user does with a computer, which gives the secret services the complete information about absolutely anyone (in principle, and often in fact).

And besides that, everybody with sufficient money, like Facebook or Google could find out the same. And this is a strongly recommended article.


5. 'Actions Speak Louder Than Words'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I shortened the title of three lines - are journalists now summing up their stories as titles because many people read less and less? - because I don't like stories as titles, and I also have no space for them. The article starts as follows:

At first glance, the prominent political action committee End Citizens United (ECU) appears to be dedicated to channeling widespread grassroots anger at corporate money in politics into promoting candidates who reject cash from big business and support bold campaign finance reform.

But a closer look at the candidates ECU endorses and funds reveals that the organization frequently uses its vast resources to reinforce the poisonous status quo.

I say. Well... my guess is that this is these days a quite common ploy: In fact, you get your money in secret from some billionaire; you pretend that it is to save this or that, and attract more money and people that way; but what you are doing is actually the opposite.

Here is more on the ECU:

In a detailed analysis of the ECU's recent endorsements, fundraising efforts, and campaign spending, Donald Shaw of Sludge—an outlet that covers political corruption—found that the group deploys "a large part of their campaign contributions to re-elect corporate-financed Democratic incumbents."

"Despite advocating for Democrats to reject corporate money, End Citizens United hasn't prioritized contributing to incumbents who make such pledges," Shaw writes. "A review of End Citizens United's campaign contributions shows a group that funds to the mainstream of the Democratic congressional caucus and is particularly supportive of the the more conservative and corporate-friendly members of the party."

So that is how it works, it seems. Here is some more:

Since its inception, ECU has utilized aggressive fundraising tactics—renting email lists from media outlets like AlterNet and Mother Jones and sending up to seven fundraising pleas per day—to rake in millions in funds. Some of that money was then then given to corporate-friendly Democrats who are already flush with industry cash.

Well... I am glad that I never gave my email address to AlterNet or Mother Jones (and AlterNet was recently sold, and seems to be destroyed as a non-mainstream provider of information).

Here is the article's conclusion about ECU:

Cory Archibald, a spokeswoman for the anti-corruption organization Brand New Congress, echoed Sopoci-Belknap's assessment in an interview with Sludge, arguing that ECU "looks like an attractive option" on the surface but utterly fails to live up to its promises in practice.

"If their organization only supported candidates who firmly pledged no PAC money, their contributions could breathe much-needed life into grassroots campaigns," Archibald concluded. "Instead it looks more like an intentional obfuscation."

I agree and this is a recommended article.


Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2] I read all of this (and rather a lot more, but mostly not about computers) in 1970, in Stephen Spender's "The Year of the Young Rebels", which was about the failed French revolution of 1968, that I had attended myself.

I think Spender's book about France of 1968 is the best book I read about that time, and as I said, it also contained information about computers, computing, and the plans of the American secret services to abuse computers and computing long before there were PCs, and indeed long before I realized how important the information about computing and the American secret services was.

And while I still have the book (a paperback) and quoted it quite precisely, of course it is unfindable for decades now. (I do not even know whether it is anywhere in a library, although I would like to know. All I can find on the internet
is that there still are 2 copies available on Amazon.)
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