Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Crisis: On Reich, Germany, Instagram, McMaster, Journalism

Sections                                                crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from November 21, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday
, November 21, 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 will continue with it.

On the moment and since nearly 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 will continue.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from November 21, 2017
1. Robert Reich, a Multiplatform Gadfly, Comes to

2. German Government Talks Collapse; Merkel Seeks
     to Reassure

3. Instagram's Political Propaganda Spread to
     Multi-Millions of Facebook Users in 2016

4. Get a Load of What H.R. McMaster Has to Say
     About Trump Behind Closed Doors

5. The Lost Journalistic Standards of Russia-gate
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. Robert Reich, a Multiplatform Gadfly, Comes to Netflix

This article is by David Gelles on The New York Times. This is from near the beginning:
Mr. Reich, the pugnacious economist and ardent critic of income inequality, has spent his career railing against Wall Street and what he sees as its corrosive influence on American society. Bobby Van’s is a watering hole for investment bankers and stock traders.

Nonetheless, the maître d’ lit up as soon as Mr. Reich walked in the door. “I love your posts on Facebook,” said the host, a barrel-chested man wearing a power suit and pink tie. “I watch you on MSNBC all the time. Keep up the good work, Dr. Reich.”

Who is David Gelles? He has no entry in Wikipedia, where he is also hard to find in articles dealing with others. I can tell you what he does, in his very own style:

Gelles - who is between 10 and 50 years younger than Reich: it´s difficult to say because Gelles is fat - writes for the falsifiers of the news and the propagandists for the bankers that are presently gathered at the NYT, while he looks himself like a rich egoistic greedy banker, though he is clearly without the talent to make much money by banking himself. So he lives - it seems - by selling his talents for propagandizing.

Here is more on a former secretary in Clinton´s first cabinet, professor dr. Reich, according to the functional non-entity who is one of the NYT´s propagandists for the rich bankers:

Two decades removed from his position in the Clinton cabinet, Mr. Reich, 71, is a multi-platform attack dog of the far left, a verbose gadfly who can be counted on to deliver withering critiques of Republicans, Democrats, lobbyists, lawyers and even former colleagues.

His newfound social media acumen seems only to have made him more quarrelsome. He has more than a half million followers on Twitter, where he posts a daily fusillade of indignant tweets aimed at President Trump.

Imagine taking more than $300 billion from older and sicker people who need health insurance, and giving that $300 billion to big corporations and wealthy people as a tax cut. That's the GOP plan.

— Robert Reich (@RBReich) Nov. 15, 2017

You see? Reich - who although a doctor and a professor barely gets a ¨Mr.¨ from - I must suppose - professor doctor doctor professor doctor Gelles is, according to Gelles, ¨a verbose far left quarrelsome gadfly" who seems to spend his time mainly on writing ¨a daily fussilade of indignant tweets¨ and who is clearly, in Gelles´ all-seeing journalistic eyes, little better than a far left quarrelsome fool, although Gelles grants him some renown, that is presumably based on Reich´s daily fussilade of quarrelsome tweets:

He is even more prolific on Facebook, where he has more than two million followers. His Facebook show, “The Reich Report,” has accumulated about 35 million views. A regular guest on cable news shows, his celebrity is remarkable for a former cabinet official — a labor secretary at that — and his fulminations have won him fans, like the Bobby Van’s host, who admire his sharp-witted sense of exasperation.

“Saving Capitalism,” which debuts on Netflix on Tuesday, is based on his 2015 book of the same name. It is his second film, and he has written 16 books, including “Supercapitalism” and “Beyond Outrage.”

But where the French economist Thomas Piketty brings an academic distance to his writing on inequality and Senator Bernie Sanders channels a righteous indignation in the political realm, Mr. Reich comes across as exactly what he is — a frumpy, sometimes pedantic professor from the University of California at Berkeley, eager to lecture anyone who will listen about our broken financial world.

See? At 71 Reich is ¨a frumpy (..) pedantic professor (..) eager to lecture anyone who will listen¨, that is, according to professor doctor doctor professor Gelles (with the sick-looking unhealthily fat bankers´ face).

