April 28, 2018

Crisis: PAC Money, Chinese Journalism, Korean News, Trump's Manias, The JFK Files, The Press


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 28, 2018
     B. One extra bit

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, April 28, 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from April 28, 2018
1. 2020 Democratic Contenders Are Making the “Cheap Gesture” of
     Swearing Off Corporate PAC Money

2. The Demise of Watchdog Journalism in China
3. Peace Activists Celebrate as Korean Leaders Vow to Officially End War
4. An Epic Disaster: Trump's Manic and Disjointed Fox and Friends
     Interview Brings New Trouble For His Legal Team

5. Here's Why Key JFK Files Held by the CIA Continue to Stay Secret
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. 2020 Democratic Contenders Are Making the “Cheap Gesture” of Swearing Off Corporate PAC Money

This article is by Zaid Jilani on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., became the latest lawmaker to swear off all donations from corporate political action committees, telling a radio host in mid-April that she made the move after being asked about it at a town hall by a constituent.

Harris joins five other senators who have vowed not to take corporate PAC contributions: Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.; and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

With the exception of Cantwell, these senators are regularly floated 2020 presidential contenders, giving them political incentive to declare themselves independent of corporate money. Many Americans have grown increasingly distrustful of big business’s influence in politics since the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
I say, which I do because I did not know this. Then again, while this may sound noble, the real questions are two:

First, how much financial difference makes this giving up of corporate PAC contribution? And second, indeed in part because I have been saying the last two days that most of the Democratic Senators (at least) seem to be more interested in getting personally rich by means of politics than in helping others: Does this make it plausible or credible that the Democrats are not corrupt in majority?

Here is a first step towards answering my questions:
Swearing off corporate PAC money can be one positive step a lawmaker can take towards reducing the corrupting influence of money on politics. But it’s far from enough.

The reason is that money from PACs – corporate or otherwise — comprises a relatively insignificant portion of these senators’ campaign contributions, raising the question of whether curtailing donations from corporate PACs will really make a difference. Critics think it doesn’t, noting that the bigger threat of influence comes from wealthy donors who don’t funnel their cash through PACs. But for politicians looking to seize on public discontent with the influence of money on politics, the decision makes for an effective messaging ploy.
In fact here is a list of the percentages of money each of the six received from PACs (derived from the article):

Harris:        4.89%      (64.9% from large donors)
Booker:     10.37%      (76.40% from large donors)
Gillibrand:   6.95%      (52.15% from large donors)
Warren:      1.4%        (29.2% from large donors)
Cantwell:    0.61%       (73.61% from large donors)
Sanders:     1.73%       (17.70% from large donors)

I also note that only Warren and Sanders got most of the money they get from small donors.

In other words, to restate the last line of the last quote: It was a rather easy and obvious trick - as soon as you know the percentages: See above) - to gain considerable political influence by giving up very little.

That is:
These figures make clear that the senators are giving up relatively little money by swearing off donations from corporate PACs — it just isn’t a very big portion of their overall campaign funding. Which raises the question: Is it really possible that the system is being corrupted by sums of money this small?
Of course the answer to this last question should be: Of course not - the corruption (in the cases of these Senators) is not due to the small amounts they get from the PACs but (if it exists, which I think it does) is mostly due to their large donors.

There are only two (Democratic) Senators for whom this may be different:
In that regard, Warren and Sanders deserve an honorable mention, as they are the only senators in this group of six who got the majority of their campaign funding from small individual contributors since 2013. Nobody else comes close.
Additionally and briefly: None of this undermines my ideas that most Democratic Senators are in fact corrupt (as are the Republicans), indeed except for Warren and Sanders. And this is a recommended article.

2. The Demise of Watchdog Journalism in China

This article is by Helen Gao on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
As unfettered capitalism reached a fever pitch in China in the early 2000s, a boom in investigative journalism was hailed as the most salient example of growing citizen power. National politics, which had disappeared from public conversations after the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, again felt immediate and personal.

A middle school student at the time, I spent weekend afternoons poring over Southern Weekly, the standard-bearer of investigative journalism, devouring exposés of urban crimes and corporate scandals, a reality that was worlds apart from my cocooned life in a university neighborhood.

