Sunday, September 3, 2017

Crisis: Competence, Eric Holder (?!), On ¨Russia-gate¨, On Merkel, Mainstream Lies

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 3, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, September 3, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection (usually) from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from September 3, 2017

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:

This article is by Neil Gabler on Truthdig and originally on Moyers & Company. It starts as follows:

It has been another rough patch in the pothole-pocked presidency of Donald Trump, beginning with his tone-deaf remarks on the Charlottesville tragedy, in which he demonstrated, yet again, that he lacks even the barest shred of human decency; then continuing with his rant in Phoenix, in which he demonstrated, yet again, that he may very well be, in the favorite word of the day, “unhinged;” and ending with the pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose crime was nothing less than the violation of basic constitutional rights.

You have to give the media credit for calling Trump out on each of these. But here is where many in the media get it wrong, I think. They have treated these eruptions as a Trump crisis — what The New Yorker’s John Cassidy called “Trump’s crisis of legitimacy” — and while there has been a lot spoken or written about the blow Charlottesville delivered to Trump’s so-called moral authority, there has been very little in the media that views this as a national moral crisis, one which tests this nation no less than war or economic disaster. Google “Charlottesville” and “moral crisis” and you get exactly two direct hits — one from a blogger.

I say, which I do because this amazes me, at least for a bit. Here are my main two reasons why I think so.

First, I am a psychologist (with an excellent M.A.) and I have been saying effectively since February 2016 (when I - who never lived in the USA - first did get a decent amount of information about Donald Trump) that Donald Trump is not sane. Then again,
by now I am getting rather tired reading the bullshit of the mostly ignorant and stupid a-social media that he is ¨unhinged¨ etc. etc.:

If Trump does satisfy all nine criterions for being a megalomaniac aka grandiose narcissist, and he does, one should call him that, unless one wants to insist that one knows more about psychology than psychologists do.

I am sorry, but this systematic mislabeling of a clear megalomaniac has been going on for more than one and half years now, and I think Neil Gabler should use the terms experts on human psychology do.

Second, I also believe that it is more justified to speak of “Trump’s crisis of legitimacy” than it is to speak of a ¨national moral crisis¨, mostly because Trump does seem to do many illegitmate things, while morality is - in the end - a matter of personal taste, and besides, I think considerably fewer persons are capable of speaking rationally about morality than there are persons who are capable of speaking rationally about the crisis in legitimacy that Trump´s actions induced.

So I disagree with Neil Gabler on both counts, and can also say in other terms why I disagree: ¨unhinged¨ is by far too vague a term for Trump´s sick mind, and especially so as no less than 53,000 psychologists seem to have agreed that he is a grandiose narcissist, with which I agree (although I happen to think that  ¨megalomaniac¨ is the better - more English, less psychiatrese - term), while a ¨national moral crisis¨ seems to presume, quite falsely, that moral judgements are based on facts and/or can be decided by appealing to facts: no, they cannot.

Here is a second bit of Gabler, that seems also mistaken to me:

So the best way to damage Trump may not be politically, but morally — attacking him where he is most vulnerable: his lack of values. The Trump presidency, which has set our moral compass spinning, demands moral debate as a context for Trump and his allies. It demands self-examination, not just a few toothless remarks about the scourge of racism, or a few questions about the president’s mental competence or his moral authority.

No, for this presumes quite falsely that Trump has no values. Of course he does have values, and indeed he also has a political program, and the values and the program are best defined as neofascism, by which I mean the following (and see my On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions if you really want to know more about fascism and neofascism).

And this seems also mistaken:

Here is what I think: We should be having a national conversation on morality generally — on what morality means, on how it applies to politics and on how it applies to our daily lives, even on how it has been misused and abused.

I am also a philosopher, who did not get an - undoubtedly excellent - M.A. in philosophy, because I had the courage to criticize the utterly incompetent parasites who were supposed to teach me, and the extremely sick postmodernistic climate that ruled the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam for 10 years, after having been ruled by quasi-Marxism the previous 15 years.

So I can judge philosophy and morality, and what I say is that the vast majority of people do not have strong rational judgements about their morality ot others´ morality, while those who do have tend to be philosophers, who again - as a rule, though not always - express themselves horribly.

And thirdly, it simply is a mistake to say that those you strongly disagree with have no moral values. They do, as follows from the last bit that I´ll quote:

Again, I know a lot of liberals may shudder at the thought of connecting morality on the left to politics the way conservatives have connected their morality to politics on the right. The danger is more self-righteousness. But that doesn’t necessarily follow. We talk a great deal about identity politics and interest politics. Why not a morally driven politics — a politics that looks to tolerance, kindness, charity, compassion and community in nondogmatic and expansive ways, not, as conservatives would have it, to buy off constituencies, but as liberals should have it, to do what is right and good.

