April 21, 2019

Crisis: Purity Tests, British Liars, On The Pentagon, Literary Criticism & TV, On The Mueller Report

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 21, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, April 21, 2019.

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 three 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 April 21, 2019:
1. The Two Words That Capture Corporate Media's Disdain for the Left
2. UK Blurring Two Very Different Extradition Claims

3. Hell Mixed With Futility

4. What’s the Deal With George W.S. Trow

5. How Congress Can Follow Up on the Incomplete and Redacted Mueller

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 Two Words That Capture Corporate Media's Disdain for the Left

This article is by Alan MacLeod on Truthdig and originally on FAIR. It starts as follows:

The Democratic primaries are heating up, and dozens of candidates representing all manner of political positions have entered the ring hoping to be the party’s 2020 presidential nominee. One notable feature of the race is the strong presence of progressive candidates, a sign of the rising influence of the left in the party.

This phenomenon has many in the establishment wing of the party worried. Barack Obama, the most recent Democratic president, recently decried the “purity tests” of the left, which he called an “obsessive” ideological fanaticism that is setting the party up for failure.  Obama told an audience in Berlin, Germany (HuffPost, 6/4/19):

One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States…is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, “I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be,” and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a circular firing squad, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues, and when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens.

Yes indeed, and the two words mentioned in the title are "purity test", which in turn imply that anything that would be a test of the purity of the motives of some politicians in fact must be an attack on their good intentions, their honesty and their wisdom.

Which is total bullshit. Here is one explanation of "purity tests":

In the political world, the term “purity test” has a very specific meaning, largely used by elites to chastise and attack the left, or to gaslight them into supporting more centrist or right-wing policies. Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi (4/24/17), for example, bemoaned the ideological “activists” infiltrating the Democratic Party, undermining “more pragmatic party leaders everywhere” with their “purity tests.”

Quite so - that is, anyone who doubts the good intentions, honesty and wisdom of the present leaders makes a dishonest attack on them.

Here is some more:

Much has been written about Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ refusal to accept corporate donations for their presidential campaigns, with many outlets (Atlantic, 12/18/18; 3/5/19; Politico, 2/25/19; The Hill, 8/24/17) describing this as a new Democratic “purity test” to establish progressive credentials.

2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (CNBC2/5/16) scorned Sanders’ test, claiming, “Under his definition, President Obama is not a progressive because he took donations from Wall Street!” Some might argue that is accurate, particularly as Obama describes himself as a 1980s-style “moderate Republican.”

Well... I'd say that Obama was a mock progressive, as is Hillary Clinton, who herself accepted enormous amounts of money from Wall Street. But if you point out that, then the anti-puritists insist that you are an evil person for doubting the obvious integrity and honesty of these millionaires who became millionaires by doing politics.

Here is some more:

Instead, the left is browbeaten and cajoled into supporting business-friendly right-wing Democrats, and told their preferred policies are either unrealistic or unpopular. The Hill (8/24/17) warns us, “If Democrats want to destroy any chances of winning national office, establishing purity tests is the quickest way to do it.”

But this is demonstrably not the case. Seventy-five percent of Americans (and nearly two-thirds of Republicans) support Medicare for all. Three-quarters of the population support higher taxes on the wealthy, while tuition-free public college is popular even among Tea Party supporters.

Clearly, MacLeod is right, I'd say, as he is in the ending of this article:

When you hear the phrase “purity test” in the media, be on the alert. The phrase is code for elites being pressured in ways they don’t like, and is often a shield against legitimate criticism of corruption or dependence on corporate power.

Precisely, and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. UK Blurring Two Very Different Extradition Claims

This article is by Jonathan Cook on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
In a previous blog post, I warned that the media and political class would continue with their long-running deceptions about Julian Assange now that he has been dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy. They have wasted no time in proving me right.

The first thrust in their campaign of deceit was set out on The Guardian’s front page on Friday, April 12, the day after Assange was imprisoned.

