February 16, 2018

Crisis:  Scoundrel, Trump's Mind, Korean Diplomacy, Facebook & Google, On Julian Assange


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 16, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Friday, February 16, 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 16, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Scandal-Ridden Scoundrel 
2. The Terrifying Danger of Trump’s Deteriorating Mental Health
3. Korean Olympic Diplomacy Moves Forward Despite U.S. Intransigence
4. Internet Monopolies Like Facebook and Google Have Become a Public

5. The UK’s Hidden Hand in Julian Assange’s Detention
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. Scandal-Ridden Scoundrel

This article is by Charles Blow on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump has turned the political world upside down, again and again, like a kid flipping a coin. Every day we wake up to either a new scandal or several lingering ones.

It is astounding. It is maddening. It is numbing.

At this moment, he is embroiled in a scandal of a six-figure payment to a porn star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels and who, at one point, gave an interview in which she claimed that the two were engaged in an extramarital sexual affair.

He is also embroiled in a scandal over why a top aide, Rob Porter, accused of physically assaulting his two ex-wives, was allowed to remain on the White House staff even after these allegations had been brought to the attention of the White House by the F.B.I.

Well... yes and no. As to Daniels and Porter, I mostly agree and either case is also still developing, or so it seems.

But I don't agree with the first two paragraphs: After a full year of Trump he or it is not "astounding", "maddening" and "numbing" anymore - or at least that is what I would conclude, and indeed what Charles Blow did, for he has been writing that same year about Trump.

And what is getting me is that almost the complete American media simply does not even mention the stupidity or the ignorance of very many Anericans, that indeed also is behind Trump's nomination as president of the USA.

In case you doubt me, here is some more:

We also mustn’t forget that the president has never released his tax returns, he refused to sever ties with his businesses, and he is burning through our money going to golf courses or his properties with decadent regularity. He also defended Nazis and was disrespectful to the hurricane-ravaged people of Puerto Rico.

And Trump has lied about pretty much everything. As The Washington Post reported in November: “In the past 35 days, Trump has averaged an astonishing nine [false or misleading] claims a day. The total now stands at 1,628 claims in 298 days, or an average of 5.5 claims a day.”

Any of this would have crippled another president, but not Trump. In a perverse way, Trump appears to benefit from the sheer volume of his offenses. They overwhelm many Americans’ ability to process and track, maintain outrage or even fact-check.
I am sorry, but if you are an adult American who does not have the ability "to process and track, maintain outrage or even fact-check" I think you should not have the ability to vote, for the simple reason that your lacking all rational abilities means that you are voting for your fantasies, your desires, or your fears, and not for anything that you have rationally established yourself.

And that seems to be the truth about many American voters, though indeed not all. Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

This may rightfully be called Trump’s Deluge Doctrine of American Politics, a thing that many of us never properly feared because we never thought it possible. We never thought a man of such moral depravity and such little respect for propriety, protocol and honesty would ever be president.

But the storm is upon us; we are in it.

I must continue to submit that although I disagree vociferously with Trump on policy, my objection here isn’t about policy or partisanship. This is a fight for the soul of the country.

I am sorry, but the problem is not "a man of such moral depravity and such little respect for propriety, protocol and honesty" as Donald Trump indeed is, but the fact that more than 60 million American voters did vote for him, whereas his characteristics were clear from the very start.

There also is another problem with Blow's opinions:

He does believe in "Russia-gate", as indeed do the editors of The New York Times. I do not, and not because I think spying or manipulating is beyond the Russians, or indeed anyone else, but because I have been waiting for more than a year for good evidence that they did, and there never was any good evidence.

So while I - broadly speaking - agree with Charles Blow that the president of the USA is a "scandal-ridden scoundrel", I also think that his election was due not to his intelligence, talent, or originality, but to the
stupidity or the ignorance of the many who voted for him.

2. The Terrifying Danger of Trump’s Deteriorating Mental Health

This article is by Jefferson Morley on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Don’t be fooled by the happy lull of the Winter Olympics.

“We are not in a static situation,” Dr. John Gartner said, at a presentation on presidential mental health and nuclear weapons in Washington on Monday. “We are in a deteriorating situation. And every day that goes by we are at greater risk of total nuclear annihilation.”

In fact, I do not think I am fooled by the Winter Olympics, but I do regard them as a good sign, as I also explain in item 3, below.

But that also is not what this article is about. This article is about the ideas (and the values) of some 70,000 psychologists and psychiatrists (or so it seems), who have concluded, correctly in my opinion, that Donald Trump is a madman, and that madmen should not have the ability to unleash total nuclear annihilation of our human civilization.

Also, I do point out that I have an excellent M.A. in psychology, while nearly all journalists who write about Trump are not thus qualified (and also rarely seem to have any good idea about what it means if someone is mad).

Here is more by Dr. Gartner:

All the while, the danger posed by Trump’s control of nuclear weapons continues to grow, says Gartner, founder of Duty to Warn, a group that argues President Trump is not mentally fit for office. He spoke at a National Press Club forum sponsored by Need to Impeach, the campaign bankrolled by billionaire investor Tom Steyer.

