June 14, 2019

Crisis: Hong Kong Protests, American Dream in China, Exit First Amendment, On Propaganda

“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 June 14, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Friday, June 14, 2019.

I realize that I did not commemorate the fact that I am writing Crisis files for six years now, since I started to do so after June 10, 2013, which taught me about Snowden.

I am registering it now, and may write about it the coming days, but I am also somewhat worse at present than I was for a long time.

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, though not yet quite decently working computers.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

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 four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 14, 2019:
1. Historic Hong Kong Protests Against New Extradition Law Continue
2. The American Dream Is Alive and Well—in China
3. Say Goodbye to the First Amendment
4. Propaganda Prospering Far and Wide
The items 1 - 4 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. Historic Hong Kong Protests Against New Extradition Law Continue

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

Authorities in Hong Kong have shut down government offices and postponed debate in the Legislative Council, one day after riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray at tens of thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets to protest a bill that would allow the extradition of Hong Kong residents to mainland China. On Wednesday, demonstrators attempted to storm the Legislative Council Building, where lawmakers are debating the extradition bill. Human Rights Watch criticized Hong Kong authorities for using what it described as “excessive force” to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Protesters described police using indiscriminate force. We speak with Mary Hui, a Hong Kong-based writer and reporter for the news outlet Quartz. She has reported on the extradition bill and has been covering the protests.

Yes. Here is some informatiom about Hong Kong and I think I should add that while the agreement between England and China of 1997, which guaranteed Hong Kong independence, would last 50 years, I did not believe that was likely in 1997. It seems as if I may be correct, although it is not yes so far.

Here is some more:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: (..) Human Rights Watch criticized Hong Kong authorities for using what it described as “excessive force” to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Protesters described the police using indiscriminate force.

KATY LAM: The Hong Kong police actually fired tear gas towards the crowd, while no people are showing any symptoms of attacking. So, they’re just doing it. We think that they are trying to oppress our rights of expressing our opinion, and actually oppressing the freedom.

One reason that is behind this is that many in the current government of Hong Kong are very pro China.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: This came days after as many as a million protesters marched in Hong Kong against the extradition bill Sunday. The protests are some of the largest Hong Kong has seen since before Britain’s handover of Hong Kong in 1997. Since then, Hong Kong has operated under a different legal and political system as mainland China, a setup known as “one country, two systems.” Critics of the extradition bill say it would infringe on Hong Kong’s independence and the legal and human rights of Hong Kong residents, as well as the people visiting Hong Kong.

Clearly, the critics are right. Besides, it should be added that many in Hong Kong are strong critics of China, and all are in great danger if the extradition bill is accepted.

Here is some more:

MARY HUI(..) The significance of this bill, really, is that it will threaten Hong Kong’s prized judicial and legal independence. It is as Chris Patten, the former governor, has said: There needs to be a firewall between Hong Kong’s legal system and China’s. And with this bill, should it be passed, that firewall will be done away with. And it means that it is—it will mean the death of “one country, two systems,” because there will no longer be this firewall, and people will be—there is the possibility that people will be able to be extradited to China to face charges, where they face an uncertain fate as to whether they will face a fair trial or even have their human rights protected.

Yes indeed: To the best of my knowledge all of the above is correct.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: I want to read a recent tweet from the exiled Chinese writer Ma Jian, wrote, on Twitter, said, “At the Hong Kong literary festival in November, a friend accompanied me at all times, for fear I’d be secretly kidnapped and smuggled to China. If the extradition law passes, any critic of Xi’s regime could be legally, openly abducted. It would be the end of freedom in Hong Kong,” Ma Jian said. Your response, Mary Hui?

MARY HUI: I think that is a very, very reasonable fear. And people are afraid of that, not just writers of Chinese descent, but also foreigners. Hong Kong is a financial hub, an international media hub. There are lots of human rights advocacy groups here. And for them, if it means doing—if doing their work means angering China, then they will very likely be accused of committing a certain crime, and China will be able to find a way to have them extradited to face charges in China, in mainland China.

Yes, I completely agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. The American Dream Is Alive and Well—in China

This article is by Ellen Brown on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Home ownership has been called “the quintessential American dream.” Yet today less than 65% of American homes are owner occupied, and more than 50% of the equity in those homes is owned by the banks. Compare China, where, despite facing one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, a whopping 90% of families can afford to own their homes.

I say, for I did not know this. Here is some more - and "The message" is the message of the American government:

The message to middle America is that Chinese labor costs are low because their workers are being exploited in slave-like conditions at poverty-level wages.

