March 12, 2018

Crisis: American Press, USA & Peace, Google, War on Terror, Deregulating Wall Street


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 12, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Monday, March 12, 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 12, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. The Empty Piety of the American Press 
2. Why Does the United States Hate Peace?
3. The Pentagon's New Partner for Building Drones Should Make Us All

4. God Wills It: The War on Terror as the Launching of an American

5. One Thing Democrats and Republicans Apparently Agree On:
     Deregulating Wall Street
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. The Empty Piety of the American Press

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The press, giddy with its newfound sense of mission and purpose, is carrying out a moral crusade against Donald Trump. The airwaves and print have shed their traditional claims of “impartiality” and “objectivity.” They fulminate against Trump, charging—falsely—that he was elected because of Russian interference and calling him a liar, ignorant and incompetent. They give airtime to his bitterest critics and bizarre associates, such as Omarosa Manigault-Newman, a onetime star of “The Apprentice” and now a fired White House aide, and Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who says she had a sexual relationship with Trump. It is great entertainment. It is great for ratings. It is great for profits. But it is not moral, and it is not journalism.
Well... yes, but with two qualifications.

First, it is not all of the press that ¨
is carrying out a moral crusade against Donald Trump¨. I do not know how the pro-Trumpers, anti-Trumpers etc. are divided, proportionally speaking, but there surely are pro-Trumpers. And second, while I agree that what much of ¨the press¨ produces these days is not fine journalism, it is ¨journalism¨ of a kind, although I tend to agree with Hedges that it is mostly not an honest kind.

And I fully agree with Hedges that it is false that Trump ¨
was elected because of Russian interference¨: there is no evidence for this of any kind.

Here is some more:
The empty piety is a mask for self-interest. It is accompanied by the veneration of the establishment politicians, generals, intelligence chiefs, corporate heads and hired apologists who carried out the corporate coup d’état that created our system of “inverted totalitarianism.” The corporate structures that have a stranglehold on the country and have overseen deindustrialization and the evisceration of democratic institutions, plunging over half the country into chronic poverty and misery, are unassailable. They are portrayed as forces of progress. The criminals on Wall Street, including the heads of financial firms such as Goldman Sachs, are treated with reverence. Free trade is equated with freedom. Democratic politicians such as Barack Obama—who assaulted civil liberties, transferred trillions of dollars upward to reigning oligarchs, expanded the drone wars to include targeted assassinations of American citizens, and used the Espionage Act to silence investigative journalism—are hailed as champions of democracy. Deference is paid to democratic processes, liberties, electoral politics and rights enshrined in our Constitution, from due process to privacy, that no longer exist. It is a vast game of deception under the cover of a vacuous morality.
First on inverted totalitarianism. Hedges himself provides a link to the interviews he made in 2014 with Sheldon Wolin, and quite rightly so because these were fine interviews. I also all commented them, and here is a link to my comments: November 8, 2014 (with links to earlier comments).

And second, while I mostly agree with Hedges on the self-interest, the many dishonesties, and the straight lies of - especially - the mainstream press, I think it may be also fair (especially in view of the falls in decent education on all levels that have been going on nearly everywhere in the last 50+ years) to add that the lies, the self-interest and the dishonesties also seem to be believed (more or less) by quite a few.

But I find it impossible to say what proportion of journalists is cynically, clearly and consciously lying, and what proportion is - more or less - manipulated by it. I simply do not know, except that I am very cynical about the formal education that most did get if they were born since 1950.

Here is more on the real critics:
The most astute critics of empire, including Andrew Bacevich, are banished, as are critics of corporate power, including Ralph Nader and Chomsky. Those who decry the waste within the military, such as MIT Professor Emeritus Ted Postol, who has exposed the useless $13 billion anti-ballistic missile program, are unheard. Advocates of universal health care, such as Dr. Margaret Flowers, are locked out of national health care debates. There is a long list of the censored. The acceptable range of opinion is so narrow it is almost nonexistent.
Yes, I fully agree with this. And here is the main reason why journalism (or ¨journalism¨) in the USA will more or less continue as it is now, which consists mostly of touting propaganda (of various kinds, provided it is profitable to the media):
If the press sided with citizens and exposed the corporate systems of power that hold them captive, its advertising income would dwindle and it would be treated as an enemy of the state. Since corporations own the airwaves and declining city newspapers, this will not happen. Journalism will remain burlesque. (..) Dissenters and critics exist only on the margins of the internet, and the abolition of net neutrality will see them silenced.
In brief, the press (both in print and on the internet) is mostly corrupt and fraudulent because this pays, in fact since quite a while, and also if they would not speak or write the lies, untruths and propaganda they do write, money from advertisements would be gone.

