June 19, 2019

Crisis: The Assange Indictment, Facebook´s Currency, An Economic Crash, A Political Tragedy

“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 19, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, June 19, 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 19, 2019:
1. Assange Indictment “Criminalizes the News Gathering Process”
2. Facebook Plans Its Own Digital Currency for 2 Billion-Plus Users
3. Can Donald Trump Hold Off an Economic Crash Until the Election?
4. The Remorseless Working of Things: A Political Tragedy in Three
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. Assange Indictment “Criminalizes the News Gathering Process”

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!. I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

A London judge has ordered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to appear before a court in February 2020 to face a full extradition hearing. Prosecutors in the U.S. have indicted Assange on 18 counts, including 17 violations of the Espionage Act. This is the first-ever case of a journalist or publisher being indicted under the World War I-era law. Assange said that his life was “effectively at stake” if the U.K. honors a U.S. request for his extradition. Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence in London’s Belmarsh Prison for skipping bail in 2012. We speak with James Goodale, former general counsel of The New York Times. In 1971, he urged the paper to publish the Pentagon Papers, which had been leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Talk about what Julian Assange faces right now. It’s become very clear with the, what, 17 charges of espionage against him and now the court clearing the way for this extradition case next year.

JAMES GOODALE: Well, the first thing that happens, as you said, is there will be a trial as to whether he will be extradited or not. That will be interesting to follow, five days. If he loses, which most people think he will, he then comes back here, and he faces charges under the Espionage Act—espionage, if you can believe it—for publishing and gathering the news. Those charges are absolutely novel in the history of this country.

And if the government succeeds with the trial against Assange, if any, that will mean that it’s criminalized the news gathering process. Fancy way of saying when a reporter, like the two of you, go out and try to get a story from someone who has classified information—by the way, all information is classified in the government—you run the risk of going to jail. So that’s why the Assange case, from a journalist’s point, is very important. And from a publisher’s point, since he also has a website and he publishes, it’s astounding that the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher. Think of The New York Times, for example.

Yes indeed. I completely agree, except that I do not think it ¨astounding¨ that Trump´s government ¨has brought criminal charges to a publisher¨, simply because Trump has said from the very beginning he regards the press as liars. What is a bit more astounding is that this has been more or less accepted.

Anyway. Here is some more:

JAMES GOODALE: Well, the press attitude has been terrible. First, it’s driven by ignorance of what I’ve just said. And I think I’ve got the true view of this. But secondly, I think their view, and perhaps the public’s view, of Assange is that he’s a rapist. He faced rape charges in Sweden. He steals information. He causes leaks to take place.
All of this is totally irrelevant to what we’re talking about today, which, I want to emphasize, deals with publication by The New York Times, by four companion papers, by Julian Assange, 10 years ago. Anything that’s happened since then is not part of the charge. So, therefore, if you hate Julian Assange because he screwed up the election, or if you hate him because he’s been accused of rape, forget it. It’s got nothing to do with that. We’re now talking about something that happened 10 years ago. And it raises huge issues of principle with respect to journalism and the news gathering process.

Yes, I completely agree with Goodale.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

JAMES GOODALE:  [T]he CIA has been trying for half a century to cut back the First Amendment to stop leaks. That’s what this case is all about. First, following the Pentagon Papers, the Justice Department was able to convict sources of leaking to reporters, but they couldn’t get reporters, so they got half of the equation, so to speak. For 50 years, they’ve been trying to get the other half of the equation, to get reporters and put them in jail and limit the First Amendment protection of reporters in that regard. So, I think Assange is right. I also think, tell the truth, Pompeo’s got the right to say it. But you think about what he said. He’s just trying to cut back the First Amendment.

Yes indeed, I completely agree again and this is a strongly recommended article. Incidentally, there also is a Part 2 on Democracy Now!