The politics of Trump and/or the GOP are also based on morals, though I grant that their morals tend to be based on intolerance, lack of kindness, lack of charity, and lack of compassion for anyone who does not belong to the 1% or the 5% of the richest.

But these are moral values just as well as the moral values of the left.

So all in all I simply disagree with Neil Gabler, but not because I am not a progressive, but on grounds of factual personal competence.

2. Democrats Put Eric Holder, Best Friend of Wall Street Banks, in Charge of Winning Back Main Street America

This article is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

The Democratic Party has put a man who favors Wall Street over Main Street in charge of overseeing its plan to retake red state America and a U.S. House majority.

Eric Holder, the former U.S. Attorney General, is the chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which promises to unfurl “a targeted, state-by-state strategy that ensures Democrats can fight back” when the political maps are drawn for U.S. House and state legislative races for the decade of the 2020s.

But Holder’s tenure at the Justice Department did little to help millions of Americans who lost their homes in the 2008 financial crash, when a speculative bubble fueled by the real estate industry and mortgage banks resulted in waves of foreclosures across the U.S. His prosecutors never put a single bank executive in jail. His touted financial fines ended up becoming corporate tax write-offs. The payments to those who never should have lost their homes amounted to two months rent, if they were received at all.    

In the aftermath of an election where Hillary Clinton, rightly or wrongly, was pilloried for her connections to Wall Street titans, the Democrats have put a much more deeply entwined friend of big banks in charge of winning elections across middle America.

“Holder just completed [a run] as one of history’s great double agents,” wrote Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone this July. “For six years, while brilliantly disguised as attorney general of the United States, he was actually working deep undercover, DiCaprio in The Departed-style, as the best defense lawyer Wall Street ever had.”

In fact, I think this decision to reemploy the sick fraud who destroyed American justice by totally refusing to prosecute any of the major thieves that caused the crisis of 2008 is totally and utterly sick.

And yes, I completely agree with Taibbi as quoted above, and also below:

“He was a revolutionary,” Taibbi wrote. “He institutionalized a radical dualistic approach to criminal justice, essentially creating a system of indulgences wherein the world’s richest companies paid cash for their sins and escaped the sterner punishments the law dictated.”   

Precisely. And I conclude myself from this that it is nonsense to try to reform the Democratic Party: A new party is needed, that is not sold for 90 or 95% to the rich bankers of Wall Street, indeed precisely as the Republicans are.

3. Russia-gate’s Totalitarian Style

This article is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:

It is a basic rule from Journalism 101 that when an allegation is in serious doubt – or hasn’t been established as fact – you should convey that uncertainty to your reader by using words like “alleged” or “purportedly.” But The New York Times and pretty much the entire U.S. news media have abandoned that principle in their avid pursuit of Russia-gate.

When Russia is the target of an article, the Times typically casts aside all uncertainty about Russia’s guilt, a pattern that we’ve seen in the Times in earlier sloppy reporting about other “enemy” countries, such as Iraq or Syria, as well Russia’s involvement in Ukraine’s civil war. Again and again, the Times regurgitates highly tendentious claims by the U.S. government as undeniable truth.

So, despite the lack of publicly provided evidence that the Russian government did “hack” Democratic emails and slip them to WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump, the Times continues to treat those allegations as flat fact.

Yes, indeed: I agree. And in fact I also agree with Parry on whom I can trust (or so it seems): The VIPS (<-Wikipedia), who did work in high positions in American intelligence and security, but who bowed out or were forced out because they disagreed with the propaganda they knew they read, as opposed to mainstream media, that do engage in spreading propaganda, that indeed has been widely picked up precisely because most people know little about intelligence and security, and also tend to disbelieve that they are not informed but propagandized.

Here is a summary of what I just said by Parry:

The Times seems to have forgotten what one of its own journalists observed immediately after reading the Jan. 6 report. Scott Shane wrote: “What is missing from the public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. … Instead, the message from the agencies essentially amounts to ‘trust us.’”

However, if that was the calculation of Obama’s intelligence chiefs – that proof would not be required – they got that right, since the Times and pretty much every other major U.S. news outlet has chosen to trust, not verify, on Russia-gate.

Yes indeed. And here is - what I agree - seems to be the valid position:

In story after story, the Times doesn’t even bother to attribute the claims of Russian guilt. That guilt is just presented as flat fact even though the Russian government denies it and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he did not get the emails from Russia or any other government.

