Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017

Crisis: On The Reichstag, Trump's Abnormality, The Media, The Free Press, About Russia

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Could There Be an American Reichstag Fire? Don't
     Underestimate Trump

2. Just How Abnormal Is the Trump Presidency? Rating 20 Events
Committee to Protect Journalists: Trump's Attacks on Media
     Will Be Felt by Journalists Around World

4. Trump, Erdogan and the Assault on the Free Press
5. Empire Files: Post-Soviet Russia, Made in the U.S.A.

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday
, February 28, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary crisis log (after some days on the news about ME/CFS). There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is a review of two articles that both stress the importance of the Reichstag fire for the modern USA (for it may happen in the USA as well); item 2 is about how abnormal the Trumpian government is (according to the NYT); item 3 is about how Trump's attack on journalists and on the media also are reflected around the world; item 4 is about the free press, with references to both Trump and Erdogan (according to Spiegel International); and item 5 is a fine interview by Abby Martin with someone who lived for ten years in Russia, that clarified the history of Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union rather well for me.
As to the updating problem: The Danish site is OK again; the Dutch site got finally unstuck of February 22 and - By Jove! - also was correct today (on February 28). Where it stuck for others I have no idea: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. They have been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or someone secret service is.)
1. Could There Be an American Reichstag Fire? Don't Underestimate Trump

it was also the day it was 84 years ago that the German Reichstag was burned (<-Wikipedia). This also started the introduction of the Nazi police state, that was introduced very rapidly, which centered around the secret service, called the Gestapo in Germany, and around concentration camps [1].

I have two articles relating to it, the first by Peter Schrag on AlterNet and originally on The American Prospect:
And the second is by Timothy Snyder on The New York Review of Books:
The second - by Snyder, about whom you can find out more here - starts as follows:

On February 27, 1933 the German Parliament building burned, Adolf Hitler rejoiced, and the Nazi era began. Hitler, who had just been named head of a government that was legally formed after the democratic elections of the previous November, seized the opportunity to change the system. “There will be no mercy now,” he exulted. “Anyone standing in our way will be cut down.”

The next day, at Hitler’s advice and urging, the German president issued a decree “for the protection of the people and the state.” It deprived all German citizens of basic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly and made them subject to “preventative detention” by the police. A week later, the Nazi party, having claimed that the fire was the beginning of a major terror campaign by the Left, won a decisive victory in parliamentary elections. Nazi paramilitaries and the police then began to arrest political enemies and place them in concentration camps. Shortly thereafter, the new parliament passed an “enabling act” that allowed Hitler to rule by decree.   

Yes, indeed. And this is from near the beginning of the first article linked above:

Within hours of the fire, hundreds of people were arrested and put in “protective custody” or sent to concentration camps, and the next morning (in the words of the Cambridge University historian Richard Evans), “the cabinet, which still had a non-Nazi majority, met to draw up an emergency decree that abrogated civil liberties across Germany. Signed by President Hindenburg the same day, it abolished freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of the press, suspended the autonomy of federated states, such as Baden and Bavaria, and legalized phone-tapping, the interception of correspondence, and other intrusions.”

The decree was the first of two major measures that eliminated all institutional checks and gave Hitler absolute dictatorial powers. The second, passed a month later by the Reichstag, gave Hitler plenary power—the power to enact laws without any action by the parliament whatever.

Again yes indeed - and please note that there is "legalized" phonetapping and "legalized" surveillance (both by the uncontrolled secret services) in the USA since 2001: All your correspondence, and anything you say to anyone by a cellphone will be collected and stored somehow (though probably not read by human eyes).

Then there is this from the first of the above links:

Could it happen here, as the historian Robert S. McElvaine of Millsaps College recently asked in the Huffington Post? The odds are that it could not—not in the same way and certainly not to the same extent, despite Donald Trump’s megalomaniacal rhetoric and the radicals in his entourage. Trump has no global agenda, clings fanatically to no ideology, has no Weltanschauung, as Hitler had; his highest priority appears to be himself.