2. Facebook Plans Its Own Digital Currency for 2 Billion-Plus Users

This article is by Rachel Lerman on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Facebook already rules daily communication for more than two billion people around the world. Now it wants its own currency, too.

The social network unveiled an ambitious plan Tuesday to create a new digital currency similar to Bitcoin for global use, one that could drive more e-commerce on its services and boost ads on its platforms.

But the effort, which Facebook is launching with partners including PayPal, Uber, Spotify, Visa and Mastercard, could also complicate matters for the beleaguered social network. Facebook is currently under federal investigation over its privacy practices, and along with other technology giants also faces a new antitrust probe in Congress.

Creating its own globe-spanning currency — one that could conceivably threaten banks, national currencies and the privacy of users — isn’t likely to dampen regulators’ interest in Facebook.

Indeed, and I agree with the above.

Also, I think it is utterly ridiculous that Facebook - Mark Zuckerberg, in fact, in majority - should be allowed to create its own currency, just as I think it would be utterly ridiculous if it should be allowed to create its own laws and punishments.

My reason is the same in both cases: Money and laws are some of the things that should be limited to governments of countries, and not to some spooky private business (and yes, this applies to Bitcoin as well).

Here is some more:

Facebook is taking the lead on building Libra and its underlying technology; its more than two dozen partners will help fund, build and govern the system. Facebook hopes to raise as much as $1 billion from existing and future partners to support the effort.

I take it that is correct. Here is some more:

Facebook won’t run Libra directly; instead, the company and its partners are forming a nonprofit called the Libra Association, headquartered in Geneva, that will oversee the new currency and its use. The association will be regulated by Swiss financial authorities, Facebook said.

I take it this is also correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Many analysts believe Zuckerberg wants to create a U.S. version of the Chinese service WeChat, which combines social networking, messaging and payments in a single app. Libra would take Facebook a step closer to that end.

Incidentally, WeChat also checks everything anyone says, and sanctions and punishes (indirectly but effectively) whoever deviates from the norms imposed by the Chinese communist party. I do not think it incredible if Zuckerberg wants something similar, and with him in charge. (Because ¨power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely¨ - Lord Acton.) And this is a recommended article.

3. Can Donald Trump Hold Off an Economic Crash Until the Election?

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Common Dreams. This is from not far from its beginning, but I think I have to write a brief introduction first:

Hartmann´s thesis is that Trump faces a similar difficulty as Bush and Cheney faced in 2007-2008, namely an impending crash of the economy - which indeed happened, and which may also have given Obama the majority to win the presidency. (I think he is probably correct.)

Having said that:

To further goose the economy, Bush and Cheney illegally got us into two wars, raising defense spending from the $290 billion ceiling it had hit during the 1990s to over $595 billion in 2008, pouring literally trillions into the defense industry.

In particular, the old Ayn Rand cult member and acolyte Alan Greenspan got into the act by lowering the Fed funds rate—the basis of U.S. interest rates—from 6.5 percent at the end of 2000 to below 2 percent in 2002. Greenspan kept the interest rates below 2 percent right up until just after the election of 2004, when he let them float up slightly. Bush rewarded his good efforts by reappointing him as Fed chair in 2005, which many speculate was why he’d jacked up the economy so hard leading up to the election of 2004, giving Bush a credit-fueled “feel good economy.”

And it was insanely credit-fueled. Between 2000 and 2006, housing prices in the United States doubled because the low interest rates, combined with repeated Republican deregulation of the banking and security sectors, allowed millions of unqualified new home buyers into the marketplace, driving demand toward the sky.

Yes indeed - and nearly all of the ¨millions of unqualified new home buyers¨ lost their homes in 2008-2009, together with many others.

Here is some more on the present economy:

Trump, Steven Mnuchin, and Jerome Powell have virtually cloned the process, from tax cuts to defense spending to low interest rates, and the inevitable result is increasingly obvious to financial publication opinion writers. Op-eds in staid publications like the Financial Times and the Economist are, with growing frequency, somewhere between, “The sky is about to fall!” and, “There’s a meteor coming the size that wiped out the dinosaurs!”

