February 7, 2018

Crisis:  Mass murderers, Trumpocalypse, A New OS (?), Low-quality News, Nuclear Age


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 7, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, February 7, 2018.

1. Summary

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

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.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from February 7, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Who Killed More: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao?
2. Dark Money Then, Trumpocalypse Now
3. Why the United States Needs a Whole New Operating System
4. Far-Right Trump Backers Biggest Purveyors of Sensationalist,
     Low-Quality News: Oxford Study

5. With Trump's Nuclear Doctrine the Cold War Resumes
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. Who Killed More: Hitler, Stalin, or Mao?

This article is by Ian Johnson on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:

In these pages nearly seven years ago, Timothy Snyder asked the provocative question: Who killed more, Hitler or Stalin? As useful as that exercise in moral rigor was, some think the question itself might have been slightly off. Instead, it should have included a third tyrant of the twentieth century, Chairman Mao. And not just that, but that Mao should have been the hands-down winner, with his ledger easily trumping the European dictators’.

While these questions can devolve into morbid pedantry, they raise moral questions that deserve a fresh look, especially as these months mark the sixtieth anniversary of the launch of Mao’s most infamous experiment in social engineering, the Great Leap Forward. It was this campaign that caused the deaths of tens of millions and catapulted Mao Zedong into the big league of twentieth-century murders.

But Mao’s mistakes are more than a chance to reflect on the past. They are also now part of a central debate in Xi Jinping’s China, where the Communist Party is renewing a long-standing battle to protect its legitimacy by limiting discussions of Mao.

I think this is mostly correct, although I would not have used the phrase "morbid pedantry". Then there is this:

When, in 1959, Mao was challenged about these events at a party conference, he purged his enemies. Enveloped by an atmosphere of terror, officials returned to China’s provinces to double down on Mao’s policies. Tens of millions died.

No independent historian doubts that tens of millions died during the Great Leap Forward, but the exact numbers, and how one reconciles them, have remained matters of debate. The overall trend, though, has been to raise the figure, despite pushback from Communist Party revisionists and a few Western sympathizers.

This is also correct. And there is this:

Two more recent accounts give what are widely regarded as the most credible numbers. One, in 2008, is by the Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng, who estimates that 35 million died. Hong Kong University’s Frank Dikötter has a higher but equally plausible estimate of 45 million. Besides adjusting the numbers upward, Dikötter and others have made another important point: many deaths were violent. Communist Party officials beat to death anyone suspected of hoarding grain, or people who tried to escape the death farms by traveling to cities.

Regardless of how one views these revisions, the Great Leap Famine was by far the largest famine in history. It was also man-made (...)
I think this is also correctly reported, although I have no factual basis whatsoever to even be abled to start considering the correctness of the quoted numbers. And in fact, while I have read a fair amount about China (from various sources), I also do not know Chinese.

Then there is this:
At this point, I must digress briefly to deal with two specters that diligent researchers will find on the Internet and even on the shelves of otherwise reputable bookstores. One is the political scientist Rudolph Rummel
(1932–2014), a non-China specialist who made wildly higher estimates than any other historian—that Mao was responsible for 77 million deaths. His work is disregarded as polemical, but has a strange life online, where it is cited regularly by anyone who wants to score a quick victory for Mao.
I am sorrry, but I do not like this: "specters", "otherwise reputable booksellers" and "a strange life online". In fact, I have used Rummel - see e.g. here - while I also was aware that he was not a leftist (and also not a "leftist").

And in fact, I also do not know on what facts Rummel based his estimates, but the numbers I found on Rummel's site are quite different from the one Johnston cites or quotes (and the numbers I found seem to date to 2012): According to my findings Rummel said Mao killed 37,880,000 Chinese - which is less than half as much as Johnston says Rummel claimed.

Besides I have spend a lot of time in Dutch academia, and I have known extremely few honest people there, while I also know - see e.g. Simon Leys - how extraordinarily dishonest very many Western followers and/or admirers of Mao Tse Tung were in the 1970ies (indeed also from my own Dutch experiences).

So I am turning now to the assumption that Johnston is an ordinary academic. Once again, I do not know how many Chinese Mao killed, but I also do not have respect for the references to totally unknown "diligent researchers" who Johnston admires.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

Equally scorned but extremely influential is the British-based author Jung Chang. After writing a bestselling memoir about her family (the most popular in what now seems like an endless succession of imitators), she moved on to write, along with her husband, Jon Halliday, popular history, including a biography of Mao as monster.

Few historians take their work seriously (...)
I liked Jung Chang's "Wild Swans". So far, I have not been abled to get her book on Mao, but she is Chinese and is, at least, quite intelligent, while her husband knows Chinese, and I don't like Johnston's "equally scorned" and "few historians take their work seriously".