Nor is America in 2017 like Germany in 1933.
I agree more or less: The USA is rather unlike Germany was, in 1933. But then again, the secret services know everything about everybody (in that they have it stored somewhere, to be used whenever handy, also 40 years into the surveilled future of everyone) [2], and Donald Trump is a megalomaniac and - according to my well-researched definition - also is a neofascist [3].

And while I do not know what Trump's chances are to make the USA into the Neofascist USA, I do take him seriously. Besides, the question what Trump will try to do after another attack or "attack" on the USA is a good question, and given his utter contempt for the press and the media his response may be quite serious.

This is again from the second of the above two linked articles:
The use of real or imagined terrorist threats to create or consolidate authoritarian regimes has become increasingly frequent worldwide. In Syria, Russia’s client Bashar al-Assad used the presence of ISIS to portray any opposition to his regime as “terrorists.” Our president has admired the methods of rule of both Assad and Putin.  In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used the July 2016 coup attempt—which he has called “terrorism supported by the West”—to justify the arrest of tens of thousands of judges, teachers, university professors, and to call for a referendum this spring that could give him sweeping new powers over the parliament and the judiciary.
Yes indeed, and also see item 4 for a little more on Erdogan. This is from the end of the second article:
It is the government’s job to promote both freedom and safety. If we face again a terrorist attack—or what seems to be a terrorist attack, or what the government calls a terrorist attack—we must hold the Trump administration responsible for our security. In that moment of fear and grief, when the pulse of politics might suddenly change, we must also be ready to mobilize for our constitutional rights. The Reichstag fire has long been an example for tyrants; it should today be a warning for citizens. It was the burning of the Reichstag that disabused Hannah Arendt of the “opinion that one can simply be a bystander.”
Again yes indeed. Then again, I should also warn you: It is a virtual certainty that the vast majority will be bystanders, for the simple reason that the vast majority have been bystanders during my life, during the lives of my parents, and during the lives of my grandparents. None of them were bystanders, but they were parts of small intelligent minorities.

Finally, this is from the first of the above two linked dotted articles:

Eric Larson, author of the highly regarded In the Garden of Beasts, about Berlin in the first years of the Hitler regime, has similar concerns, though he’s slightly more optimistic about Congress. Trump, he told me in answer to my emailed questions,

might try to use a terrorist event to pressure Congress into passing something akin to Hitler’s Enabling Act. Let’s hope that no such event occurs, and that if something does happen, that the GOP will at last stand up and say, “enough.” Republican senators and representatives are not idiots. They have to know this president is an authoritarian lunatic.

But would they have the political courage to act on that? Would the courts resist, as they resisted Trump’s travel ban, in a time of real national hysteria?

I am very sorry, but if the past is a guide to the future, the answer is a probable no.

2. Just How Abnormal Is the Trump Presidency? Rating 20 Events

The second item is by Quoctrung Bui, Claire Cain Miller and Kevin Quealy on The New York Times:

This starts with the following text (after some schemes/tables)

It’s understandable if President Trump’s first month in office has left your head spinning, given the pace of news, the middle-of-the-night Twitter posts and the vows to upend Washington.

To help us get our bearings, we asked experts across the ideological spectrum — people who have served in government or studied the way governments work — to rate 20 news events for importance and abnormality. More often than not, the administration’s actions have been both highly unusual and highly consequential, The Upshot’s 15 survey panelists said.
On average, more than half the events were rated abnormal and important. The most extreme instances, they said, were the immigration ban; the use of falsehoods; and the president’s business conflicts of interest. The Supreme Court nomination and immigration raids were on average considered normal but important.

I say. It conforms to my own diagnosis, but I did not know this. Unfortunately, while the idea was a good one, it got shoddily done by the NYT (in my opinion, but I admit I can program).