And with good reason.

Yes, I think that is correct, and this is part of the reason why I have been writing the Crisis series for 11 years now, which is combined with my personal poverty as well: I am one of the poorest Dutchmen there is (being ill for over 40 years, in spite of a truly excellent M.A., which disease also was denied to exist for 39 1/2 years, because I have ME/CFS) and almost nothing changed since 2008 for me, and indeed for everyone else who is very poor.

Anyway, here is some more:

In fact, though, demand is what drives economies. And, while rich people might buy a few yachts and fancy mansions, it’s the purchasing power of the bottom 99 percent that is known by economists as “aggregate demand” and actually moves marketplaces.

Reaganomics—the neoliberal economic system we’ve been living under continuously since 1981—has wiped out the purchasing power of the bottom 99 percent. In the same time that the rich have gotten $21 trillion richer, the bottom 50 percent of Americans have lost—vanished, gone forever, lost—over $900 billion.

Cheap credit is the only thing that’s keeping most Americans buying anything beyond groceries and medicine, and both of those are exploding in price because of climate change, monopoly, and fraud.

Yes. I completely agree. Here is more on the American economy:

All of our national economy’s growth has been on borrowed money for all of Trump’s presidency: there’s quite literally no “there” there.

This is not how a healthy economy is supposed to work; instead, Trump is maintaining and inflating an economic Potemkin village, a pretend economy made out of cardboard, chicken wire and bubble gum that will collapse in the face of the first stiff economic wind.

If Trump and his collaborators can hold back the winds until November of next year, the GOP has a chance in the elections.

And, as a bonus for Trump, if Democrats sweep the 2020 elections and Powell and Mnuchin pull out the economy’s temporary props right afterward, crashing the economy, Republicans will blame Democrats for the ensuing economic disaster for the next generation or two.

Yes, I think I agree, in fact mostly because of my experiences and knowledge of the crisis of 2008.

Here is the ending of this article:

And a crash before the election could offer our nation an opportunity, should Democrats nominate an actual progressive who will take us off the neoliberal Reaganomics we’ve suffered under since 1981.

A 2021 return to New Deal Keynesian economics, which rescued America after the Republican Great Depression and built the strongest middle class in history between 1933 and 1980, could return working-class Americans to opportunity, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

In either case, winter is coming, and we all need to be prepared, both politically and economically

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

4. The Remorseless Working of Things: A Political Tragedy in Three Parts

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Part One — The Climate Crisis

Imagine a world heading—remorselessly, inexorably—towards tragedy.  A world in which a clear alternative to tragedy was available, cheap, and simple, but was being undercut, if not ignored. That’s our world.  That’s today.  And of all Trump’s offenses against reason, reality, decency and honesty, it is his insistence that we continue on this tragic path toward a climate crisis that is his worst transgression.

And the chances are, the climate crisis and the tragedy it will create is likely far worse than you’ve been led to believe, for two reasons.

First, most of the climate-related estimates you hear in the news and from the IPCC have built in assumptions that we humans will take necessary actions to mitigate the worst of the climate crisis.  

There’s no evidence that making such assumptions is a prudent thing to do.
The second reason the climate crisis is likely far more dire than most people have been led to believe is that the IPCC, most of the scientific community, and the media present mid-range scenarios for temperature increases, not worst-case forecasts, and usually they don’t include potentially dangerous feedbacks.

In other words, despite knowing that we were heading toward a planetary crisis for more than three decades we’ve stayed relentlessly, remorselessly on track to meet or exceed the worst-case IPCC estimates.

Yes indeed - and in fact I have been following the climate/environment since 1972, when I first read ¨The Limits to Growth¨, and it is a fact that since then till now almost nothing has changed in the - ever worsening - climate/environment (again, also according to the authors of ¨The Limits to Growth¨).