Here is the ending from Chris Hedges:
Corporations that own the press look at news as a revenue stream. The news division competes against other revenue streams. If news does not produce comparable profits, its managers are replaced and its content is altered and distorted to draw in more viewers. Journalism is irrelevant. The disease of celebrity and greed, which warps and deforms the personality of Trump, warps and deforms celebrities in the media. They share Trump’s most distasteful characteristics. The consequences are ominous. An ignored, impoverished and frustrated underclass will turn to increasingly bizarre politicians and more outlandish con artists and purveyors of hate. Trump is only the beginning. (..)
Yes indeed, and this also is an additional important reason: In the previous century, the main end of the press (printed, then) was to provide their readers with the news. This was the main end, although a lot of propaganda and advertisements were part of the papers, and also of the news.

Since Reagan (approximately), ¨the news¨ has been redefined as one of many ¨revenue streams¨, and whether a ¨revenue stream¨ remains being published by ¨the press¨ is simply dependent on whether it is profitable enough (and not anymore on whether its presence or absence or indeed its truth matters to the readers).

I think this is right and the article is recommended, although I do not know whether Trump ¨
is only the beginning¨: He may be the end as well, and very probably will be if he starts a nuclear war.

2. Why Does the United States Hate Peace?

This article is by Ted Rall on Truthdig and originally on CounterPunch.

Kim Jong-On has good reasons to be afraid of us. In a speech to the UN President Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. President George W. Bush declared them a member of the “Axis of Evil”; we invaded and currently occupy Iraq, one of the two other supposed Evildoers. After deposing and enabling the execution of Iraq’s president. Last week Bush’s UN ambassador John Bolton published a legal argument for nuking North Korea without provocation.

Believe it or not, this is the soft side of U.S. foreign policy.

For decades South Korea has tried to deescalate its relationship with the North, not infrequently expressing its desire to end formal hostilities, which legally never ended after the Korean War, and move toward the long-term goal of a united Korea under a single government. And for decades the United States has stood in the way, awkwardly trying to look reasonable as it opposes peace.
Well... yes and no. I certainly do not know much about the histories of both Koreas since the Korean War of the early 1950ies, but I do know some, and the two North-Korean Kims that preceded the present Kim were quite obviously dictators: It is - at least - not just the United States that ¨stood in the way¨.

But apart from this correction, Rall seems mostly right. Here is more by him:
Even Mr. Reasonable, Barack Obama, refused to listen to South Koreans who want peace (and to visit long-lost relatives in North Korea). Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, Obama threatened to loose the dogs of war: “The United States of America will maintain the strongest military the world has ever known, bar none, always. That is what we do.” What Obama would not do was allow North and South Korea to sit down and work out their differences. Before talks, Obama said, North Korea would have to denuclearize. After which, of course, there would be no need for talks because, hey, regime change is fun!
In fact, I did not follow Obama´s policies with regards to both Koreas, but I agree with Rall (since late in 2009) that Barack Obama is a corrupt fraud much like Bill and Hillary Clinton: If there is one real objective that I can see and that marks all three - who all started poor - it is greed for money that they hoped (and succeeded) in realizing through their greed for power - and in fact these two motives seem to be behind most actions of most Senators and Congressmen.

Finally, here is Rall´s explanation for the present situation:

Why, a sane person might ask at this point, would U.S. policymakers want to risk World War III over two countries that repeatedly say they want to make peace and get back together?

For my money a 2007 analysis by the geopolitical thinktank Stratfor comes closest to explaining what’s really going on inside the Beltway: “The basic global situation can be described simply. The United States has overwhelming power. It is using that power to try to prevent the emergence of any competing powers. It is therefore constantly engaged in interventions on a political, economic and military level. The rest of the world is seeking to limit and control the United States. No nation can do it alone, and therefore there is a constant attempt to create coalitions to contain the United States. So far, these coalitions have tended to fail, because potential members can be leveraged out of the coalition by American threats or incentives.”

And while I think there is more to it, I think Stratfor´s analysis is correct so far as it goed, and this is also a recommended article.