Here is what they did:

We built the list of events based on news coverage of the first month of the Trump administration in The Times and elsewhere. We created our expert panel based on recommendations from four political scientists, as well as on research of people who had experience serving in past administrations, and we aimed for diversity of thought and background. We know our panel is small and does not reflect every point of view, but we feel it represents a useful guide to developments by people with deep experience studying or serving in government.

And this a (smaller) copy of the best chart they produced (there are more under the last dotted link):

This chart is to be read as follows: "Important" are the upper two squares; "Uninmportant" the lower two squares; "Normal" the left two squares; "Abnormal" the right two squares - which shows 14/20 = 70% of the registered events fall in the Important And Abnormal class.

I say. This also is the reason this article gets reviewed here, but if it interests you indeed you are recommended to click the last dotted link for several larger versions.

3. Committee to Protect Journalists: Trump's Attacks on Media Will Be Felt by Journalists Around World

The third item is by Amy Goodman and Juan GonzŠlez on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:
On Friday, the White House took the unprecedented act of barring The New York Times, CNN, Politico, the Los Angeles Times, the BBC and several other news organizations from an off-camera briefing known as a gaggle. Meanwhile, several right-wing news outlets were allowed to attend, including Breitbart, The Washington Times and One America News Network. Just hours earlier, Trump repeatedly attacked the media, describing it as an "enemy of the people." Then, on Saturday, Donald Trump announced he would not attend this year’s White House correspondents’ dinner. The last president to skip the dinner was Ronald Reagan in 1981. At the time, Reagan was recovering from an assassination attempt. We speak to Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
I say - and note that this in fact mentions four different events, although the first two relate to the same fact (the barring of prominent newspapers and media by Trump).

Here is Amy Goodman, with an interesting quote by Sean Spicer:

AMY GOODMAN: Washington Post editor Marty Baron described the White House’s decision as "appalling," saying the Trump administration is on, quote, "an undemocratic path."

Interestingly, even White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer spoke out against banning news outlets from press briefings—well, that was two months ago. In December, Spicer said, quote, "We have a respect for the press when it comes to the government, that that is something you can’t ban an entity from. I think that is what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship," Spicer said in December.

That is, in December Spicer said democracies are distinguished by having a free press (as indeed also is conveyed by the First Amendment (<-Wikipedia)); in February he seems to think the free press is a danger to his boss, and therefore should be extinguished asap.

Here is Spicer's boss:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake. A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people. And they are. They are the enemy of the people, because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none. ... There are some great reporters around. They are talented. They’re honest as the day is long. They’re great. But there are some terrible, dishonest people, and they do a tremendous disservice to our country and to our people. A tremendous disservice. They are very dishonest people, and they shouldn’t use sources. They should put the name of the person. You will see stories dry up like you’ve never seen before.

I am sorry but he is a neofascistic megalomaniac, who seems to be out to completely kill all the press that criticizes him or his policies.

Finally, the last bit from this article is for the deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists:

ROBERT MAHONEY: It’s very dangerous. I mean, to vilify the press is to undermine its credibility. The press has a very well-defined role in a democracy, which is to hold officeholders and those with power accountable. Here, I think what we’re seeing is a deliberate attempt to undermine the press so that in the future, when the press does its job and uncovers something that the administration would like to keep quiet, it will be dismissed as "Ah, it’s false news. It’s fake." It’s very—it’s very troubling that this should be happening so soon into the presidency.

Hm. I agree with Mahoney on the role the press should have namely "to hold officeholders and those with power accountable" but I think he should also agree with me (which he doesn't, at least not in this interview) that both the mainstream press and the mainstream media have given much more attention to Trump than to other candidates, and have been much more positive about Trump than his inanities, his lies, and his crudities merited, and indeed seem to have done so, at least in case of the media, simply because doing this was profitable to them. (And therefore Trump got 327 minutes of media attention, while Sanders got 20 minutes during the same time, for example.)

This is a recommended article with considerably more text.