The newspaper’s journalists, heralding the new era, wrote in a 1999 editorial that investigative journalism should “give power to the powerless, and motivate the pessimists to march on.”

But we don’t hear that pledge, or anything like it, today.

More than five years into President Xi Jinping’s rule, the more insidious implications of his authoritarian revival are coming into focus. One casualty is investigative journalism. Having suffered a decline as rapid as their rise, muckraking journalists feel lost.

And these sentiments are widespread, felt beyond the world of journalism. State oppression has decimated civil society and negated years of social progress, casting a pall on the public mood.
I say, which I do because I did not know this and because I think it is quite interesting.

Here is some more:

Riding on those successes, regional newspapers like Southern Weekly, Southern Metropolis Daily, and Dahe Daily rose to national prominence. Despite their government affiliations, these papers enjoyed relative freedom thanks to liberal-minded political leaders who considered investigative reporters political allies.
I suppose this is both true and in the past. And in fact here is a reference to a very good book by a Chinese - very courageous, quite intelligent - journalist, namely Liu Binyan's "A Higher Kind Of Loyalty", that appeared in 1990.

In fact, many of his conclusions - see:
"A Higher Kind Of Loyalty" - are not optimistic (but I think they are correct, at least for the most part): Only a small percent of the Chinese population - living in the kind of society they do live in (!!) - is honest, fair, and informed, while a large percent is dishonest or unfair or uninformed, and besides may be personally greedy.

There are several "typically Chinese" reasons for this:

Written Chinese is much more difficult to learn than written Western languages, which means that, certainly in the 60ies and 70ies, there was much less knowledge of the real facts (in science, in art, in politics, in philosophy, etc.) than would have been the case if many more Chinese had been able to read Chinese well, and besides China was poor and backward compared to Europe and the USA, and also was effectively a Communist dictatorship since 1949.

And I think that besides there also are some general human reasons for this:

Most people are neither very intelligent, nor very interested in things that fall outside their personal lives, and besides, most people tend to be conformists, who conform because this is the best or only reason (for persons of their talents and/or background) to get the things done they want done for themselves and their families - and both tendencies will be much stronger in a dictatorial society in which many cannot read, or cannot read well.

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

Tuning out is increasingly the choice of disaffected young journalists. Where there had been idealism and mettle a decade ago, there is now a breezy acceptance of the status quo.

And the feeling of resignation in response to the oppression under Mr. Xi is so widespread among young people that it has a label: the Buddhist youth attitude. It denotes a noncompetitive, laissez-faire existence based on the idea that little that is out of reach is worth striving for.

Yes, I agree, indeed because this is familiar from Liu Binyan and also because this additional conformism is mostly due to increased "oppression under Mr. Xi".

And this is a strongly recommended article (and I agree Xi is not doing well).

3. Peace Activists Celebrate as Korean Leaders Vow to Officially End War

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
History has been made on the Korean peninsula today, as South Korean President Moon Jae-In and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un shook hands at the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries and pledged to work to denuclearize the peninsula and to declare the official end to the Korean War. Today’s historic summit marks the first time a North Korean leader has ever set foot inside South Korea. During the meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said “I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation.” The North and South Korean leaders pledged to pursue talks with the United States aimed at negotiating a formal peace treaty to replace the uneasy 1953 armistice. For more we speak with Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Colonel and former State Department diplomat. She is a member of Women Cross DMZ, a group of international peacemakers who have been calling for an end to the Korean War.
I say, which I do because I did not know this. Also, I agree that this is quite important. In fact (in a radical verbal packaging), it seems as if the leaders of both Koreas have agreed to significantly bring down the tensions between both Koreas, because if they do not, then president Trump may decide to blow both up by American atomic bombs.

Here is the president of South Korea followed by Amy Goodman:

MOON JAE-IN: Kim Jong-un and I declared together that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun.

AMY GOODMAN: Those were the words of South Korean President Moon Jae-in as he held a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. After shaking hands at the demilitarized zone between the two countries, the two leaders pledged to work to denuclearize the Peninsula and to declare the official end to the Korean War. Today’s historic summit marks the first time a North Korean leader has ever set foot inside South Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wrote in a guest book “a new history starts now. An age of peace, from the starting point of history.”
I say, again (for this is the first time in 65 years). And here is the president of North Korea:

KIM JONG-UN: We will make efforts to create good results by communicating closely in order to make sure our agreement signed today before the entire world will not end as just a beginning like previous agreements before today.