The unanimous conclusion: Trump is not qualified to make decisions about nuclear weapons.

I completely agree. And here is more by psychiatrist Steven Buser (who was quoted before in Nederlog, but this is important, so here I go again):

Psychiatrist Steven Buser explained how he evaluated nuclear personnel for the U.S. Air Force’s Nuclear Personal Reliability Program. According to PRP standards, “only those military personnel with the highest degree of reliability, trustworthiness, conduct and behavior will be allowed to work in the vicinity of nuclear weapons.”

 “What if those same standards were applied to our president?” Dr. Buser asked. “What if President Trump instead was Airman Trump?...Would I feel comfortable in certifying Airman Trump as being safe to be around nuclear weapons?”

“What if I had reliable information that Airman Trump had cyberbullied others regularly on Twitter?” Buser went on. “That he had sexually abusive behavior toward women; that he was prone to erratic personal states; that he showed paranoia about being surveilled by others or unjustly persecuted; and that he had a history of highly distorted, if not untruthful statements.”

“Would I certify Airman Trump as being safe around nuclear weapons? My answer was, absolutely not.”

And clearly I agree - as a psychologist - with Buser. Here us more by Dr. Gartner:

Dr. Gartner said Trump’s mental health “is deteriorating and is going to continue to get worse.”

“If you watch interviews that Trump did in the 1980s and '90s, he not only spoke in complete sentences, he spoke in polished paragraphs. Compare that to interviews and public speech today: his vocabulary is thin, reasoning is loose. He repeats himself. He is actually impaired in his ability to complete a sentence or form a thought without derailing into some kind of irrelevancy.”

“When someone begins to deteriorate cognitively, anything that was bad about their personality gets worse,” Dr. Gartner said. “When people are in a state of pre-dementia they become more impulsive, more paranoid, less conscientious, more aggressive, more irritable.”

And eventually, “they begin to become psychotic.”

Yes, I agree again, especially on Trump's utter inability NOT to repeat himself (again and again and again) and his inability "to complete a sentence or form a thought without derailing into some kind of irrelevancy". (These struck me already in the beginning of 2016, which incidentally also was the first time I took a close look at Trump.)

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

But a complete lack of empathy characterizes Trump’s malignant narcissism, said Jacqueline West, a psychoanalyst in New Mexico.

“When we say ‘Trump is being narcissistic again,’ we get it that he is egotistical. We get it that he is dominating. What we don’t get is that he’s dangerous.”

The malignant narcissist, she said, “grows up with a tremendous determination to dominate, to win at all costs, and they sacrifice the integration of conscience and the capacity for empathy. He is involved in a ‘kill or be killed’ reality.”

Well... in fact I do not know what "we" get and don't get about psychology and psychiatry, and I very much doubt West does know. But I think she is right in two things: Trump is a madman, and madmen are extremely dangerous in his position. And this is a recommended article.

3. Korean Olympic Diplomacy Moves Forward Despite U.S. Intransigence

This article is by Dennis J. Bernstein on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
By many accounts, the Koreans – North and South – have prevailed over the disruptive desires of the United States, coming together in a series of very public actions, clearly meant to turn down the political heat generated by President Donald Trump and the U.S. pressure for military action.
In this regard, there does indeed seem to be a new and genuine desire on the part of the president of South Korea to forge a more peaceful and cooperative relationship with the North, even though U.S. officials and commentators seem to be dead set against it, portraying the warming relations between North and South as an attempt by the North to subvert the long and close relationship with the South.
Yes indeed: I quite agree. Also, I grant that I did not expect this, while I think it is a good sign.

And the reason it is a good sign is a rational one, I think: Both the North-Koreans and the South-Koreans know that if the conflict does grow nuclear, most North-Koreans and most South- Koreans will be dead very soon.

Dennis Bernstein interviews Kay Jay No, who is presented as a writer, an activist and a regional expert. I quote two bits from him, and the first is this:

KJN: As you know, the Winter Olympics are usually not as well attended as the summer games and not as much a source of interest for the general global audience.  But these Olympics, held in the South Korean county of PyeongChang, have reached out to the North Koreans.  And the North Koreans have responded.

In fact, they responded very rapidly, sending over 500 of their citizens, including a cheerleading squad, an orchestra, a Taekwondo demo team, the head of the North Korean assembly, 22 athletes, and most surprisingly, Kim Yo Jong.  Kim Yo Jong is a  high-ranking politburo member, and Kim Jong Un’s younger sister.  Just the fact of the North Koreans defying expectations and showing up was a propaganda coup.

Yes indeed. And here is the second bit:

KJN: To a certain extent, this small break in the clouds is an attempt to return to that policy of reconciliation.  What is notable is the congeniality with which the hand was extended toward North Korea.  For example, when the North Korean and South Korean athletes entered the stadium as one team, under a single flag, a standing ovation erupted as 35,000 people rose to their feet in a celebration of this very powerful coming together.