Here is some more:

Part 2 — Corporate Tyranny, Wealth and Income Inequality

Imagine a world in which a very few exploited the many, absconding with the vast majority of wealth and creating an economy marked by an unsustainable mix of inequality and injustice. This too, is our world.

For example, here in the U.S., analysis of a recent study revealed that since 1989—when the data used in the study was first reported—the top 1 percent increased their wealth by $21 trillion, while the bottom 50 percent lost $900 billion. This trend began in earnest in 1980, when Republicans instituted their trickle-down, corporate-friendly two step, and neoliberal Democrats went along.

But obscene theft of wealth and income isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon, it’s global.  And it too tracks the embrace of neoliberal economics and politics which seeks to shrink government’s influence, eviscerate regulatory programs, and tilt the playing field to favor capital instead of labor.

Again, the numbers reveal just how badly this neoliberal con has played out. At the end of 2017, the world’s richest 26 people owned as much as the bottom half of the world's population.

This inequality is a direct result of government policies, and the solutions are relatively well-known. The dirty little secret that free-marketeers don’t want you to know is that embracing neoliberalism inevitably leads to monopolies and monopsonies, ultimately giving corporations and the ultra-rich sufficient market and political power not only to steal the 99 percent blind, but also to completely subvert democracy.

Yes, I completely agree (and if you don´t, you should read Nederlog, which has over 2300 Crisis files written since 2008).

Here is some more:

Part 3 — The Death of the Enlightenment

Imagine a world where superstition supplanted reason; where myth trumped reality.  Increasingly, that’s our world too. In many ways this is the root cause of the other tragedies we are creating.  We are witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world.  We are de-evolving, hurtling headlong into a past that was defined by serfs and lords; by necromancy and superstition; by policies based on fiat, not facts.

Yes, I agree again and know this has been happening since 40 or 50 years already, as I know that the academic year 1978-1979 (over forty years ago) was opened officially by a speaker who insisted - as a professor, in a university - that

  • ¨Everyone knows that truth does not exist¨

after which he was warmly applauded, and after which I found out that 95% (!!!) of both the students and the staff of the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam agreed (forty years ago), which I know because there were then yearly elections in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, which also were terminated in 1995 or before.

Here is more on science and superstition:

Two main things distinguished the post Enlightenment world from the pre-Enlightenment Dark Ages.

First, Francis Bacon’s Novo Organum Scientiarum (The New Instrument of Science) introduced a new way of understanding the world, in which empiricism, facts and—well, reality—defined what was real. It essentially outlined the scientific method: observation and data collection, formulation of hypotheses, experiments designed to test hypotheses and elevation of these hypotheses to theories when data and experiments consistently supported them. It was and is a system based on skepticism, and a relentless and methodical search for truth.

Now, we seek to operate by revealed truths, not reality.  Decrees from on high—often issued by an unholy alliance of religious fundamentalists, self-interested corporations, and greedy fat cats—are offered up as reality by rightwing politicians.  And of course, nothing can match the non-sense—and I use the term literally—of Trump’s insane prognostications.

Yes, again I completely agree - and see above on the dominance of superstition in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam already 40+ years ago, which incidentally also taught me that at most 5% of mankind is truly intelligent, and the rest is not, for various reasons.

Here is the ending of this article:

And this may be the greatest tragedy of all—those who advocate the kind of progressive policies that would halt climate change, restore an equitable distribution of wealth, and take on the increasingly irrational drift of our culture are rejected by their party, under-covered by the media, and discounted by the pundits.

Unless we the people rise up these tragedies will continue to play out, remorselessly, inexorably, and inevitably.

Quite so - and this is again one of the times I congratulate myself on being almost 70 and having no children (because of 40 years of illness) and only one brother as family, because I agree with Atcheson that a collapse of society and of civilization, or its total destruction by an atomic war, are at present much more likely than not. And this is a very strongly 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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