Finally, here is Ann Wright:
AMY GOODMAN:  (...) Did you ever think you would see this day?

ANN WRIGHT: Holy smoke, no. This is just really remarkable. The last 12 hours have just stunned everyone, of the incredible, incredible work that has been done by the South Korean government with the North Korean government. And for them to have been able to come out with a communiqué, an agreement that is stunning, that has—I mean, I couldn’t have written it any better. All of the wants that we of the world who want peace for the Korean Peninsula, who could have written everything down—we couldn’t have added anything more to what they have come up with. It is really a beautiful, beautiful agreement, worked very hard by both governments. And I certainly hope the United States government will agree with all parts of it and that, indeed, the people of Korea will finally have peace on their Peninsula.

Yes, I agree with her: It is considerably more than I expected.

4. An Epic Disaster: Trump's Manic and Disjointed Fox and Friends Interview Brings New Trouble For His Legal Team

This article is by Heather Digby Parton on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from near the beginning:
Since Trump doesn't give normal press conferences and is refusing to give many interviews, his only outlet in that case was his morning briefing team of Brian Kilmeade, Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt of "Fox & Friends," who happily accepted his call on Thursday morning. He sounded unusually energized, speaking at twice his normal speed, and was obviously extremely agitated. The president doesn't drink coffee or I might have suspected he'd had a couple of quad espressos before he picked up the phone. Perhaps he downs a six pack of Diet Cokes upon waking. Whatever the case, he was as manic and disjointed as we've ever heard him. And that's saying something.
Yes indeed. And in fact I selected this article because I am a philosopher and a psychologist (in terms of excellent diplomas, and the vast majority is not) who has been saying for more than two years now (in Nederlog) that I think that Trump is not sane (he has a narcissistic personality disorder) and he is a neofascist (on my definition, literally on each point), but neither idea seems popular at present.

Well... that Trump is a neofascist depends on my definition of neofascism, and while I think my definition is a good one, the whole term "neofascism" seems extremely ill-defined, in fact rather like the term "fascism", which is less unclear, but still has over 20 - sometimes quite different - definitions, of which 10 to 15 are also mostly serious (while at most one can apply to the real facts, in the best way).

So I am not much amazed that my thesis that Trump is a neofascist is not popular. But I am somewhat amazed that - while there now seem to be some 70,000 psychologists who agree with me - Trump is still not widely considered (at least) pretty crazy, simply because his words often are, he is an enormous liar, and 70,000 psychologists agree that he is a fairly typical narcissist.

Would this be an influence of the asocial media, where mostly the morons feed other morons with wild fantasies rather than firm facts or rational reasons?!

Anyway. Here is some more:

There was more craziness, most of it just vintage incoherent Trump rambling, escalating in tone and manic energy all the way through. But threading through the entire conversation was a lot of discussion about the Justice Department, the FBI, Michael Cohen and Robert Mueller, all of which are obviously very much on his mind. Some of what the president said immediately got him into trouble, and the rest may have far-reaching ramifications.

First, Trump said that Cohen only did "a tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal work but that "Michael would represent me and represent me on some things, he represents me — like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal."
I agree with the "more craziness", but it was not merely crazy but also stupid to drop Michael Cohen as Trump did e.g. because it still is not explained who paid the $130,000 to Daniels to make her shut up.

Here is more by Parton in both points:
Trump's greatest mistake, however, may have been tossing Michael Cohen to the wolves by saying, "I have nothing to do with his business." That's a little hard to believe, since Cohen was an executive vice president of the Trump Organization for more than a decade. Cohen certainly had to hear it as his old boss casting him aside. It was also cruel of Trump to destroy Cohen's claim of attorney-client privilege for his own sake. You can bet that prosecutors will remind Cohen of Trump's words when they ask him if he might have some information he'd like to share with them.
Yes, I agree and this is a recommended article.
5. Here's Why Key JFK Files Held by the CIA Continue to Stay Secret

This article is by Jefferson Morley on AlterNet and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows:
Of all the fascinating and weird things about the JFK assassination story, the veil of official secrecy that still surrounds the subject a half-century later is one of the most fascinating and weird.
Yes, I quite agree, though John F. Kennedy was murdered 55 years ago. I have read some of the very extensive literature that was written about this in the 1970ies (notably Mark Lane) but not much.

