March 9, 2018

Crisis: On Korea, Ellsberg & Gun, ¨Democracy¨, Printed Newspapers, Killing Democracies


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 9, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Friday, March 9, 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 March 9, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Trump Accepts Kim Jong-un’s Invitation to Meet
2. Daniel Ellsberg's Advice for How to Stop Current and Future Wars 
3. The National Endowment for (Meddling in) Democracy
4. For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I

5. Is Donald Trump Fueling a Mass Extinction of Democracy Across the
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. Trump Accepts Kim Jong-un’s Invitation to Meet

This article is by Mark Landler on the NYT. It starts as follows.
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has invited President Trump to meet for negotiations over its nuclear program, an audacious diplomatic overture that would bring together two strong-willed, idiosyncratic leaders who have traded threats of war.

The White House said that Mr. Trump had accepted the invitation, and Chung Eui-yong, a South Korean official who conveyed it, told reporters that the president would meet with Mr. Kim within two months.

“He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” Mr. Chung said at the White House on Thursday evening after meeting the president. Mr. Trump, he said, agreed to “meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.”

I say, which I do because I had not expected it. Here is some more:

The president expressed his optimism about the meeting in a post on Twitter, saying that Mr. Kim had “talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze.”

“Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time,” Mr. Trump added. “Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”

Mr. Chung, whose talks with Mr. Kim on Monday in Pyongyang resulted in the invitation, noted that the North Korean leader said he understood that joint military exercises with the United States and South Korea would go ahead as scheduled after the end of the Paralympic Games later this month.

In fact, I think this is the first more or less reasonable statement by Trump I have read in a very long time: “Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time”. And this seems true as well.

Finally, I quote this bit from the article:

For Mr. Trump, a meeting with Mr. Kim, a leader he has threatened with “fire and fury” and derided as “Little Rocket Man,” is a breathtaking gamble. No sitting American president has ever met a North Korean leader, and Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly vowed that he would not commit the error of his predecessors by being drawn into a protracted negotiation, in which North Korea extracted concessions from the United States but held on to key elements of its nuclear program.

In fact, I do not see why Trump ïs taking ¨a breathtaking gamble¨. What does he risk? That the world will not have a nuclear war? Quite possibly so, and apart from that I do not see what major risk Trump runs.

But OK: These are good developments, and this is a recommended article.

2. Daniel Ellsberg's Advice for How to Stop Current and Future Wars

This article is by Norman Solomon on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Daniel Ellsberg has a message that managers of the warfare state don’t want people to hear.

“If you have information that bears on deception or illegality in pursuing wrongful policies or an aggressive war,” he said in a statement released last week, “don’t wait to put that out and think about it, consider acting in a timely way at whatever cost to yourself. … Do what Katharine Gun did.”

If you don’t know what Katharine Gun did, chalk that up to the media power of the war system.

Ellsberg’s video statement went public as this month began, just before the 15th anniversary of the revelation by a British newspaper, the Observer, of a secret NSA memo—thanks to Katharine Gun. At the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ, about 100 people received the same email memo from the National Security Agency on the last day of January 2003, seven weeks before the invasion of Iraq got underway. Only Katharine Gun, at great personal risk, decided to leak the document.

Well... I am following the world news quite closely since June 2013; I read every morning 35 sites; I write every day a review of 5 articles; and I have a good memory - but I had to screw up my brows and consult my memory to dreg up a few bits about Katharine Gun.

And this is not to criticize Katharine Gun but it is to criticize Norman Solomon: If it takes a man like me considerable trouble to locate news that is about 15 years old, this must hold for nearly everyone.

But OK - Katharine Gun indeed acted as a courageous individual, and here is more on her by Norman Solomon:

If more people had taken such risks in early 2003, the Iraq War might have been prevented. If more people were willing to take such risks in 2018, the current military slaughter in several nations, mainly funded by U.S. taxpayers, might be curtailed if not stopped. Blockage of information about past whistleblowing deprives the public of inspiring role models.