There should have been wall-to-wall outrage from public figures in the U.K. at the United States creating a new crime of “doing journalism” and a new means of arrest for those committing this “crime” overseas, what I have termed “media rendition.”

Remember that all of the information contained in the U.S. charge sheet against Assange – the supposed grounds for his extradition – were known to the previous Obama administration as far back as 2010. But President Barack Obama never dared approve the current charges against Assange because legally there was no way to stop them being turned against “respectable” journalists, like those at The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian.
Yes indeed, but then Obama and Trump differ in some respects (you'll be surprised to learn) and one is that Obama trusted the New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian, whereas Trump asserts they are and have been lying all the time.

Here is some more:
Now we can see how the media is going to collude in a narrative crafted by the political class to legitimize what the Trump administration is doing.

Rather than focus on the gross violation of Assange’s fundamental human rights, the wider assault on press freedoms and the attack on Americans’ First Amendment Rights, U.K. politicians are “debating” whether the U.S. extradition claim on Assange should take priority over earlier Swedish extradition proceedings for a sexual-assault investigation that was publicly dropped back in 2017.

In other words, the public conversation in the U.K., sympathetically reported by The Guardian, supposedly Britain’s only major liberal news outlet, is going to be about who has first dibs on Assange.
Quite so. Here is some more:
For seven years the political and media establishments have been deriding the suggestion that Assange faced any threat from the U.S., despite the mounting private and public evidence that he did. Assange again has been proved conclusively right by current events, and they decisively wrong.

The Guardian knows that Assange did not need political asylum to avoid a sex case. So reporting this not as a claim by his detractors but as an indisputable fact is simple, Trump-supporting propaganda meant to discredit Assange — propaganda that happily treats any damage to the cause of journalism as collateral damage.

Second, the only major politicians prepared to highlight the threats to Assange’s personal rights and wider press freedoms posed by the U.S. extradition request are opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his ally, Diane Abbott, the Labour shadow home secretary. They have rightly noted that the U.S. is using the extradition demand to silence Assange and intimidate any other journalists who might think about digging up evidence of the crimes committed by the U.S. national security state.
I think the above is also correct. Here is the ending of this article:
But what Corbyn and Abbott have done is to make a clear political, legal and moral demarcation between the Swedish case, which must be resolved according to accepted legal principles, and the U.S. extradition, which has no legal or moral merit whatsoever.

What these U.K. MPs and The Guardian have done in this front-page story is muddy the waters yet further, with enthusiastic disregard for the damage it might do to Assange’s rights, to Corbyn’s leadership and to the future of truth-telling journalism.
Yes, I quite agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Hell Mixed With Futility

This article is by Robert C. Koehler on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Oh, the normalcy of militarism! Our annual financial hemorrhage to this complex menagerie of institutions — from the Pentagon to Homeland Security to the Nuclear Security Administration to the CIA and its secret expenditures — must not be seriously questioned in the corridors of Congress, even though, all things considered, it comes to almost a trillion dollars annually.

Call it the Defense budget, smile and move on.

Even the current “liberal revolt” in the House of Representatives over the Dems’ proposed budget isn’t a serious questioning of the American way of war but, rather, a demand for “parity” between social and defense spending, which, if anything, further hardens the latter into an unquestioned reality. Yes, yes, America spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined, but let’s make sure we have money available for healthcare too, OK?

Yes, this is more or less correct, although I'd say (or add) that those who believe that they should make sure that "we have money available for healthcare too" are the - corporate - Democrats rather than the Republicans.

Then there is this:

Norman Solomon called it the “toxic lure of guns and butter,” this creation of an America that has both the values of democratic socialism, a la Canada and Western Europe, and yet is the global cop extraordinaire, fighting (and creating) terrorism, bombing civilians, operating some 800 military bases in over 80 countries and maintaining a nuclear arsenal second to none (indeed, developing “usable” nukes). What’s wrong with that?