So I am certainly not a specialist, but I do have one rather firm conclusion: The fact that the CIA is still keeping secret many of the JFK files they have (after 55 years) strongly suggests that the CIA knows much more than it has released, and indeed may itself have neen involved (somehow, directly or indirectly) in organizing it.

Here is more from the article:

On President Trump’s April 26 deadline for full disclosure of the JFK files, that veil of secrecy is still in place. According to the Mary Ferrell Foundation’s analysis of the National Archives database, some 21,890 JFK files remain wholly or partially secret. Approximately 85 percent of the still-secret files are held by the CIA and FBI.

Such secrecy not only stokes JFK conspiracy theories and the specter of a “deep state.” It also discourages historians, journalists and students from completing the historical record of JFK’s murder.
This is all true, and I do not know now what Trump has released.

Here is a simple reason why it still is important:
The president of the United States was gunned down in broad daylight, and no one was ever brought to justice. No one at the CIA or FBI even lost their job over this atrocious intelligence failure. Now tell me exactly, how did that happen?
I can make an attempt to answer the last question: Because many of the files were kept secret by the CIA.

In fact, it seems the CIA agrees:

The prospects that scholars, journalists, and interested citizens will ever see all of these files this week are not bright. The reason is found in the recently released transcript of what Angleton told Senate investigators behind closed doors in September 1975.

“It is inconceivable,” he said behind closed doors, “that a secret intelligence arm of the Government has to comply with all of the overt orders of the Government.”

My own reply to James Angelton's (rather crazy) claim is: It is inconceivable that Angelton's claim is compatible with democratic government.

Here is - so far - the outcome on releasing the Kennedy files:
Congress voted unanimously in favor of the JFK Records Act, which mandates the release of all files. The act was signed into law George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and implemented by Bill Clinton, a Democrat. President Trump favors full disclosure. Yet the will of the people—it seems a quaint concept these days—has not been achieved despite the letter and spirit of the law.

Indeed, since October 26, 2017, the CIA has flouted the JFK Records Act.
That is: The CIA - still - has the power, in spite of laws signed by Bush Sr, and by Bill Clinton.
And this is a recommended article.

B. One extra bit

Persons who read considerably more of Nederlog than a few daily bits - Nederlog exists since 2006 (or indeed, but only about Holland, from 2004 till 2006) and is fully present on my site - know that until a couple of years ago I regularly reviewed seven or eight articles a day.

I stopped doing so for various reasons some years ago. The most important one is that I have a serious chronic disease since 1.i.1979 (and meanwhile am almost 68), but a secondary important one is that I thought reviewing 5 of the best or most interesting articles I could find every day on 35 sites was generally sufficient (while it is also something I do not know anyone else does).

But occasionally I do find special bits, and this is one:
In fact, I did not (yet) see this, indeed mostly because I much prefer to read over viewing discussions and having to listen, but there is (as yet) no text for the interview. I selected it nevertheless, and for the following reason (quoted from the introduction):

In a recent episode of "On Contact," his video series with RT, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges speaks with Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, about the destruction of the independent press in the United States.

Hedges calls attention to the algorithms of Facebook, Google and Twitter, and how they steer traffic away from anti-war and progressive websites, while Miller speaks of the frightening historical precedent of the homogenization of the press.

"I think what we have seen over the decades since the mid-70s, and I'm going to make a provocative comparison here, is something analogous to what the Nazis called gleichschaltung, which means streamlining," Miller says. "When they came to power, they made it their business to make sure that not only all media outlets but all industries, all sectors of the culture, would be streamlined, which meant getting rid of anyone who was not fully on board with the Nazi program."

Miller adds that this is "unprecedented in American experience." He says, "Even ten years ago I would have flinched if someone compared our press to the Nazi press."

I think this very well may be correct, although I should add that the "Gleichschaltung" (which does not mean "streamlining" but "making equal") in the USA does not happen by law (mostly) but by money. It is quite important, and that is the reason this interview is here.


[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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