Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

July 18, 2018

Crisis: Robust Debates, Facebook Etc., Trial Runs, U.S. Special Forces, Trump-Putin Summit


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 18, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, July 18, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 18, 2018:
1. We Need “Robust Debate” in Reporting on Russia, Not “Suffocating
     Consensus”
2. Why I Hate Google, Twitter, and Facebook
3. Trial Runs for Fascism Are in Full Flow
4. The Global Growth of U.S. Special Operations Forces
5. Open Thread: Trump-Putin Summit and Mounting Hysteria
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. We Need “Robust Debate” in Reporting on Russia, Not “Suffocating Consensus”

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
President Trump drew bipartisan outrage from lawmakers and media outlets Monday after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and lashing out at his own intelligence agencies over the investigation of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, calls the Trump and Putin press conference “bizarre and surreal,” but says the media reaction lacked perspective: “I think that people kind of lost their bearings.”
Yes, and I think Vanden Heuvel (who - incidentally - has a Dutch family name that must be mispronounced horribly in the USA) is correct with her “bizarre and surreal”. I review another article below (item 5) that has a similar though probably not identical point of view.

And here is some more background:

AMY GOODMAN: And, folks, by the way, you can go to democracynow.org to see the debate, both on the air and after the air, between Joe Cirincione, who is president of Ploughshares Fund, very much for pushing—has been a longtime anti-nuclear activist, but did not feel this summit should take place, that Trump made the wrong decision, and Glenn Greenwald, who felt exactly the opposite, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Go to democracynow.org. But the summit and what happened—

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —and the news conference, the outcry across the United States? It’s not just CNN and MSNBC.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: But not across the—it’s not across the United States, it’s across the media universe of the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: Right, not just CNN and MSNBC, but Fox, as well.

Yes, I think Amy Goodman is right about the two interviews she published with Greenwald and Cirincione. I reviewed them yesterday (here and here) and they are good and deserve to be read.

And here is Katrina vanden Heuvel:

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: You know, there’s a kind of maniacal defensiveness on the part of Trump to defend the legitimacy of his election, which leads to this—what we saw at the press conference, which was kind of bizarre and surreal. Was it treasonous? Did it rise to high crimes and misdemeanors? Was it surrender? Was it akin to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor, as some have called? I think the rhetoric was disproportionate to what we saw. We saw a Trump, who we’ve already seen bully his way across Europe, who can very well look unhinged, and it was not America’s—it was kind of ugly and shameful to watch, but I think that people kind of lost their bearings.

To me, there were three points that I come out of. One is that the investigation into Russian interference in our election must continue, must be protected, that our electoral system must be strengthened so that it is free and fair. That’s going to be a lot of work. And number three is that we don’t isolate Russia, we engage. And that does not mean legitimizing an authoritarian leader. We have an American authoritarian, they’ve got a Russian authoritarian. But it does mean understanding the context of two countries holding 90 percent of the nuclear weapons, that The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock a minute or so ahead. Midnight is doomsday. We’re a more perilous situation than we have been in since the Cuban missile crisis. So, I think we need to step back.

I more or less agree, but I do not think ¨that people kind of lost their bearings¨ or else that if they did they lost them before, and in either case what very many journalists and editors in the mainstream media have become and are becoming more and more: Totalitarian.

Except that you cannot say so according to Wikipedia, that now has a completely falsified and lying definition of ¨totalitarianism¨ that was inspired by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who also seems to have planned the modern internet computer so as to become the most supreme tool of spying on all living people (with internet connection) that has ever been designed and imposed on people everywhere, that also will learn very far more of their total lives (including their ¨private¨ emails and ¨private¨ pornography) than these people themselves are able to recall.

According to that insane definition:

¨Totalitarianism is a political concept where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to control every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.¨

No, it is not. This implies (and is used that way) that persons, parties and programs cannot be totalitarian in any sense unless these persons, parties or programs belong to a totalitarian state - which is utter baloney, and not at all as George Orwell and many others used the term:

Totalitarianism - and this is my definition:

Totalitarian: Ideology or religion that is pretended to have final answers to many important human questions and problems and that is pretended to be thereby justified to persecute persons who do not agree with the ideology or the religion.

And then these ideologies or religions - both Catholicism and Protestantism were quite totalitarian for centuries - may take over power, either of a nation, but also of a religion, or (part of) a (political) ideology anywhere, and not just in ¨totalitarian states¨.