And while I take Jung Chang seriously, even though I do not know how correct her numbers are,
by now I think I have read enough to classify Johnston:

An academic, with academical norms, which I have learned to distrust (i) in the middle Seventies, when many Dutch and non-Dutch academics were very much pro Mao; (ii) in the 1980ies, when I was denied the right to take the - excellent - M.A. in philosophy I had earned in the "University" of Amsterdam, because I was an opponent of Marxism (which then was extremely popular in the "U"vA); and (iii) also since then, for when I turned to psychology to get my M.A. there (which I did get) I was threatened by many of the academic staff that they "saw me preferably dead" and (by one utter idiot) that "I may use violence against you, and if you die many academics will admire me".

In brief, if Johnson wants my support for his numbers - that may be correct, but I have no evidence - he must first convince me he is a bit more than an ordinary academic. For all I know about ordinary academics is that they are most interested in their own academic fame, and in their own academic incomes. And besides, they are extremely plausible liars. (Not all of them, but many.)

2. Dark Money Then, Trumpocalypse Now

This article is by Glen Ford on Truthdig and originally on Black Agenda Report. It starts as follows:

A team led by University of Massachusetts professor emeritus Thomas Ferguson reveals that “a giant wave of dark money” flowed into Donald Trump’s campaign coffers in the last months of the 2016 election, enabling him to go heads up with Hillary Clinton’s $1.4 billion juggernaut in the final stages of the contest. The identity of Trump’s late-campaign godfathers is “shrouded,” according to a paper authored by Ferguson and his collaborators, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen, but all signs point to “a sudden influx of money from private equity and hedge funds.” The cash infusion brought Trump’s total spending up to $861 million. Although that’s still substantially less than Hillary’s total outlays, Trump’s dark money arrived just in time to capitalize on Clinton’s failure to mount an effective blitz in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Thus, it wasn’t the Russians that brought us Trump, but the usual suspects: private equity and hedge funds bandits.
I think this is mostly correct, but did not read Ferguson. Here is some on him:
Prof. Ferguson specializes in tracing corporate money to deduce the political leanings and schemings of the various corporate sectors. During the Obama administration, Ferguson’s research showed Silicon Valley and the high-tech sector were Barack Obama’s most reliable corporate allies, in terms of campaign contributions and political support. (And he, in turn, dutifully served the digital oligarchs.)
Again I don't know Ferguson's research, though I do - it seems - agree with him on Obama.

Here is some on Trump:
Trump’s savage assault on the very concept of regulation; his willingness to renegotiate NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership; and the rise of the generals as both day-to-day and overall policy managers in his White House, are “normalizing” Trump. The Republican tax cut—a looting spree—although not engineered by Trump, redounds to his benefit in 1 percent circles. As their unearned gains accrue, the Lords of Capital appreciate the uses of The Donald. Orange is the new normal—a measure of how insane late stage capitalism has become.
I more or less agree. Then there is this:
After almost two years, the predicate offense—that Trump and the Russians colluded in hacking the Democrats—has not been proven, or even convincingly presented.
I think that is quite correct (and see "Russia-gate" in the Crisis indexes).

The article ends as follows:

The main objective is to make endless war palatable, as imperialism attempts to bomb, blockade, occupy and bluster its way out of a cascade of crises. Unable to compete with the Chinese command economy, its “soft” power exhausted, the U.S. empire plays the only strong card it has left: its massive military, now centered on a special operations force roughly as large as the entire French Army. War becomes both the means of imperial survival and justification for its continued existence: the how and the why of empire.

That’s why there is no such thing as a “resistance” that is not loudly and consistently anti-war.

And I think this is also mostly correct, were it only because the USA is in - what seem to be - "endless wars" since 2001. This is a recommended article.

3. Why the United States Needs a Whole New Operating System

This article is by Thomas Linzey on AlterNet and originally on In These Times. This is from near its beginning:

We live in a bubble of myths. They scramble our brains. They make it difficult for us to see the forest, rather than just individual trees; especially when the most powerful forces within our system whisper those myths incessantly in our ears.

While it’s certainly easier to blame the latest president for our state of affairs, the reality is much more troubling—that we have a system of law and government which poses as a working democracy while guaranteeing the destruction of the planet. In other words, it’s the hardware, not the software. It’s a faulty system.

Here’s what we believe:

  • We believe that the planet is in bad shape, but that we can fix it by recycling, buying electric cars, and taking shorter showers.
  • We believe in the “founding fathers,” the “rule of law,” and our constitution, and that we need to “strengthen” our democracy, which assumes we had one to begin with.
I have no idea who Thomas Linzey is, but I really dislike his style: No, I do not live "in a bubble of myths", and no my brain is not scrambled. Besides, I do not and never believed - in my 68 years - what Linzey says I believe.

Here is more by Linzey:
Almost all major ecosystems are in various throes of decline; climate change-caused catastrophes have now become the norm; and our very own life support systems are all under siege.

We are rapidly turning the planet into one giant Superfund site, and we show no signs of putting on the brakes.