That’s the kind of reality George Orwell was referring to when he wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

No, I am sorry but I do definitely not think so. I have two sets of reasons for this:

The first set concerns Edward Snowden and a few other whistleblowers: I noted almost immediately after learning about his existence, on June 10, 2013, that I hoped for more whistleblowers, but that I considered that rather unlikely (¨in a waterboarding country¨).

And the second set concerns my own background: My father, my mother, and my father´s father all went into the resistance against the Nazis that was organized by the Dutch Communist Party. My father and his father were arrested and condemned to concentrationcamp punishments because they were ¨political terrorists¨ (according to their Dutch judges). My father survived over 3 years and 9 months of that; my grandfather was murdered; my mother was never arrested.

They were three of about 10,000 maximally.The Dutch communists lost 2000 of their members to the Nazis. They also were the only somewhat major social group, and the only political party, whose members went into the resistance.

And since there were less than 10 million Dutchmen in WW II my own inference was and is that less than 1 in a 1000 have the kind of courage my father and grandfather had, while also to warn your fellow human beings about major dangers, you first have to know about them, and few do.

This is why I thought and think that many more whistleblowers was quite unlikely. There have been a few, but a few only, and this seems to be also consistent with my view of human nature: A few are intelligent; a few are courageous; but most men and most women are neither, and are so from birth.

You may disagree with me, but you neither have my family nor my own past.

Here is more on Ellsberg and Gun:

What Ellsberg read in the newspaper story “was a cable from the NSA asking GCHQ to help in the intercepting of communications, and that implied both office and home communications, of every member of the Security Council of the UN. Now, why would NSA need GCHQ to do that? Because a condition of having the UN headquarters and the Security Council in the U.S. in New York was that the U.S. intelligence agencies promised or were required not to conduct intelligence on members of the UN. Well, of course, they want that. So they rely on their allies, the buddies, in the British to commit these criminal acts for them. And with this clearly I thought someone very high in access in Britain intelligence services must dissent from what was already clear the path to an illegal war.”

Yes indeed - and I quoted this to help your and my memory. And besides, as I wrote on June 10, 2013:

And we also see The Problem Of The Internet: It connects everyone and everything - without real safeties, without real regulations, and without there being any way in which one's rights are maintained.

And to this you have to add that about the only regulation I know of that possibly may work is that the American spies are - formally, legally - not allowed to spy on just any Americans and indeed also not on members of the UN - which the American spies circumvent by letting the spying be done by their English (or other non-American) spying friends, as explained in the last quotation.

Here is Gun´s version (which I quote because you may not have Solomon´s superior memory):

As Gun has recounted, she and other GCHQ employees “received an email from a senior official at the National Security Agency. It said the agency was ‘mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN Security Council members,’ and that it wanted ‘the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals or to head off surprises.’ “

In other words, the U.S. and British governments wanted to eavesdrop on key UN delegations and then manipulate or even blackmail them into voting for war.

Katharine Gun took action: “I was furious when I read that email and leaked it. Soon afterward, when the Observer ran a front-page story—‘U.S. dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war’—I confessed to the leak and was arrested on suspicion of the breach of section 1 of the Official Secrets Act.”

And indeed that was very courageous. For more, see Katharine Gun (on Wikipedia). And here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Ellsberg said: “What was most striking then and still to me about this disclosure was that the young woman who looked at this cable coming across her computer in GCHQ acted almost immediately on what she saw was the pursuit of an illegal war by illegal means. … I’ve often been asked, is there anything about the release of the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam that you regret. And my answer is yes, very much. I regret that I didn’t put out the top-secret documents available to me in the Pentagon in 1964, years before I actually gave them to the Senate and then to the newspapers.

In fact, I agree with Ellsberg, but - alas, alas - I do not think more than a quite small percentage has it in himself or herself to be a real whistleblower. And this is a recommended article.

3. The National Endowment for (Meddling in) Democracy

This article is by Daniel Lazare on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
“They’re meddling in our politics!” That’s the war cry of outraged Clintonites and neocons, who seem to think election interference is something that Russians do to us and we never, ever do to them.