4. Trump, Erdogan and the Assault on the Free Press

The fourth item today is by Klaus Brinkbšumer on Spiegel International:

This is from near the beginning:

It is truly grandiose that digitalization now enables us to spread enlightening information without it really costing anything. It allows people to publish without the need for costly staff, printing and distribution, studios or satellite trucks. To be a web publisher, the only thing you need is a smartphone. No despot and no tax evader can ever feel entirely safe these days because there is a constant danger that the truth will come out -- and at full force.

But there are also lies, and that's the sad part. It's easier than ever before to circulate fabrications and propaganda. Today, people can disseminate stories on the internet without taking the pains that make serious journalism what it is: real reporting, fact-checking, expertise and attentive detail to language. Anyone can make any claim and then post it online -- everything from conspiracy theories and insults to incitement -- and, because it has been packaged to look like journalism, it can also have an impact.

I am sorry, but I find the first paragraph far too optimistic. And by now - 3 1/2 years after Snowden's Revelations - this either is deliberate or it is extremely stupid. Here are my reasons:

The "digitalization" of the news, the mail and publishing also introduced, if in secret, all secret services there are, with the effective "right" (in secret, never approved) to know absolutely everything anyone does, thinks, wrote or said by means of a computer or cellphone.

This means that absolutely everyone with a computer or cellphone is fully known - to an extent that is much larger than those known can recall themselves - to very many secret services, that often also have the "right" to arrest anyone they accuse, and in the USA at least, to lock him or her up for life without any trial, and indeed also without anyone knowing anything about it, because those thus locked up by the secret services also are ordered not to speak with anyone (except for one lawyer, on whom the same sick terroristic demands are laid down) about their arrest or their charges.

That is what computers brought us: The effective enslavement of everyone, by the secret surveillance of everyone's mails, the secret surveillance of everyone's phone conversations, the secret surveillance of everyone's computer, and the surveillance of everyone's websites.

I think none of this is "truly grandiose". I think all of this is extremely horrible and most threatening as it shows us the future for everyone except the very rich if this secret spying and secret surveilling of everyone continues while the politico-economical system does not burst in a major depression:

Everybody is effectively a slave to the few tens or hundreds that run their countries; everybody is fully known; no one has left any secret whatsoever.

But the Spiegel glorifies in the access people have, and "totally forgets" the price everyone has to pay who connects a computer or cellphone to the internet: The secret services know everything you do and can take you out whenever they please, also in secret:


Second, about the "lies". In fact, I am far less concerned about the lies - which I agree are there, indeed in truly astounding numbers - as with the underlying fact that at least 2 billion morons with hardly any intelligence and hardly any education now can publish what they want. And what they want is to hear their own story, preferably with a selfie and a tweet, the bigger the better, and all completely regardless of any evidence or any truth: What makes them shine, in their eyes, is "True".

This completely changed publishing. This completely changed truth. This completely undid evidence-based real reporting, which is always only done by a few journalists, and replaced most of it by all the lies, all the falsehoods and all the nonsense anyone with an IQ of maximally 100 can think of, and publish anonymously, to an audience of billions if he or she is on Facebook or Twitter.

But Spiegel doesn't seem to have learned that billions of utter morons now can publish what they like, for the first time in history, and do publish what they like, in spite of knowing shit about anything worthwile to know, knowing shit about science, and knowing shit about evidence. But they can say what they please, and attack whom they like, for all are completely unknown to anyone, for nearly everyone is anonymous (to everybody except the secret services).

Then again, the following is true, to the best of my knowledge:

Leaders like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor OrbŠn, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump are conducting assaults on the media. Erdogan has ordered the arrest of around 150 journalists and the closure of 170 media companies.

Yes. And Erdogan is an obvious dictator. Here is more on Trump and Erdogan:
Erdogan and Trump are positioning themselves as the only ones capable of truly understanding the people and speaking for them. It's their view that freedom of the press does not protect democracy and that the press isn't reverent enough to them and is therefore useless. They believe, after all, that the words that come from their mouths as powerful leaders are the truth and that the media, when it strays from them, is telling lies. That's autocratic thinking -- and it is how you sustain a dictatorship.