Well, I'd say almost everything is wrong with that, but I - strongly - disagree with whoever said that "America that has (..) the values of democratic socialism, a la Canada and Western Europe" for that is real bullshit - at best a few Americans (such as Bernie Sanders) fit in the tradition of social democracy, which again is not at all the same as democratic socialism. Besides, anyone who does want to know what "socialism" means should read Crisis: On Socialism.

Anyway. Here is some more:

As Matt Taibbi writes at Rolling Stone: “Despite being the taxpayers’ greatest investment — more than $700 billion a year — the Department of Defense has remained an organizational black box throughout its history. It’s repelled generations of official inquiries, the latest being an audit three decades in the making, mainly by scrambling its accounting into such a mess that it may never be untangled.

“Ahead of misappropriation, fraud, theft, overruns, contracting corruption and other abuses that are almost certainly still going on, the Pentagon’s first problem is its books. It’s the world’s largest producer of wrong numbers, an ingenious bureaucratic defense system that hides all the other rats’ nests underneath. Meet the Gordian knot of legend, brought to life in modern America.”

Which is to say that the Pentagon, since 20 or 30 years also, has been making total bullshit of fair and honest administration. I think that indeed is a fact.

Here is the ending of this article:

The endless wars are endless because the United States has appointed itself the world’s ‘indispensable nation,’ in Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s formulation, responsible less for ensuring its own safety than for maintaining its material and moral privilege to police the world.”

I repeat Wertheim’s primary point: Permanent armed supremacy produces permanent armed conflict. This is my cry to every progressive — indeed, to every — member of Congress. The time to look this truth in the eye is now.

Yes, and I think Albright was a frightening liar speaking about the USA's "material and moral privilege to police the world", while I agree with Wertheim. And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. What’s the Deal With George W.S. Trow

This article is by Kyle Chayka on The Nation. It starts as follows:

In November 1980, The New Yorker devoted most of an entire issue to a single essay. Beyond the extravagant length, the essay remains one of the strangest things the magazine has ever published. Written by staff writer George W. S. Trow and edited by the mercurial William Shawn, “Within the Context of No Context” is a fever dream of media criticism. In a fractured cascade of subtitled riffs (on “Pseudo-Intimacy,” “Experts,” “Celebrities,” “Magazines in the Age of Television”) that accrues its own manic momentum through prose-poem-like repetition, Trow analyzes how that great, fetid swamp of American culture—television—ruined our sensibilities, or at least warped them forever.

In fact, I had no idea who George W. S. Trow was, but this is a link. Also, I have not read anything by him, but I do suppose I agree with him on television, namely for the simple reason that I do not have a television since 1970 (almost 50 years now), and I neither have nor want it because by 1970 I had decided that nearly all TV is stupid, is directed at the stupid, and offers extremely little chance of learning anything whatsoever: If you really want to learn things, I thought in 1970 and I think now, you have to read.

Here is more:

Certain essays stand as cultural landmarks: After reading them you see the world differently; they become part of your mental landscape. For many of its readers, “Within the Context of No Context” certainly belongs in that pantheon. It was republished again as a standalone book in 1997, with a new introduction called “Collapsing Dominant,” in which Trow reflected on what had changed in the two decades since the original — if anything, it was all worse.
Most recently, it was the centerpiece for critic Christian Lorentzen’s Harper’s Magazine philippic against the Internet’s effects on contemporary book-reviewing. Trow’s work is still so relevant because everything he wrote about television applies doubly for social media. If Trow thought television was bad, then Facebook would be his nightmare.

As I said, I never read anything by Trow, but I think Lorentzen (whom I also did not read) probably is quite correct in insisting on "the Internet’s effects on contemporary book-reviewing" (indeed in part for the reason that the 2.3 billion "writers" and "publishers" on Facebook in majority hardly read any book, whereas their uninformed opinions are studied closely by machines because they all have money to spend on advertisements).

Also, I agree that "if Trow thought television was bad, then Facebook would be his nightmare" for the simple reason that I think the same.

Here is some more:

Trow argued that the rise of television decimated the elite American intellectual community to which he had belonged as the far descendant of printing magnates, a Harvard graduate, and a magazine writer. It cut out what he posed as society’s heart: the reading, debating, literary demographic that consumed his work.