Yet with one unified voice, democrats and republicans alike call for more economic growth, even though more “growth” means more destruction of the planet.
Again I think Linzey's prose is both lousy and exaggerated. (And I am not "We".) Then there is this:

Then there’s the belief that we live in a democracy. Democracy literally means that the people govern themselves. In a democratic republic, people elect other people who are then supposed to govern in the interest of those who elected them. You know, “of the people, by the people, for the people” and all that jazz.

In our “federal” system, the federal government reigns supreme—that means that laws passed by Congress legally override laws adopted by any state or municipal government. Given that supremacy, the ability of people to elect people who will govern in the public interest would seem to be the determiner of whether we have a democracy.

Want to get elected to Congress? Just reach into your pocket and pull out the $2 million average cost to be competitive; or the $5 million it takes to be competitive for a Senate race. For the House, that means raising $2,700 a day—and that’s after you decide to sell your soul to one of the major parties to have a shot at moving to Washington.

I am sorry, but I still very much dislike Linzey's style, although I think the last paragraph is probably factually correct.

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

Couple this with the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (and the multitude of cases that came before it, recognizing constitutional “rights” for corporations), in which the Court guaranteed that corporations can dump unlimited amounts of cash into races for candidates that they prefer, and it’s no surprise that both parties scout for millionaire candidates that can self-finance campaigns. Either way, the parties are completely dependent on those with the financial ability to support their candidates.

I think this is again factually mostly correct, but I really detest Linzey's style.

4. Far-Right Trump Backers Biggest Purveyors of Sensationalist, Low-Quality News: Oxford Study

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Trump supporters are the biggest consumers of low-quality, sensationalist news stories on social media, according to a new report by Oxford University.

The study, conducted over three months leading up to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address last week, goes beyond the abundant evidence that Republicans, Democrats, and independents rely on different news sources, finding a clear divide in which social media users consume stories from discredited sources.

Consumers of these accounts are "playing with different facts, and they think they have the inside scoop on conspiracies," lead researcher Philip Howard told McClatchy. "A small chunk of the population isn't able to talk politics or share ideas in a sensible way with the rest of the population."
Well... I am not amazed. And in fact my own explanation for this runs along the line that many Trump supporters belong to the most stupid and ignorant Americans there are, indeed especially
if they are on Facebook and Twitter.

Here is some more on the Trump Support group:

"The Trump Support group consumes the highest volume of junk news sources on Twitter, and spreads more junk news sources, than all the other groups put together," the researchers concluded. "This pattern is repeated on Facebook, where the Hard Conservatives group consumed the highest proportion of junk news."

The report also found that "junk news" made up the largest proportion of news stories shared by the Trump Support contingent on Twitter.

The inundation of a small segment of the population with a false narrative about the country's politics is "a problem for democracy," Howard said. "In an ideal world, everybody would get at least a few of the same news stories. There'd be some shared facts and some shared understanding of the problems."
Again I am not amazed. I also wonder what percentage of the Trump Support group were on Facebook and on Twitter, but that I don't know.

Also, if Howard is right that only "
a small segment of the [American] population" gets "a false narrative", I don't quite see what he is worried about.

And in fact, I do not think it is "a small segment", but there is no information in this article other than the mere statement (without evidence) that
it is "a small segment".

5. With Trump's Nuclear Doctrine the Cold War Resumes

This article is by Robert Dodge on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

While elected officials of our increasingly dysfunctional democracy debated “memogate”, the world became more dangerous as Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review was officially released on Friday. Ignoring scientific studies of the past decade and growing global sentiment by the world's non-nuclear states to abolish nuclear weapons, with this announcement the new arms race begins and the Cold War resumes. 

Scientific studies have demonstrated the potential catastrophic global environmental effects following a limited regional nuclear war, using just 100 Hiroshima size weapons that would potentially kill 2 billion people. This new Doctrine proposes the development of two new generations of nuclear weapons including “low-yield nukes”, Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) and the long-term development of Submarine Launched Cruise Missiles (SLCM). These “low-yield nukes” are 20 kiloton or the larger Nagasaki size bombs that killed more than 70 thousand people. Seemingly ignoring the fact that nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons regardless of size with the same horrific initial devastation and radioactive fallout, these weapons are proposed to demonstrate America's resolve in deterring nuclear attack.

Yes, I think that is true. The same holds for this bit:

In fact this circular argument of smaller nuclear weapons being a greater deterrence actually increases the likelihood of their use. This further promotes the mythology of deterrence which actually drives all nine nuclear states to follow suit. Coupled with the Trump Doctrine's new non-nuclear circumstances under which nuclear attack would be launched, such as certain cyberattacks, the risk of nuclear war is only increased.  These proposals only increase the role of nuclear weapons in our defense policy. This fact was also acknowledged in the recent Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' movement of their nuclear Doomsday clock to two minutes till midnight, the closest since World War II.

Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.


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 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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