But meddling in other countries has been a favorite Washington pastime ever since William McKinley vowed to “Christianize” the Philippines in 1899, despite the fact that most Filipinos were already Catholic. Today, an alphabet soup of U.S. agencies engage in political interference virtually around the clock, everyone from USAID to the VOA, RFE/RL to the DHS—respectively the U.S. Agency for International Development, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Department of Homeland Security. The last maintains some 2,000 U.S. employees in 70 countries to ensure that no one even thinks of doing anything bad to anyone over here.
Quite so: The USA is meddling into extremely many countries, and the whole Democratic baloney about other countries meddling with the USA´s politics is baloney because the USA does the same or worse, and besides - while I believe the Russians do meddle - there has never been published any decent evidence about the financial extent of their meddling, nor about how much they meddle: Most ¨news¨ about it seems propaganda.

In fact, here is considerably more about the USA´s meddling in other countries:

Then there is the National Endowment for Democracy, a $180-million-a-year government-funded outfit that is a byword for American intrusiveness. The NED is an example of what might be called “speckism,” the tendency to go on about the speck in your neighbor’s eye without ever considering the plank in your own (see Matthew 7 for further details). Prohibited by law from interfering in domestic politics, the endowment devotes endless energy to the democratic shortcomings of other countries, especially when they threaten American interests.

In 1984, the year after it was founded, it channeled secret funds to a military-backed presidential candidate in Panama, gave $575,000 to a right-wing French student group, and delivered nearly half a million dollars to right-wing opponents of Costa Rican president Oscar Arias—because Arias had refused to go along with our anti-communist policy in Central America.

A year later, it gave $400,000 to the anti-Sandinista opposition in Nicaragua and then another $2 million in 1988. It used its financial muscle in the mid-1990s to persuade a right-wing party to draw up a “Contract with Slovakia” modeled on Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America; persuaded free marketeers to do the same in Mongolia; gave nearly $1 million to Venezuelan rightists who went on to mount a short-lived putsch against populist leader Hugo Chavez in 2002; and then funded anti-Russian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine in 2005, and the later anti-Russian coup there in 2014.

I do not know how much of the above has been proved to be mostly true, but I think most was.

Here is some more:

America’s own shortcomings meanwhile go unnoticed. Meanwhile, the NED, as it nears the quarter-century mark, is a bundle of contradictions: a group that claims to be private even though it is almost entirely publicly funded, a group that says democracy “must be indigenous” even though it backs U.S.-imposed regime change, a group that claims to be “bipartisan” but whose board is packed with ideologically homogeneous hawks like Elliott Abrams, Anne Applebaum, and Victoria Nuland, the latter of whom served as assistant secretary of state during the coup in Ukraine.

Historically speaking, the NED feels straight out of the early 1980s, when Washington was struggling to overcome “Vietnam Syndrome” in order to rev up the Cold War.
Again I do not know how much of the above was proved to be true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which is about Senator John McCain:

“The work our government does to promote democratic values abroad is at the heart of who we are as a country,” added Senator John McCain. America is democracy, democracy is America, and, as history’s first global empire, the U.S. has an unqualified right to do unto others what others may not do unto the U.S. Only a “Siberian candidate,” “a traitor,” or “a Russian stooge” could possibly disagree.

In fact, this seems to me to be evidence that the USA is quite totalitarian in much of the ¨news¨ it provides, and that seems to me to be quite correct, although I dutifully remark that according to the anonymous neofascist who rewrote ¨totalitarianism¨ on the Wikipedia, this is of course completely false (for only states can be totalitarian, according to that liar or total idiot).

And by the way: According to precisely the same ¨logic¨ as is used in the Wikipedia´s lies about totalitarianism, there can be no fascism nor any neofascism in the USA, for fascism and neofascism also can be restated as being only true of states and not of persons, not of policies, not of plans, not of political parties, and not of anything else but what states do.

4. For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned.

This article is by Farhad Manjo on The New York Times. This is from near the beginning:
In January, after the breaking-newsiest year in recent memory, I decided to travel back in time. I turned off my digital news notifications, unplugged from Twitter and other social networks, and subscribed to home delivery of three print newspapers — The Times, The Wall Street Journal and my local paper, The San Francisco Chronicle — plus a weekly newsmagazine, The Economist. 