But not according to Wikipedia and Brzezinski. Here is the last bit by Vanden Heuvel (I am Dutch, and use the Dutch conventions to spell her family name) that in fact describes totalitarianism in my sense quite well:

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: The vilification of alternative, dissenting views or linking those views to a foreign power—in many people’s views, an implacably hostile foreign power—is the degradation of our political media culture. When Rand Paul, who is interesting on foreign policy, reminds, as The New York Times
has over the last—you know, that America has meddled in other countries’ elections, has interfered, has overthrown countries’ governments, and contributors tweet “traitor”? And I would also mention Glenn Greenwald. We talked of him earlier. Malcolm Nance, a very ubiquitous commentator on on intelligence and other issues, said Glenn was—I’m going to read it, because it’s so outrageous—”an agent of Trump & Moscow … deep in the Kremlin’s pocket.” This is—we’ve seen this in our history before. And I think it is—it’s dangerous when you have a suffocating consensus instead of a full, robust debate.

She is right - but she is speaking about totalitarianism in my and in Orwell´s sense, which is contradictory to the sick and stupid definition that seems to go back to Brzezinski in the 1970ies.

And there is a lot more in this interview that is recommended:

2. Why I Hate Google, Twitter, and Facebook

This article is by Lambert Strether on Naked Capitalism. It starts as follows:
I am a blogger. It is my job to blog, which I’ve been doing on a daily basis since 2003. Reading and writing is what I do all day. I’m lucky to be able to survive doing it, and I’m happy to be doing it (..). I hate Google because it tries to make me a stupid reader. I hate Twitter and Facebook because they make me a stupid writer. I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for some time, so allow me to explain.
In fact, I am not a blogger and also not a journalist, although it is more or less true that I read and write all day, in so far as this is possible. If you were to ask me what I am, I suppose my reply will be on these lines:

First, I am ill for forty years with a ¨chronic serious disease¨ called ME/CFS that I am only ¨allowed¨ to call
a ¨chronic serious disease¨ (in Holland) since March of 2018. Second, I am a philosopher because I had studied that since more than 20 years until I was illegally denied to take the M.A. degree in it because I was not a Marxist (in a fundamentally (pseudo-)Marxist and quite totalitarian ¨University¨ of Amsterdam that was Marxist and totalitarian from 1971 till 1995 and that is authoritarian and totalitarian since 1995). Third, I am a psychologist because I decided to take the M.A. degree in psychology after the M.A. degree in philosophy had been stolen from me and did so. (But I don´t take psychology very seriously.)

And in so far as my website is concerned (which exists since 1996 and is over 500 MB) I´d say that I am an academically educated person who tries to find out and write the truth - which is incidentally a concept that was denied to exist in the whole ¨University¨ of Amsterdam since 1978, when everybody was told the utter lie that (literally, in translation)
  • ¨Everybody knows that truth does not exist¨
It turned out by 1982 that 95% of the students in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam (average IQ: 115) did believe that... (and I gave up).

Back to Strether´s article.

As I explained, apart from reading and writing a lot, I am not like Strether, but I agree with him on Google, Twitter and Facebook. Then again, I am also unlike him in that I don´t use Google since five years, I never used Twitter, and I think I have visited Facebook pages around two times ever since they exist. (I also do not have a TV since 1970, because it is too stupid and too propagandistic).

So in several ways I am rather handicapped (and indeed want to be handicapped), but I recommend Strether´s article because I mostly agree with it, and because it contains quite a number of graphical images I have all deleted in this review.

Here is Strether about Google:
In the news links column at left, there are a grand total of nine (9) stories. Please, can we get the steam-era list of blue links back, where we could scan 30 or 40 headlines in a single second’s saccade? And note the sources: CNN, HuffPost, Fox, WaPo, NBC News, NPR, CNN, and the WSJ. This is an ecoystem about as barren as my neighbor’s lawn! (And if you click on the laughingly named “View full coverage” link, you’ll see a page just as empty and vacuous though slightly less barren, with more obcure sources, like Reuters. Or Salon.) You will also note the obvious way in which the page has been gamed by gaslighters and moral panic engineers, who can drive every other story off the front page through sheer volume Finally, you’ll note that the fact checkers include organs of state security, in the form of polygraph.info, “a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America (VOA)​ and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.”
I take it this is all true. Here is more on Google:
Famously, the normal Google search page ends with “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next.” Crapified though Google search results are, if you spend some time clicking and scanning, you’ll generally be able to come up with something useful five or ten pages in, maybe (if you’re lucky) from a source you don’t already know exists. Not so with Google “News.” When the page ends, it just ends. When the algo has coughed up whatever hairball it’s coughed up, it’s done. No more. Again, this is news? What about the same story a week ago? A month ago? What does “our democracy” have a free press for, if Google gets in the way of being able to find anything?
Quite so - and incidentally, I have been using DuckDuckGo since quite a few years, and have had no problems with it.