Here is the last quote from professor doctor doctor professor Gelles, the NYT´s propagandist for the rich bankers:

“The central thesis of the book and the movie is that the game really is rigged,” he said over a small garden salad, which he ordered as an entree.

That thesis, presented with a look of grave concern, makes for an easy sound bite, but it can be hard to prove.

I take it Gelles wishes to suggest that inequality in the USA also is ¨fake news¨ that cannot possibly have any proof that has any validity in Gelles´ undoubtedly extra-ordinarily brilliant mind, that is, in Gelles´ opinion.

Anyway... this is an example of the present style of reporting of the NYT. I think it is pretty sickening.

And incidentally: I do disagree with Reich on ¨Saving Capitalism¨ but I save that for another time.

2. German Government Talks Collapse; Merkel Seeks to Reassure

This article is by David Rising on Truthdig and originally on AP. It starts as follows:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged early Monday to maintain stability after the Free Democratic Party pulled out of talks on forming a new government with her conservative bloc and the left-leaning Greens, raising the possibility of new elections.

Merkel told reporters that the parties had been close to reaching a consensus on how to proceed with formal coalition talks but that the Free Democrats decided abruptly to pull out just before midnight Sunday — a move she said she respected, but found “regrettable.”

She said she would consult with Germany’s president later in the day to brief him on the negotiations and discuss what comes next.

Without bringing the Free Democrats back to the table, Merkel will be forced to try to continue her current governing coalition with the Social Democrats, although that center-left party has said it will not do so, or she could try to form a minority government, which was seen as unlikely. Otherwise Germany will have to hold new elections.

I say. But I agree this is a good and fair report. There is some more in it, but this is enough for now.

3. Instagram's Political Propaganda Spread to Multi-Millions of Facebook Users in 2016

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

Maybe you saw it, too. On Thursday, I read a post from Facebook executives touting their determination to reel in the propaganda monster their platform had enabled in 2016’s election.

“We are committed to protecting legitimate political discussion within our community,” Facebook said, citing its “action plan against foreign interference,” which includes “hiring 10,000 people including ad reviewers, engineers and security experts and combining their skills with advances in AI [artificial intelligence] and machine learning to identify and remove content violations and fake accounts.”

Facebook makes its billions by stealing private information from its users, that also allows it to provide selected advertisements for them. It is - in my opinion - a morally utterly sick and very degenerate corpo- ration none of whose executives can ever be taken to speak the truth about anything, and especially not about Facebook (that makes its billions by stealing private information from its users).

Here is more, for Rosenfeld believes that he has found one more branch of Facebook that (also) spreads political propaganda:
But what’s most important, amid the recent news surrounding Facebook’s role as one of 2016’s top political propaganda platforms, is what is missing from Facebook’s statements. It's also missing from the few media accounts about possible federal regulation of Facebook. What's missing is the role of another communication platform owned by Facebook: Instagram.
I do not say no, but just as I dislike both the idea and the practices of Facebook so much that I wish to completely avoid them, which I mostly succeeded in doing in the past six years, the same holds for its subsidiaries, of which Instagram is one.

And because I never used it (nor ever will) I give a Wikipedia-link: Instagram - and I add that it does look quite sick, at least in my eyes (and see e.g. Monetization).

Here is more by Rosenfeld:

“I argue here that Instagram is more pervasive than Twitter for political meme-spreading as well as viral outrage video-based behavioral re-targeting,” he said. “Part of the reason for this is because it uses the same range of Facebook’s universe of sophisticated ad targeting infrastructure—including Lookalike and Custom Audiences. The Instagram platform can even link even video views to direct response and campaign objectives.”

Albright goes further, explaining that Silicon Valley top coders built the communications network that not only spreads viral content, but leaves it lingering online, and mines user interactions and compiles psychological profiles to further this provocative dynamic.

Quite possibly so, and indeed especially because Instagram uses ¨Facebook’s universe of sophisticated ad targeting infrastructure¨.

Then again, I admit I do not use Facebook, do not use Instagram, do not use Twitter, and also never have, because I despise all three. And this makes it a little difficult for me to comment, simply because I have never used these sick programs, and I never wish to use these sick programs.