But if that’s true, how is it that the great majority of Chinese families own homes? According to a March 2016 article in Forbes:

… 90% of families in the country own their home, giving China one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. What’s more is that 80% of these homes are owned outright, without mortgages or any other liens. On top of this, north of 20% of urban households own more than one home.

I say again. Well... it does partially explain why there are many more Chinese in - for example - Holland to take a holiday: They are getting better of, and may soon - in ten or twenty years - be richer than Europeans.

This was a partial explanation, and here is another:

And therein lies a major difference between Chinese and American family wealth: In China, the cost of living is significantly lower. The Chinese government subsidizes not only its industries but its families—with educational, medical and transportation subsidies.

And here is more:

According to a 2017 HSBC fact sheet, 70% of Chinese millennials (ages 19 to 36) already own their own homes. American young people cannot afford to buy homes because they are saddled with student debt, a millstone that now averages $37,000 per student and will be carried an average of 20 years before it is paid off. A recent survey found that 80% of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck. Another found that 60% of U.S. millennials could not come up with $500 to cover their tax bills.

I say, again. Incidentally, since I live and studied in Holland, I can assure any non-Dutch that the same system as the American one has been adopted by the Dutch:

I started studying officially in 1976, when a year of studying at the university cost 100 guilders (less than 50 euros), and when I ended studying in 1993 (because I had to do two full studies because I was removed from the faculty in philosophy very briefly before taking my M.A. there because I criticized the totally incompetent extremely lazy staff, while my ex and I also had fallen ill in 1979, which we still are) I still needed to pay no more than 500 guilders (less than 250 euros) a year.

Well... here are some numbers from 2012 (there are many more, but I quote just a few):

  • Becoming an M.A. in philosophy: 19,500 euros
  • Becoming an M.A. in psychology: 19,500 euros
  • Becoming an M.A. in dentistry:    40,000 euros
  • Becoming an M.A. in medicine:    40,000 euros

It no doubt is now more expensive - and all of the above is without any money to live on as a student, which most students (in my days, at least) also had to borrow.

Anyway... this was to show how freedom and democracy prosper in Holland... (o, and meanwhile the Dutch - where drugs including marihuana and hashish are still illegal - have imported and sold in the last 30 years at least $300 Billions worth of illegal  drugs, mostly outside Holland).

Here is more by Ellen Brown who is comparing China and the USA:

Even worse, however, is the disparity in debt levels, which pulls disposable income down. A survey after the 2008-09 credit crisis found that household debt in the U.S. was 136% of household income, compared with only 17% for the Chinese.

I say, again. And this is from the ending of the article:

Unlike the U.S. government, the Chinese government supports its workers and its industries. Rather than penalizing China for that “unfair” trade practice, perhaps the U.S. government should try doing the same. China’s legacy is socialist, and after opening to international trade it has continued to serve the collective good, particularly of its workers. Meanwhile, the U.S. model has been regressing into feudalism, with workers driven into slave-like conditions through debt.

I more or less agree, but I would not call China a communist or socialist state: It is a very authoritarian system that is rather like the USSR was, and namely because all power is in the hands of the communist party, which again I would not call communist. Also, while the Chinese at present are a lot richer than they were 20 or more years ago, this holds mostly for conformist Chinese, and not for those who do not conform: They will soon be in trouble. Anyway, this is a very strongly recommended article.

3. Say Goodbye to the First Amendment

This article is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press,” reads the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Yet, for the first time ever, a publisher is being prosecuted under the World War I-era Espionage Act. Julian Assange, co-founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, is facing 170 years in prison if he is extradited to the U.S. from the United Kingdom. The case could deal a monumental blow to the free press in the United States.

Yes indeed: I totally agree. Here are some of the reasons why Assange risks 170 years imprisonment (and torture):

The New York Times was one of many news organizations that partnered with the whistleblower website WikiLeaks in publishing material that it was provided anonymously. From its launch in 2007, WikiLeaks proved to be a reliable source for critical, documentary evidence of corporate and government malfeasance.

Also in 2007, WikiLeaks released a secret manual from the Guantanamo Bay prison, written in 2003, that instructed guards to deny prisoners access to the Quran and bar Red Cross visits in order to “exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee” — a violation of international human rights law. Not long after, the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center produced a secret document — subsequently leaked to and released by WikiLeaks — that called WikiLeaks “a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security, and information security threat to the US Army.”