3. The Pentagon's New Partner for Building Drones Should Make Us All Nervous

This article is by Mehreen Kasana on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
On Tuesday, a privacy and security report published by Gizmodo revealed that Google and the Pentagon are collaborating on developing drones. Known as Project Maven, the Department of Defense pilot project involves analyzing, combing through, defining, and categorizing visual data amassed by aerial drones. It wouldn’t be too far off to say the project would function as the Pentagon’s all-seeing eye.
I say, and indeed I did not know this. Then again, I am not amazed at all (and I also dislike Google so much and since quite a few years that I wholly avoid them, apart from Youtube).

Also, in case you ask: I think the end of Google and the Pentagon is to recognize everyone who gets photographed by a drone, and I think the techniques are there, although I do not know how many of the 7+ billion men and women there are right now have their photographs already in their secret dossiers at the NSA or the Pentagon. My guess is: most are, but this is a mere guess.

Here is more on Project Maven:

Project Maven was first initiated last year in April and is also known by the more tech-y title, Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT). According to Air Force Lieutenant General Jack Shanahan, the project aims to be the "spark that kindles the flame front of artificial intelligence across the rest of the [Defense] Department."

Through Project Maven, the Pentagon is able to follow the movement of people in the crosshairs of the aerial drones. And it’s apparently gearing up to attack ISIS enclaves in the Middle East. The purpose of allocating Google resources to a security apparatus like that of the Pentagon's is apparently to optimize and streamline the agency's processing of drone footage (..)
I guess this guess of Mehreen Kasana is correct, although I do not know.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, and it is about Google:

[I]t won’t be the first time Google came under scrutiny for offering services to a federal agency. A 2017 report in Quartz shed light on the origins of Google and how a significant amount of funding for the company came from the CIA and NSA for mass surveillance purposes. Time and again, Google's funding raises questions. In 2013, a Guardian report highlighted Google's acquisition of the robotics company Boston Dynamics, and noted that most of the projects were funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Well... what I will do is repeat myself. What I think (having read Brzezinski´s opinions of 1967, in which he either shows himself to have been an absolutely first class genius who could see 25 years into the future in 1967, or else - and FAR more probably - he helped to design for 25 years what became the DARPA-launched internet in the 1990ies):

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, in 1967 and 1970.)

And this is a recommended article.

4. God Wills It: The War on Terror as the Launching of an American Crusade

This article is by James Carroll on AlterNet and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:

America may be sinking ever deeper into the moral morass of the Trump era, but if you think the malevolence of this period began with him, think again. The moment I still dwell on, the moment I believe ignited the vast public disorder that is now our all-American world, has been almost completely forgotten here.  And little wonder.  It was no more than a casually tossed-off cliché, a passing historical reference whose implications and consequences meant nothing to the speaker. “This crusade,” said President George W. Bush just days after the 9/11 attacks, “this war on terrorism…”

That, however, proved to be an invocation from hell, one that set the stage for so much of the horror to follow.
Well... I noted the same back then, but I did not write about it, indeed because I thought (and think) that this word was not very important. I´ll turn to that in a moment. Here is what Bush Jr. did say in 2001:

“This is a new kind of evil.”  So said the president that September 16, standing on the South Lawn of the White House.  “And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.” In that way, only five days after the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush elevated a band of petty nihilists to the status of world-historic warriors. “And the American people must be patient,” he continued. “I’m going to be patient.”

And here are three of my reasons not to put too much on the term ¨crusade¨:

First, I find it very much more shocking that Bush Jr. was not elected as president of the USA, but was in fact nominated as such by the Supreme Court (for Al Gore got the majority of the votes, and Bush Jr. was nominated by the Supreme Court after the Court had preliminarily halted the Florida recount: See Bush vs. Gore).

Second, I also think - and I am not an American - that the official theory about the attack of 9/11 is false. I do not know what did happen, but the facts I do know make it more probable than not that this was in fact a ¨false flag¨ operation. I find the fact that the official theory about the attack of 9/11 seems false also far more serious than Bush´s speaking of a crusade.

Third, there is the fact that I have by now quite a few times presented Goering´s ideas about terrorism:


And to - at least - it seems as if Goering was right about the USA. And again I find this more serious than Bush Jr.´s use of the term ¨crusade¨.