I have spent most days since then getting the news mainly from print, though my self-imposed asceticism allowed for podcasts, email newsletters and long-form nonfiction (books and magazine articles). Basically, I was trying to slow-jam the news — I still wanted to be informed, but was looking to formats that prized depth and accuracy over speed.

It has been life changing. Turning off the buzzing breaking-news machine I carry in my pocket was like unshackling myself from a monster who had me on speed dial, always ready to break into my day with half-baked bulletins.

Now I am not just less anxious and less addicted to the news, I am more widely informed (though there are some blind spots). And I’m embarrassed about how much free time I have — in two months, I managed to read half a dozen books, took up pottery and (I think) became a more attentive husband and father.

I say! And I do so because I like this story and in fact have been doing more or less the same as Farhad Manjo did for two months, except that I am doing it since eight years at least: I am minimizing my internet use, because I hate being spied upon by secret services from anywhere, who can track my and everyones opinions, values, desires, knowledge, income, family, friends and anything else, because the internet was designed for and by the secret services to do all the spying they could do on absolutely anyone (with an internet connection) living anywhere. (In case you doubt this, check out the late Brzezinski.)

For example, I will rather commit suicide than accept a cellphone. And the only use I am making of the internet is by my webbrowser, my email program, and my ftp program, and that is the only use I will ever make of it.

Then again, my worries are not the worries of a journalist of The New York Times:

What Manjo is mainly concerned about are (i) the level of the journalistic news he gets by means of his computer as compared with the paper press, and (ii) the amount of time he saves by reading the paper press.

But I do think he is right about this:

We have spent much of the past few years discovering that the digitization of news is ruining how we collectively process information. Technology allows us to burrow into echo chambers, exacerbating misinformation and polarization and softening up society for propaganda. With artificial intelligence making audio and video as easy to fake as text, we’re entering a hall-of-mirrors dystopia, what some are calling an “information apocalypse.” And we’re all looking to the government and to Facebook for a fix.

But don’t you and I also have a part to play? Getting news only from print newspapers may be extreme and probably not for everyone. But the experiment taught me several lessons about the pitfalls of digital news and how to avoid them.

In fact, I do not think that (link disconnected) ¨the digitization of news is ruining how we collectively process information¨. I think the two extreme dangers of the internet are (i) the fact that virtually any spy from virtually anywhere can read your emails, your sites, and very probably - if he or she wants - your whole computer, and (ii) the fact that with Facebook and Twitter more than 2 billion of the least intelligent mostly anonymous persons can write what they like (and do so nearly all anonymously).

The first fact entails that - very probably, if some secret service wants it - the secret services know everything about anyone; the second fact entails that the few who can really think and really write have a force of over 2 billion dummies opposed to them, most of whom write whatever they please, anonymously, and have no sound ideas whatsoever about science, truth, probability, facts or any other rational subjects: most are moved by their prejudices, their ignorance or their fears.

Then again, a journalist of The NYT is not concerned with facts like these, but with facts like this:

Real life is slow; it takes professionals time to figure out what happened, and how it fits into context. Technology is fast. Smartphones and social networks are giving us facts about the news much faster than we can make sense of them, letting speculation and misinformation fill the gap.

It has only gotten worse. As news organizations evolved to a digital landscape dominated by apps and social platforms, they felt more pressure to push news out faster. Now, after something breaks, we’re all buzzed with the alert, often before most of the facts are in.
I certainly would not have put it as Mr. Manjo does, but he is right that ¨[s]martphones and social networks¨ are capable of flooding everybody with more ¨information¨ than one can possibly check or verify - and that is wholly apart from the fact that (i) smartphones and social networks also steal all your ¨private¨ information, and that (ii) there are 2 billion of the least intelligent who now all can ¨write¨ and do so ignorantly and anonymously.

But here is Mr. Manjo on Facebook and Twitter:

Avoid social.

This is the most important rule of all. After reading newspapers for a few weeks, I began to see it wasn’t newspapers that were so great, but social media that was so bad.