Again yes. And while I have no idea how this will develop, I think the Koreans did in great majority see that if the conflict does grow nuclear, most North-Koreans and most South- Koreans will be dead very soon, and I think they are quite right in this belief.

4. Internet Monopolies Like Facebook and Google Have Become a Public Menace

This article is by George Soros on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

The current moment in world history is a painful one. Open societies are in crisis, and various forms of dictatorships and mafia states, exemplified by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, are on the rise. In the United States, President Trump would like to establish his own mafia-style state but cannot, because the Constitution, other institutions, and a vibrant civil society won’t allow it.

Not only is the survival of open society in question; the survival of our entire civilization is at stake. The rise of leaders such as Trump and Kim Jong Un in North Korea have much to do with this. Both seem willing to risk a nuclear war in order to keep themselves in power.
I agree with George Soros about the dangers to the open society and to the survival of our entire civilization, although I am also - it seems - a lot less optimistic than he is about the American Constitution and about the USA's other institutions.

Here is more by Soros:
The rise and monopolistic behavior of the giant American Internet platform companies is contributing mightily to the US government’s impotence.
Companies earn their profits by exploiting their environment. Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social media companies exploit the social environment. This is particularly nefarious, because these companies influence how people think and behave without them even being aware of it. This interferes with the functioning of democracy and the integrity of elections.
I agree, although I would have formulated this differently. Here is more:

Facebook and Google effectively control over half of all digital advertising revenue. To maintain their dominance, they need to expand their networks and increase their share of users’ attention. Currently they do this by providing users with a convenient platform. The more time users spend on the platform, the more valuable they become to the companies.

Moreover, because content providers cannot avoid using the platforms and must accept whatever terms they are offered, they, too, contribute to the profits of social media companies. Indeed, the exceptional profitability of these companies is largely a function of their avoiding responsibility — and payment — for the content on their platforms.

Yes indeed: I think this is quite correct - and because I think so (for quite a few years also) I have decided to give up Facebook (completely - and see this, from a Nederlog of 2011) and Google (all but Youtube), and indeed I will also never use these anymore.

Then again, I am just one user, and more than two billion users of computers (cellphones, mostly, which is another thing I completely refuse to use) disagree with me.

Here is more on Facebook and Google:

The companies claim that they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities and should subject them to more stringent regulation, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open access.

I completely agree. Then there is this on the true customers of Facebook and Google, the advertisers:

Social media companies’ true customers are their advertisers.
Social media companies deceive their users by manipulating their attention, directing it toward their own commercial purposes, and deliberately engineering addiction to the services they provide.

This also seems correct to me. Here is more:

Something similar — and potentially irreversible — is happening to human attention in our digital age. This is not a matter of mere distraction or addiction; social media companies are actually inducing people to surrender their autonomy. And this power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies.

It takes significant effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called the freedom of mind. Once lost, those who grow up in the digital age may have difficulty regaining it.

Yes, I agree although in fact I do not know the extent to which I am "distracted" etc. I do not think I am, but then I also refuse to use Facebook and Google.

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

There is an even more alarming prospect on the horizon: an alliance between authoritarian states and large data-rich IT monopolies, bringing together nascent systems of corporate surveillance with already-developed systems of state-sponsored surveillance. This may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even George Orwell could have imagined.

The countries in which such unholy marriages are likely to occur first are Russia and China. Chinese IT companies in particular are fully equal to the US platforms.
Yes indeed - and I understood this
"alliance between authoritarian states and large data-rich IT monopolies, bringing together nascent systems of corporate surveillance with already-developed systems of state-sponsored surveillance"
in 2012, and you may be interested in the article in which I did so: Crisis: Christmas sermon: Hypotheses about CF+SS (and I think it is quite interesting). And this is a recommended article.

5. The UK’s Hidden Hand in Julian Assange’s Detention

This article is by Jonathan Cook on Counterpunch. It starts as follows:

It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade.

Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case.

In other words, for more than four years Assange has been holed up in a tiny room, policed at great cost to British taxpayers, not because of any allegations in Sweden but because the British authorities wanted him to remain there. On what possible grounds could that be, one has to wonder? Might it have something to do with his work as the head of Wikileaks, publishing information from whistleblowers that has severely embarrassed the United States and the UK.

Yes, this seems correct - and of course Assange is holed up in the Ecuadoean embassy not because of any strong case of the Swedes against him, but simply because he is Julian Assange,
and he is a very important member of Wikileaks.

Here is some more:

In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents in other parts of the world that win the support of western liberals and leftists.

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

Assange is still holed up in the embassy, at great risk to his physical and mental health, even though last year Sweden formally dropped an investigation that in reality it had not actually been pursuing for more than four years.

Now the UK (read US) authorities have a new, even less credible pretext for continuing to hold Assange: because he “skipped bail”. Apparently the price he should pay for this relatively minor infraction is more than five years of confinement.

Yes indeed. But then this is all about politics, and all about British law serving the interests of British politicians. 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 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 (!!).

       home - index - summaries - mail