Of course, it is possible the Russian government is lying and that some cut-outs were used to hide from Assange the real source of the emails. But the point is that we don’t know the truth and neither does The New York Times – and likely neither does the U.S. government (although it talks boldly about its “high confidence” in the evidence-lite conclusions of those “hand-picked” analysts).

Precisely: Those who do not belong to the intelligence or the security services of the USA simply got no evidence that what they claim is real, while those who do belong to the intelligence or the security services of the USA mostly spread propaganda or straight lies.

Here is the ending of Parry´s article:

What is playing out here – both at The New York Times and across the American media landscape – is a totalitarian-style approach toward any challenge to the groupthink on Russia-gate.

Even though the Obama administration’s intelligence chiefs presented no public evidence to support their “assessments,” anyone who questions their certainty can expect to be smeared and ridiculed. We must all treat unverified opinions as flat fact.

I quite agree, and this is a recommended article.

4. 'In Everything I Do, I Aim to Strengthen Democracy'

This article is by Klaus Brinkbäumer and René Pfister on Spiegel International. It starts with a subtitle:
Angela Merkel is running for a fourth term in office. DER SPIEGEL speaks with the chancellor about the addiction of power, the influence on politics of Germany's automobile industry and her attempts to win back voters on the right.
I have to admit that I like Merkel better than previous rightist German chancellors, and that mainly for three reasons: (i) she is - or was for quite a long while - a real scientist, and (ii) she knows the German Democratic Republic from living there, and (iii) she seems a bit more realistic and sensible than many other politicians.

But the present interview seems mere propaganda. Here is the first bit that I´ĺl quote:

SPIEGEL: Your former government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm became chairman of the public broadcaster BR shortly after leaving the Chancellery. Your media advisor Eva Christiansen was a longtime member of a ZDF advisory board. Your spokesman Steffen Seibert came from ZDF and has a guaranteed right of return. Everyone talks about the critical distance that state broadcasters allegedly maintain from the state. Does it really exist?

Merkel: There are many examples of politicians moving into business
and of people moving between journalism and politics. Former SPIEGEL journalists, for example, have advised German foreign ministers - something that should actually fill you with pleasure because it shows the degree of respect we have for quality journalism. Guaranteed rights of return also exist in public service, it's nothing special.

Bullshit. The ¨right of return¨ very strongly helps the very few who do politics without getting popular with the public to keep their anyway excellent financial positions.

It is new; it arose - as widely as it is now - since 2001, and it limits the doings of politics to professors and journalists and managers, who do get a ¨right of return¨ to some of the best positions they had, and may exchange their two very well-paid careers several times; and it is a fundamentally sick and anti-democratic degeneracy of ¨politics¨.

Here is in fact more of the same:

SPIEGEL: Let's continue on the subject of nepotism for just a moment. Matthias Wissmann, with whom you once served in Helmut Kohl's cabinet, is president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry. Eckart von Klaeden, who used to serve in the Chancellery as a state minister, is now Daimler's chief lobbyist. Your former head of strategic planning in CDU party headquarters, Joachim Koschnicke, became head lobbyist for Opel for a time and is now once again managing your campaign. Another top party official, Michael Jansen, is now a lobbyist for VW ...

Merkel: ... and don't forget: Thomas Steg, former deputy government spokesman and a member of the SPD, is also working for VW.

SPIEGEL: Correct. Are you surprised that the German automobile industry has the feeling that it exerts significant control over German politics?

In fact, this is just an instance of the schema I criticized (and no doubt all these named persons can shift their top economical jobs for top governmental jobs a few times more).

SPIEGEL: Ms. Merkel, in the U.S., the president shows disdain for the judiciary and for the media - and, more broadly, for democratic values. Is democracy losing momentum around the world?

Merkel: I hope not. For my part, in everything I do, I aim to strengthen democracy in Germany and beyond. The United States is also a strong democracy.

And this is also quite dishonest: The USA stopped being genuinely democratic a long time ago, while the leader of the right and the rich in Germany, although I am willing to agree she still is a whole lot better than the neofascist madman Trump, is simply lying when she says (as the title also has it) ¨In everything I do, I aim to strengthen democracy¨.

No, for that is just propaganda, as is the whole interview.

5. Terror Incognita: ‘Demistifying’ the Fog of War

This article is by Sean Stinson on the Off-Guardian. This starts with three quotes, that are quite repeatable:
“The Muslim terrorist apparatus was created by US intelligence as a political weapon” – National security adviser to the Carter administration, Zbigniew Brzezinski
“The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al-Qaeda, and any informed intelligence officer knows this. But, there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an intensified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive TV watchers to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the United States.” – Former British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H.L. Mencken
I like all three quotes, and would also like to add to the first quote that it seems to me also the case that personal computing was invented by US intelligence so as to be able to spy on absolutely everyone with an internet computer, and thus control them by predicting their behavior and by feeding them propaganda (or arresting them).