Just about every problem we battle in understanding the news today — and every one we will battle tomorrow — is exacerbated by plugging into the social-media herd. The built-in incentives on Twitter and Facebook reward speed over depth, hot takes over facts and seasoned propagandists over well-meaning analyzers of news.

You don’t have to read a print newspaper to get a better relationship with the news. But, for goodness’ sake, please stop getting your news mainly from Twitter and Facebook. In the long run, you and everyone else will be better off.

I say, which I do this time because I am quite relieved. Farhad Manjo is quite right about Twitter and Facebook, and indeed speaks for everyone with an IQ above 100. And this is a recommended article.

5. Is Donald Trump Fueling a Mass Extinction of Democracy Across the Planet?

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
Earlier this week, during a freewheeling speech to Republican donors at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump cracked the following joke about Chinese leader Xi Jinping: "He's now president for life. President for life. No, he's great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot someday."
Since Trump abruptly removed James Comey as FBI director last May, the United States has been slowly lurching toward a constitutional crisis. In January, we learned the president had ordered the firing of special prosecutor Robert Mueller last June, only to back off after White House attorney Don McGahn threatened to resign. (A New York Times report published Wednesday revealed that Trump has contacted several key witnesses in the collusion probe, directly disobeying his legal counsel). The following month, Trump lobbied the Justice Department to open investigations of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Meanwhile, his administration continues to stack the courts at a breakneck pace, trampling norms and procedures to accelerate the appointment of right-wing judges in a host of blue and purple states.

For Steven Levitsky, co-author of How Democracies Die, these are but two telltale signs of creeping authoritarianism. While violent coups have largely become a thing of the past, elected officials can dismantle a republic just as effectively as a military junta. Examples abound, from Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Hungary) to Latin America (Venezuela and Nicaragua) and Asia (Turkey, the Philippines and Singapore).
I take it the above is mostly correct, and indeed I am not at all amazed that Donald Trump implied he wants to be an American dictator, but then again I should add that I also am a psychologist who agrees with - it seems - some 70,000 other psychologists and psychiatrists who claimed that Donald Trump is not sane.

And the rest of this article is given to an interview with Steven Levitsky. I select three bits from it. Here is the first, which is about the chances for American democracy:

I think they're still fundamentally holding for now. But there's no question that the Trump administration has done what virtually every elected autocrat we've studied anywhere in the world has before him, which is go after the legal system, law enforcement and the courts in an effort to control the referees. That accomplishes two things: It creates a shield to protect the government from investigation and prosecution, and ultimately, it can be used as a weapon.

You can use the legal system to "legally" go after your rivals, and both Trump and the Justice Department have made noise about doing just that. This is straight out of the authoritarian playbook. I'd say I'm more worried now than I was when we first wrote How Democracies Die.
I also take it that Steven Levitsky (a Harvard professor) is a bit less radical than Jacob Sugarman (the editor of AlterNet), but I add that I do not know this.

Here is some about Levitsky´s assessments of the USA:
But things are so polarized now, and the Republicans have become so Trumpified, that there may not be enough votes even if Mueller uncovers egregious criminal activity. That would put us in uncharted territory, where impeachment becomes a truly double-edged sword. If Republicans actively oppose it, if it's viewed as a coup by the Fox News wing of the Republican Party, which is to say the majority, then it could tear the country apart.
Yes indeed: that is quite possible. And here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Trump may ultimately lead us into a devastating war, but I think we're actually fortunate that he doesn't have a political project. Or if he does, he doesn't have the discipline, the intelligence or the attention span to build something really destructive. If there's another major terrorist attack, I think all bets are off, but if we can get through the next three years crisis-free, I'd bet our democratic institutions muddle through.
Well... all of these are probabilistic judgements, but I think this is reasonable. I also think that Trump is a definite neofascist (in my sense of the term, and the Wikipedia does not have anything useful) and that he is a madman, who I agree ¨doesn't have the discipline, the intelligence or the attention span to build¨ a consistent and clear course for his values.

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 (!!). 

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