I only consider Trow's claim "that the rise of television decimated the elite American intellectual community". I do not know how he came by that claim, but I think it is probably correct.

Here is some more:

Between 1997 and 2019, the Internet grew as a competitor to television and then subsumed it in the form of Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. The Internet has a similar tendency toward erasure as well as the ability to transmit longing and doubt on an enormous scale, much larger than television’s. Instead of the grid of 200 million TV watchers, we are now enmeshed in the grid of 2.3 billion Facebook users, with an even greater distance, and thus vertigo, from the grid of intimacy, or our humanity.

I more or less agree (and see here). Finally, there is this:

We are in the grid of social-media users created by that 21st-century bogeyman, the Algorithm. Loosely defined, the Algorithm—Twitter’s, Facebook’s, Spotify’s, Amazon’s, Google’s, so on and so forth—mediates what we read, watch, and listen to online, encouraging us to consume whatever appears on the screen. It regulates how often we get updates from our friends, whose unpopular posts or opinions we might not see if we don’t seek them out. Based on the data it collects, it can tell when we’re flush, lonely, engaged, or pregnant and then sell us products accordingly. We don’t understand the Algorithm, but we hate it. We don’t know how the Algorithm works, but we love what it brings us. We can’t escape it. Trow might not have foreseen social media, but he provided a framework to understand how it takes over our identities for the sake of profit.

No, I am sorry: I disagree with this, firstly because of the term "the Algorithm", which should have been replaced by "programs", and - as I have indicated - I do not belong to the "we" sketched above. Then again, I like the rest of this text sufficiently to make it strongly recommended.

5. How Congress Can Follow Up on the Incomplete and Redacted Mueller Report

This article is by Charles Tiefer on Truthout and originally on The Conversation. This is from near its beginning:

The Trump administration will want to argue that the release of the Mueller report is the end of investigating the Russia scandal.

On the contrary, the version of the report released is only the start of wide-ranging and intensive House investigations.

I served as special deputy chief counsel of the House Iran-contra investigation of the Reagan administration. We did months of hearings on the type of material that is either incomplete or redacted, as today’s Congress will find, in the Mueller report.

Here are some of the ways the House will likely follow up with more investigation.

Yes, I agree with Tiefer, indeed mostly because the Mueller report has not been fully released, but only has appeared in part (with what seems large areas "redacted" i.e. made unreadable).

Tiefer has 5 ways in which he thinks that "
the House will likely follow up with more investigation", and here is the first (and I only cites parts of his texts):

1. Bring in Witnesses to Testify

The House will call some of the witnesses mentioned in the report for their full story, not just their cameo appearance in this incomplete report.

For example, the report has the public’s first account from Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

Yes, I agree. Here is some more:

2. Intelligence Committee Investigation

Attorney General Barr has announced that a “less redacted” version is, or will be, prepared for a few congressional figures. Presumably he means that the classified parts of the report that describe secret intelligence, which have been redacted, will be shown to the congressional leadership.

But, the leadership cannot itself undertake an investigation.

This is the kind of material that normally goes to the entire House Intelligence Committee.

Yes, I agree. Here is some more: 

3. Release Grand Jury Information

Furthermore, the report redacts not just classified information, but grand jury information as well. And Barr may well have omitted, rather than redacted, invaluable grand jury evidence, especially documents.

These could be released by the attorney general to Congress with a court order under what is called Federal Criminal Rule 6(e).

Yes, I think that is correct and I agree. Here is the last bit I quote from this article (and I skipped item 4, which you can read here):

5. Documents, Documents, Documents

Finally, this is just Mueller’s report. Behind it is much more that would be of vital interest to congressional investigators and the public.

This 400-plus page report is not the underlying information alluded to in the report, like copies of emails or other documents, that provides broader information about so many matters.

The House has every reason to seek and to receive the underlying information.

Yes, I agree again, 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 3 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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