You may not believe this or disagree with it, but in case you do, I strongly recommend that you read
Crisis: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968  which strongly does suggest this (for no one can foresee technology of 30 years later without planning it, and Brezezinski did foresee it quite well, in 1968/69).

Here is more on the real facts:
Corporate propaganda is flying so thick and fast lately it’s dizzying just keeping up with it. For regular readers of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, Vladimir Putin is the new Fuhrer of American Nazism, while Kim Jong Un is the secret architect of a newly revamped Syrian ‘chemical weapons program’. Chinese hackers are suspected responsible for recent collisions involving American war ships, Venezuela has become an international pariah under the corrupt leadership of bus driver-cum-dictator Nicholas Maduro, and Russia is accused of trying to ‘redraw international borders’. Meanwhile troop deployment to Afghanistan has doubled and the mission of America’s 16 year long war has been re-defined from ‘nation building’ to simply ‘killing terrorists’.
I agree - and indeed until ¨troop deployment to Afghanistan has doubled¨ this seems mere propaganda to me, but I do agree it is very widespread.
(...) the US administration is now firmly under military control and US military presence is escalating across multiple theatres. A $600bn defence budget representing an 18% increase in military spending was passed in July, approved by 60% of house Democrats. The latter tidbit is by the way of course – it makes little difference on which side of the aisle you sit in American politics. The US barely wears a fig leaf of democracy. The dismissal of the fraud case brought against the DNC for stealing the presidential nomination from Sanders last year is ample evidence of this. Leaders are chosen over cigars in back rooms. It’s been that way since the uniquely underqualified Harry Truman secured the Democratic vice presidential nomination ahead of Henry Wallace in 1944, long before the advent of the internet or so-called ‘Russian hackers’.
I mostly agree, and also infer from the above that it seems to me as if Trump is preparing for a major war.

Then there is this, which also seems mostly true to me:
“The rich and powerful piss on us and the media tells us it’s raining”, so the saying goes. But it doesn’t take much to draw back the curtain and see the real machinations at work, most of which are really quite transparent.
I agree that ¨it doesn’t take much to draw back the curtain and see the real machinations at work¨, but I also think this is in fact only true of a minority, and
namely of the more intelligent and better educated ones, who also took the trouble
to read more than the mainstream media have to offer.

And while I agree
¨it doesn’t take much¨ it seems too much for the average (and 50% of all does not have an IQ higher than 100, unfortunately, which is the main explanation for Trump´s electoral successes: Millions upon millions of ignorant people who believe almost anything without any rational evidence, simply because their paper or the news say so).

There is also this:
“Mistakes were made” we are told. “We went to war based on faulty ‘intelligence’.” No, we went to war based on a DELIBERATE LIE. The US military presence in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 comprised 191 camps, 174 forward bases and 74 combat outposts. How is it then that ISIS headchoppers were able to take over 70% of the country? The question is rhetorical. The War on Terror is nothing less than a call for bellum romanum, all-out war without restraint as the Romans practiced against groups they considered barbarians. Depicting the enemy as sub-human savages feeds directly into the neocons ‘clash of civilisations’ wet dream.
And again I agree for the most part. (And yes, the whole war in Iraq was ¨based on a DELIBERATE LIE¨ (and one of the main liars was Colin Powell)).

Then there is this, with a quotation of Hermann Göring (as he was called) that I have given quite a few times in Nederlog simply because it is realistic (and I am sorry it is, while
Göring was thankful):

Listen to Herman Goring invoke Plato’s idea of the noble lie at his Nuremberg trial:

“Of course, the people do not want war. But it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”

To its target audience, the US portrays its mission in the world as safeguarding globalisation and promoting democracy in countries which are ‘disconnected from the global economy’. To those who’ve read more widely than JK Rowling and Dr Seuss, it’s called practicing imperialism. To be fair when we speak of imperium we don’t refer to the US alone. Suffice it to say capital has no borders, and the current class of financial elites aren’t patriotic to any nation state.
I agree again (but a major problem is that more than half of the people simply seem not able to read and think in a rational way for themselves).

Here is the last bit that I´ll quote from this article:
How long will we accept the lies of empire to justify its wars of aggression? They lied about Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, they lied about Afghanistan, they lied about Iraq, they lied about Libya, they lied about Syria, and now they are lying about North Korea, Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran, Russia, China and Pakistan.

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” – Carl Sagan

Well... I agree with Sean Stinson and hope - but do not know - that Sagan was mistaken.


[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 1 1/2 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 (!!).
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