Next there is the utterly moronified and moronifying Twitter:
I’ll have a sidebar on those miserably inadequate writing tools, at left, in a moment. For now, look at the bottom right: Those disruptive Silicon Valley engineers have innovated the paragraph:
(..)

When you click that plus sign, you get… A second Tweet, connected to the first, in an easy-to-close-accidentally modal dialog box!

Here, I remind you of the steam age of Blogger, where you could — hold onto your hats, here, folks — create a post, composed of paragraphs — or, if you were a poet, lines; or an artist, images and captions; or an accountant, tables — all with at least some degree of “flow” and ease. You could even have subheads, to divide your content into sections!
Precisely. But not on Twitter, for that forces you to be propagandistic, and makes it virtually impossible to argue anything other than by propaganda or by scolding (anonymously, of course).

Then again, it does print your name or alias always twice - which also is repeated in most non-Twitter mediums, that copy some of it: Twitter is designed for vain people who only propagandize or scold, generally because they lack the brains for anything else.

Finally, we come to Facebook that I hate since first knowing it, and never was a member of (I rather kill myself, indeed) and that I do not recall ever using or seeing except twice:
Now we turn to the loathesome Facebook, which I haven’t used for about a year, thankfully.
(..)
As you can see, it’s as miserably inadequate as Twitter’s and for the same reasons, technical and (no doubt) political (..). But to a writer Facebook is uniquely insulting and degrading, first because the big type of the default text and the small size of the edit box both drive me to post material that’s not even short form. Worse is the space devoted to an entire menu bar of buttons for cute backgrounds, instead of a menu bar of writely tools, like links, and blockquotes, and paragraphs. And you can’t even drag the modal dialog box bigger!
I agree with Strether that all of this is a matter of conscious design.
As you can see, it’s as miserably inadequate as Twitter’s and for the same reasons, technical and (no doubt) political[3]. But to a writer Facebook is uniquely insulting and degrading, first because the big type of the default text and the small size of the edit box both drive me to post material that’s not even short form. Worse is the space devoted to an entire menu bar of buttons for cute backgrounds, instead of a menu bar of writely tools, like links, and blockquotes, and paragraphs. And you can’t even drag the modal dialog box bigger!
I suppose this is correct, and indeed Facebook is not designed to help you write: It is designed to make Mark Zuckerberg the richest person in the world, which he almost is since he knows (in principle) very much more about each of his members than they can recall themselves, and enriches himself by selling your privacies to advertisers.

Anyway... this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is a lot more than I reviewed.
3. Trial Runs for Fascism Are in Full Flow

This article is by Fintan O´Toole on Common Dreams and originally on the Irish Times. It starts as follows:
To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.
Does Fintan O´Toole have any decent idea about what fascism is? I do, and indeed seriously considered 21 different definitions of the term (here: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions) but - while I am following the crisis now since ten years and have written over 2000 articles on various aspects of the crisis - I have absolutely never met any journalist or indeed any politician whatsoever (always apart from George Orwell, in the 1940ies) who did give any definition of fascism, or indeed who seems to have as much as read the easy to find Wikipedia article about these definitions.

My inference is that it is very likely O´Toole knows about as much about fascism as most journalists, which is hardly anything at all, though this does not - of course! - keep them from writing about ¨fascism¨ as if everyone knows what it means.

Here is more by
O´Toole:
Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate.
(..)
Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power.
So I am supposed to understand that ¨it is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility¨? Why not? Who knows what they are? It is not as if the papers or sites I daily read are full of ¨freedom and civility¨, although I am willing to suppose that a minority
may have some sensible ideas on their meaning.

And then there are these ¨trial runs¨ which are one of the two things that ¨we¨ must all know so that ¨we¨ can ¨
grasp what is going on in the world right now¨. I am sorry, but I do not even know what O´Toole means by ¨trial runs¨. (Whose trials? What for? How managed? What sort of ¨runs¨? Etc.)

Then - after you agreed on the trial runs - there is this:
But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.
But people were supposed to be full of ideas about ¨freedom and civility¨?! Here is the last nit that I quote from O´Toole:
The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable. So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality.
I say. But in fact, although I am quite sure I know how to think, I cannot ¨think the unthinkable¨ and indeed cannot learn it either, for that involves an impossibility. And it seems to me that O´Toole mostly wrote baloney.