Then again, James Carroll is right about the many horrors that followed Bush Jr.´s decision to go on his kind of crusade:

With what Bush himself called “the distance of history,” it’s now possible to see the havoc his “crusade” is still wreaking across much of the globe: Iraq and Afghanistan are in ruins; Syria destroyed (with RussianAmerican, Israeli, Turkish, and Iranian warplanes testing one another in its airspace); Yemen gripped by a war-induced famine; the Turks at the throat of the Kurds; the Israeli-Palestinian peace process dead; Libya a failed state; U.S. Special Ops garrisons in Somalia, Niger, and across Africa; and Europe increasingly politically destabilized by refugee flows from these conflicts.

Yes indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which is about the single dissenter (!!!) to effectively provide Bush Jr. and his government with a blank check:

The lone dissenter that day was Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat. In warning against the coming American crusade, she denounced the Joint Congressional Resolution as “a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the Sept. 11 events -- anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation’s long-term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit.” She added all too prophetically, “A rush to launch precipitous military counterattacks runs too great a risk that more innocent men, women, children will be killed.”

As they were, as they still are.  Lest one assume that responsibility for the catastrophe that followed rests solely upon Bush and his hawkish circle, remember that the administration’s responses were approved by 90% of the American public, the highest presidential approval rating ever achieved, while a full 80% of them expressly favored Bush’s open-ended war against Afghanistan.
Again yes indeed. And James  Carroll is also quite right that astonishingly many Americans supported Bush Jr. (although this was also in part due to Bush Jr.´s propaganda). This is a recommended article.

5. One Thing Democrats and Republicans Apparently Agree On: Deregulating Wall Street

This article is by David Dayen on Common Dreams and originally on The Los Angeles Times. It starts as follows:
Next week marks the 10th anniversary of the run on Bear Stearns, the investment bank that collapsed under the weight of toxic subprime mortgages. Although JPMorgan Chase snapped up Bear Stearns for pennies on the dollar, this maneuver failed to stop the bleeding from the mortgage meltdown, leading to the biggest economic crisis in nearly a century.

That seems like a terrible political backdrop for the Senate to pass a bill that deregulates the banking sector. But that's exactly what's about to happen.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, which pro-regulation groups have called the "Bank Lobbyist Act," advanced in the Senate this week with the support of 50 Republicans, 16 Democrats, and one Democratic-leaning independent. Bipartisanship, it seems, isn't dead.

We're witnessing a familiar swing of the pendulum: toward regulation when banks crash the economy, away from regulation when memories fade. The next stop is often financial crisis, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office stated this week that the bipartisan legislation would increase the risk of another one happening.

Yes, I quite agree. And I also admit that by now I am feeling ambiguous about this. My reasons are these two:

First, a major economical or financial crisis will hit tens or hundreds of millions of the poor and the non-rich, which is very unfair because they certainly did not make the crisis. And second, I think a major economical or financial crisis is necessary to get rid of the system of systematic exploitation that the few rich have successfully set up. (That is, the system works, but it does so for at most 10% of the population.)

Then again, I have to add a third reason: I knew already that the Republicans are in vast majority greedy profiteers who only think about their own riches and those of their families, but now, with nearly a third of the Democrats in the Senate who also seem to have the wish to get as rich as possible I give up on the majority of the Democrats as well.

Here is more on the latest plan to enrich the rich ¨democratically¨:

Pitched as a way to provide regulatory relief for community banks, the bill goes well beyond that; it rolls back key pieces of the Dodd-Frank Act and includes giveaways to large institutions of the same size and scope as the ones that crashed the economy in 2008.

The most important measure in the legislation raises the threshold for enhanced regulatory supervision by the Federal Reserve from $50 billion to $250 billion. The beneficiaries, 25 of the top 38 banks in America, could be called "stadium banks:" not big enough to count as Wall Street mega-banks, but big enough to have a sports stadium named after them.

A failure of one or more of these banks would likely be catastrophic — a fact made obvious by the recent past.
Here is the reason why a considerable part ¨of the Senate Democratic caucus¨ support Trump´s aims and the the banks: They are, in two words, corrupt frauds who want to get as much money for themselves as they can get:

So why would more than one-third of the Senate Democratic caucus provide the margin of victory on a bill assisting Trump's aims?

The answer is simple: money. North Dakota, Indiana and Montana may not have any banking giants within their borders, but the top three recipients of campaign donations from commercial banks since 2017 are Democrats from those states who are up for reelection in November: Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, and Jon Tester.

This whole process reveals that bipartisanship usually arrives in Washington at the barrel of a money cannon.

Precisely. 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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