I agree. This is a recommended article, but I also think both points I made - about computers being the tools of the secret service, while it is not the lying but the release of two billion stupid and ignorant people who suddenly can write and wave their stupid prejudices around as if anyone should either admit their validity or else be anonymously persecuted - are quite important.

5. Empire Files: Post-Soviet Russia, Made in the U.S.A.

The fifth and last item today is not a text but a video by Abby Martin:

This is a very fine interview with Mark Ames (<-Wikipedia). It is mostly about how the present Russia was made by the USA and - it seems - especially by Friedmanite "economists" [4], who succeeded in transforming a fairly egalitarian society into a very inegalitarian one, where almost everything is owned by a few oligarchs, and who did so in about ten years.

I liked the interview a lot because it confirmed my judgements, that now are given by a man who speaks Russian and lived for ten years in Russia. (And I don't speak Russian, which I agree is a shortcoming of mine simply because I cannot read large amounts of the news that way, and therefore know a lot less about Russia than I do about Western Europe and the USA.)


[1] Incidentally, Wikipedia is getting a lot more important and it now seems subject to neofascist manipulations. Here are my reasons:

Up to one of two years ago I could get to "concentration camps" without any problem, as is justified, because there were many concentration camps starting with those made by the Boers around 1900. There were concentration camps in many countries: In Nazi Gemany, in the Soviet Union, in the USA (interning Japanese in the early 1940ies because they were of Japanese descent), and elsewhere.

The reason to call them "concentration camps" was that they were clearly politically motivated: People were locked up there because they disagreed with their government, or indeed simply because they might disagree, and not because they had committed any real crime.

But now the neofascists are also manipulating Wikipedia: All that is left from the former entry "concentration camp" is now restyled as "Nazi concentration camp", whereas ALL other concentration camps are restyled by the neofascist propaganda term "internment camps" where the victims also are not called "prisoners" anymore, but "internees". This is well explained by George Carlin. See his Soft Language.

This is sick. This is immoral. This is degenerate propaganda. This is verbal neofascism. This is Orwellian. This is restyling all political violence agains millions of politically imprisoned as "internment" in "internment camps".

I am glad I never wrote anything to Wikipedia. It is transforming itself into a propaganda sheet for the neofascist propagandists, and again it also is a site where everything can be done anonymously. And see the next note:

[2] I do believe that the secret services - from everywhere, indeed - know everything about everybody. I know I have no strict proof of this but this is because all secret services are secret.

As far as the American NSA and the English GCHQ are concerned, I trust Snowden who said this (in 2013):

Q: What about the Obama administration's protests about hacking by China?

A: "We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries."

Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?

A: "You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place."

Indeed, I do know how to program, but I do not think I can stop them, nor indeed do I believe that almost anyone can stop them. (You may believe you do, but you never have any proof you did. And if they really want to, I think they can get into your computer. The only way which will prevent them is to
have several computers, and to use the one that contains most of your own data without any connection with the internet, ever.)

I also think the NSA and the GCHQ know (almost) everything about anyone, simply because they are allowed to secretly investigate everyone and because memory is extremely cheap these days.

And while I do not know how much the Russian and the Chinese secret services know about Europeans and Americans, I expect it is much the same, for they can tap the cables that transport virtually everything just as easily and just as cheaply as the NSA did, and undoubtedly still does.

For everything that in the past went through billions of different channels now gets through a few cables, and the cables are tapped, in secret, by the secret services.

[3] I think he is, and those who think he is not should study my - careful, well-informed - definition of neofascism, that was composed before I knew anything worthwile about Trump, and should controvert the many thousands of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who meanwhile have concluded the same.

[4] The followers of Milton Friedman may have degrees in "economy", but they are and were political ideologues who favored the rich and the rich only, because it made them a lot of money - or so it seems
to me. Besides, most economists of whatever kind do not know the real economy, for the simple reason that if they did they ought and should have predicted the crash of 2008. I think three or four out of all economists did. Is there a better proof a purported science is not a real science but an ideology?

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