4. The Global Growth of U.S. Special Operations Forces

This article is by Nick Turse on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch. This is from near its beginning:

And there had been, as the New York Times noted in March, at least 10 other previously unreported attacks on American troops in West Africa between 2015 and 2017. Little wonder since, for at least five years, as Politico recently reported, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and other commandos, operating under a little-understood legal authority known as Section 127e, have been involved in reconnaissance and “direct action” combat raids with African special operators in Somalia, Cameroon, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia.

None of this should be surprising, since in Africa and across the rest of the planet America’s Special Operations forces (SOF) are regularly engaged in a wide-ranging set of missions including special reconnaissance and small-scale offensive actions, unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, hostage rescue, and security force assistance (that is, organizing, training, equipping, and advising foreign troops). And every day, almost everywhere, U.S. commandos are involved in various kinds of training.

Unless they end in disaster, most missions remain in the shadows, unknown to all but a few Americans. And yet last year alone, U.S. commandos deployed to 149 countries -- about 75% of the nations on the planet. At the halfway mark of this year, according to figures provided to TomDispatch by U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM), America’s most elite troops have already carried out missions in 133 countries.

In fact, this article is too long to properly review, but I am using it to stress the fact that (i) in 149 countries or three quarters of all countries, the US military is deployed, and (ii) in 133 countries the US military has been active.

Here is some more:

All this means that, on any given day, more than 8,000 exceptionally well-equipped and well-funded special operators from a command numbering roughly 70,000 active-duty personnel, reservists, and National Guardsmen as well as civilians are deployed in approximately 90 countries. Most of those troops are Green Berets, Rangers, or other Army Special Operations personnel. According to Lieutenant General Kenneth Tovo, head of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command until his retirement last month, that branch provides more than 51% of all Special Operations forces and accounts for more than 60% of their overseas deployments. On any given day, just the Army’s elite soldiers are operating in around 70 countries.

This means that ¨on any given day, just the Army’s elite soldiers are operating in around¨ 60% of the countries American military forces are involved in, which again is in 75% of the countries in the world.

American military power... And this is a recommended article.


5. Open Thread: Trump-Putin Summit and Mounting Hysteria

This article is by Kit on the Off-Guardian. This article starts as follows:
Yesterday, Trump and Putin met for a summit in Helsinki. The resulting hysteria, all throughout the mainstream media and in the minds of neocon and (self-described) “liberals” alike.

Just to be clear – it is not unusual for heads of state to meet. It is not unusual for leaders with different values or interests to discuss international politics. It’s the entire point of diplomacy.

The media at large appear to have forgotten this – giving thousands of column inches to insane ramblings employing words such as “traitor”, “treason”, “puppet” and “surrender”. Words which are rapidly losing their meaning.

Politico Magazine described the alleged Russian hacking as “our Pearl Harbor”, and demanded America “respond accordingly”. The author – a retired General in the US Army – is delightfully vague about what exactly that would entail.

Yes indeed, and I commented yesterday (right at the beginning) about what Kit calls ¨hysteria¨.
I think she is also right to an extent, but in fact - while I agree quite a few of the articles I have read the last two days are hysterical, I prefer totalitarian (in my sense, and see above).

Here is more:

The Guardian has over 13 stories – including half a dozen opinion pieces. Each more absurd than the last. Richard Wolffe does nothing but abuse both men
between baseless accusation and the repitition of long-debunked nonsense. Whilst Peter Daou – a former employee of Hillary Clinton’s campaign – writes that Republican who still support Trump are “following him off a cliff to treachery”.

The Independent ran with “Vladimir Putin just humiliated Donald Trump. And Trump humiliated America”, a headline which belies the content of article somewhat, by far one of the most reasonable takes on either side of the Atlantic.

NewsWeek asks: “Did Trump Commit Treason at Putin Summit?”, before concluding -sensibly enough – that no, he probably didn’t.

CNN – predictably – went full CNN. Accusing Putin and Trump of “pulling the West apart”.

As I said above, this may have been hysteria, but it was totalitarian hysteria (and more totalitarian than hysteric, indeed).

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

Nowhere in the media was coverage given to ANY facet of this meeting other than the fictional “collusion”. We don’t know if sanctions, Syria, Ukraine, Korea, Iran or Nordstream 2 were discussed – and what may have been said about each, if they were. Even the collusion was only really covered in general, rather than specific.

Yes indeed, and this is a recommended article.


Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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