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

Albright’s analysis continues to describe how social media is just transforming political campaigns and elections, and how the websites behind social media platforms are prying into the cracks and crevices of people’s lives and compiling digital dossiers to provoke behaviors and outcomes.

“These campaigns were done with the intent to direct people to third-party websites, install mobile apps, engage with outrageous ‘viral’ content, and collect emails, address, and payment information during ‘shopping cart’ checkouts,” Albright said. “Even at its most basic, the Facebook ad infrastructure can be used to unknowingly recruit friends, family members, and co-workers for sponsored messages and political data-driven micro-targeting.”

I do guess that is true, and once again I take it this is a good example of the very sick ¨Facebook ad infrastructure¨ about which I like to say the following:

If you are an adult, you are - in my own opinion, at least - completely free to commit suicide, e.g. through joining Facebook, but I do like to say that your Facebook activities also put in danger your ¨
friends, family members, and co-workers for sponsored messages and political data-driven micro-targeting¨ - which I think is extremely sick.

But it is true this is ¨just my opinion¨.

4. Get a Load of What H.R. McMaster Has to Say About Trump Behind Closed Doors

This article is by Laura Clawson on AlterNet and originally on DailyKos. This starts as follows:

Donald Trump’s top advisers seem to be in a competition for who can most lavishly insult his intelligence. Sure, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a f*cking moron, but check out national security adviser H.R. McMaster:

In fact, I take it my readers know about Tillerson and Trump, and the present article only serves to list McMaster´s opinions on Trump:

McMaster bluntly trashed his boss, said the sources, four of whom told BuzzFeed News they heard about the exchange directly from Catz. The top national security official dismissed the president variously as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” the sources said.

Who am I to say no? In any case, that was McMaster on His Leader´s Gifts Of Incredible Genius.

5. The Lost Journalistic Standards of Russia-gate

This article is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
A danger in both journalism and intelligence is to allow an unproven or seriously disputed fact to become part of the accepted narrative where it gets widely repeated and thus misleads policymakers and citizens alike, such as happened during the run-up to war with Iraq and is now recurring amid the frenzy over Russia-gate.
Yes indeed. And to put this otherwise, and possibly a bit more clearly:

It is a great danger in journalism, in intelligence and in science to treat non-facts as if they were facts, for statements of fact are taken as indisputably real and true, whereas statements of non-fact do not have any indisputable real and true status, as yet, at least.

In fact, something similar occurs in law, where it used to be (at least) a principle that everyone is innocent (he or she did not commit the crime) until he or she is judged guilty, by a qualified judge, in a real court.

It is the same with purported statements of fact, from a rational point of view:

Until there is some good independent evidence for any purported statement of fact, the statement is not a statement of fact, but is - at best - a statement that might be a fact if there were more evidence than there presently seems to be.

Next, there is a fairly involved discussion of the NYT´s take on Mueller´s decisions that I mostly skip and reduce to this:

What the Times seems to have done is to accept a bald assertion by Mueller’s prosecutors as sufficient basis for jumping to the conclusion that this disputed claim is undeniably true.
Yes indeed, which corresponds precisely with confusing a prosecutor´s statements (all of which demand proof) with the judge´s verdict in law.

I think that is correct, and I also think, in part because Parry and some others have been argueing this for more than a year now, that is is rather difficult to keep up the pretension that the NYT does this unknowingly.
The article ends as follows:

However, basing decisions on dubious information carries its own dangers for the nation and the world. Not only do the targets end up with legitimate grievances about being railroaded – and not only does this prejudicial treatment undermine faith in the fairness of democratic institutions – but falsehoods can become the basis for wider policies that can unleash wars and devastation.

We saw the horrific outcome of the Iraq War, but the risks of hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia are far graver; indeed, billions of people could die and human civilization end. With stakes so high, The New York Times and Mueller’s prosecutors owe the public better than treating questionable accusations as flat fact.

I completely agree, but I should add that, simply because Parry is also quite right about the NYT´s failings about the Iraq War, it does not seem to be very likely that the NYT will follow Parry´s quite sane advice.

And this is a recommended article.


[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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