Yes indeed. Here is more on the background why Assange risks 170 years in prison and torture by the CIA:

In April 2010, WikiLeaks made international headlines when it released a video showing the indiscriminate targeting and killing of civilians in Baghdad. The video was recorded July 12, 2007, by a U.S. military Apache helicopter gunship, and includes audio of military radio transmissions.

Two Reuters employees — Iraqi journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh — were killed in the attack, along with at least eight other people, and two children were critically injured. The radio transmissions show not only the utter callousness of the soldiers, laughing and swearing as they kill, but also the strict procedure they follow, ensuring that all of their attacks are clearly authorized by their chain of command.

Quite so. Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

As for Julian Assange, he had been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012, where he had been given political asylum. He fled to the embassy, fearful that he would be extradited to the United States. On April 11, British authorities entered the embassy and forcibly arrested him. He is now serving a 50-week sentence for violating the terms of his bail in a separate case.

Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, said after visiting Assange in the British prison where he is being held that he “shows all the symptoms of a person who has been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time.” Assange was reportedly unable to appear in his most recent court hearing due to failing health.

Yes indeed again. And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Propaganda Prospering Far and Wide

This article is by Caitlin Johnstone on Consortium News. I skipped the beginning:
As I never tire of saying, the real underlying currency in our world is not gold, nor bureaucratic fiat, nor even raw military might. The real underlying currency of our world is narrative, and the ability to control it.

As soon as you really grok this dynamic, you start noticing it everywhere.
No, I am sorry: I disagree, although I think Johnstone is a bit correct, because the sources of power are wealth, bureaucratic and governmental decisions, and military strength, but she is partially correct in saying that propaganda has become a lot more important as a source of power than it was before the arisal of the internet.

Here is some more, on the propaganda:
But you see examples pop up every day:
  • The U.S. State Department just got busted using a $1.5 million troll farm to manipulate public discourse on social media about Iran.
  • Video footage has just surfaced of the director general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weaponsadmitting that the OPCW did indeed deliberately omit any mention in its official findings of a report from its own investigation which contradicts the establishment narrative about a chemical strike in Douma, Syria, an admission which answers controversial questions asked by critics of western imperialism like myself, and which the mainstream media have not so much as touched.
  • Mintpress News broke a story the other day about a new narrative management operation known as “The Trust Project,” a coordinated campaign by establishment-friendly mass media outlets for “gaming search-engine and social-media algorithms in collusion with major tech companies like Google and Twitter.”
In fact, there are more examples in the article. And while I disagree with Johnstone on the nature of power (so far as I can see) she is right propaganda has become more important.

Here is some more:
Power used to be much easier to identify in our society: just look for the fellow with the sparkly hat made of gold sitting in a really big chair and bossing everyone around. As our society advanced philosophically, however, people started fighting for ideals called “freedom” and “democracy” in their respective nations. And, as far as our parents and teachers have taught us, freedom and democracy are exactly what we have now.

Except that’s all crap. Freedom and democracy only exist within the Western empire to the extent that it keeps up appearances. Because the trouble with democracy, it turns out, is that human minds are very hackable, when they are pursued with enough resources. Wealthy and powerful people do have the resources, which means that it’s very possible for wealthy and powerful people to manipulate the masses into voting in a way that consistently benefits the wealthy and powerful. This is why billionaires and narrative control consistently go hand-in-hand.
Yes and no again: It is not so much - I think - that "human minds are very hackable" as that human minds are in considerable majority stupid and ignorant. (And see above: I am not quite the only one who says so.)

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The root of all our problems right now is the fact that human minds are very hackable with enough resources, combined with the fact that war, oppression, exploitation and ecocide are highly profitable. This dynamic has caused human collective consciousness to generally dead-end into a kind of propagandized, zombified state in which all our knowledge and all our thinking moves in alignment with the agendas of existing power structures. It’s much easier to continue believing the official narratives than to sort through everything you’ve been told about your society, your nation and your world since grade school and work out what’s true and what’s false. Many don’t have the time. Many more don’t have the courage.

We will remain in this collective dead-end, hurtling toward either Orwellian dystopia or extinction via climate collapse or nuclear Armageddon, until we find a way out of it.
To repeat: It is not so much that "human minds are very hackable" as that human minds are in considerable majority stupid and ignorant. Then again, not all are stupid or ignorant, and while I admit there is something to be said for a "human collective consciousness [that is a] (..) dead-end into a kind of propagandized, zombified state in which all our knowledge and all our thinking moves in alignment with the agendas of existing power structures", I am not one of them, and neither are quite a few intelligent and informed others (indeed also if they disagree with me). Unfortunately, intelligent and informed persons are always and everywhere in a minority. 

[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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