Thursday, October 19, 2017

Crisis: On "Russia-gate", The CIA, On Iran, U.S. Taxes, On George Orwell

Sections                                                crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from October 19, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, October 19, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) 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 nearly 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 will continue.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from October 19, 2017
1. Blaming Russia for the Internet ‘Sewer’
2. Trump's Rumored Candidate to Run the CIA Could
     Plunge America into a Hot War

3. Trump's Most Reckless Decision Yet
4. An Independent Thinker’s Guide to the Tax

5. Taking Orwell’s Name In Vain 
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. Blaming Russia for the Internet ‘Sewer’

This article is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:

With the U.S. government offering tens of millions of dollars to combat Russian “propaganda and disinformation,” it’s perhaps not surprising that we see “researchers” such as Jonathan Albright of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University making the absurd accusation that the Russians have “basically turned [the Internet] into a sewer.”

I’ve been operating on the Internet since 1995 and I can assure you that the Internet has always been “a sewer” — in that it has been home to crazy conspiracy theories, ugly personal insults, click-bait tabloid “news,” and pretty much every vile prejudice you can think of. Whatever some Russians may or may not have done in buying $100,000 in ads on Facebook (compared to its $27 billion in annual revenue) or opening 201 Twitter accounts (out of Twitter’s 328 million monthly users), the Russians are not responsible for the sewage coursing through the Internet.

Yes indeed. Also, I can add two things:

I have been on the internet since 1996, and I agree it "has always been “a sewer”" that indeed spread "pretty much every vile prejudice you can think of", although an essential part of spreading "pretty much every vile prejudice" is that

(1) those who spread it are nearly all anonymous (except for the secret services and the large corporations that control the internet), while also
(2) I am firmly convinced that the internet has been designed since 1967 or so to become the secret controller and the spies (from the secret services) on everyone.

The first is self-evident for anyone who ever looked at a few comments.
It means that you cannot hang these anonymous degenerates on the internet, precisely because they are and remain anonymous, by the billions, indeed.

The second is considerably less self-evident, but seems to be the only reasonable explanation for what the internet has become, which is what Zbigniew Brzezinski already knew in 1968, as shown in Crisis: propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968, even though in 1968 Brzezinski's ideas were extremely anti-democratic, authoritarian and manipulative.

I keep it at this, and return to the article:

Americans, Europeans, Asians, Africans and pretty much every other segment of the world’s population didn’t need Russian help to turn the Internet into an informational “sewer.” But, of course, fairness and proportionality have no place in today’s Russia-gate frenzy.

After all, your “non-governmental organization” or your scholarly “think tank” is not likely to get a piece of the $160 million that the U.S. government authorized last December to counter primarily Russian “propaganda and disinformation” if you explain that the Russians are at most responsible for a tiny trickle of “sewage” compared to the vast rivers of “sewage” coming from many other sources.

Yes, indeed. And something that Parry does not mention in his - fine - article is that in fact Russia is a very capitalist nation since 1991, albeit also a quite authoritarian one; that the capitalism is to a considerable extent due to much help from the Americans in the Nineties; and that Russia is not at all a socialist state anymore - although none of these things are mentioned in the propaganda about Russia.

Here is a part of the reasons Parry is quite right:

Albright’s full quote about the Russians allegedly exploiting various social media platforms on the Internet was: “They’ve gone to every possible medium and basically turned it into a sewer.”

But let’s look at the facts. According to Facebook, the suspected “Russian-linked” accounts purchased $100,000 in ads from 2015 to 2017 (compared to Facebook’s annual revenue of about $27 billion), with only 44 percent of those ads appearing before the 2016 election and many having little or nothing to do with politics, which is curious if the Kremlin’s goal was to help elect Donald Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton.

To put this in perspective: $ 27 billion / $ 100,000 = the 0.00001th (a hundred thousandth) part of Facebook's annual revenue. And this seems to be the main reason why "the Russians have “basically turned [the Internet] into a sewer.”".

I say! There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended.

2. Trump's Rumored Candidate to Run the CIA Could Plunge America into a Hot War

This article is by Heather Digby Parsons on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

It may be that it took direct, vicious attacks on the mainstream media for its practitioners to understand the catastrophe of Donald Trump and cover him both factually and, more important, truthfully. They aren't perfect, but they aren't being the lapdogs we all saw during the Bush administration and thank goodness for that. Still, they have yet to kill some stale old tropes that desperately need to be thrown overboard. One of them is this idea that there are "grownups" out there somewhere who will come rescue us from the folly of our democratic choices.
But with the election of Donald Trump and his infantile bullying, this meme has returned in a big way.

First (I am a philosopher), what are the differences between "factually" and "truthfully"? I am just curious about what Parsons thinks.

And second, while I grant that there may be a bit less propaganda in reporting about Trump than there was about Bush Jr. I think that is mainly due to the fact that Trump attacked all media for spreading "fake news" (essentially: news that Trump does not like) and not to the increased decency or honesty or the overall truthfulness of the mainstream media.

There is also this:

If Pompeo were to be moved into Tillerson's spot, that would open up the CIA job, and word is that Trump is considering Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas for that position. Cotton is only 40 years old and has had one term in the House and three years in the Senate, so he seems a bit young for the job. (In fact, he's the youngest current U.S. senator.)

Well... yes, but these are mere rumors. And I picked this article for the wrong reasons (but I leave it standing: I have just so much energy, and besides I do grant that now and then my selections are mistaken).

3. Trump's Most Reckless Decision Yet

This article is by  Phyllis Bennis on AlterNet and originally on Foreign Policy in Focus. It starts as follows:

Despite heavy competition, Trump’s latest Iran move ranks near the top of the list of the most reckless actions of this ever-so-reckless presidency. The president announced recently that he was refusing to certify Iran’s compliance with the landmark nuclear agreement it reached with the U.S. and several other world powers during the Obama administration.

This dangerous move won’t scuttle the deal entirely — at least not yet — but it undermines the strength of the international agreement and ultimately increases the threat of war. While Trump has said he’s not pulling out of the deal just now, he’s threatening to do so if Congress doesn’t pass new sanctions.

With virtually every Iran expert on the planet in agreement that Tehran is keeping its end of the nuclear deal, it’s clear that Trump’s motives are purely political. But if anything that makes his decision only more dangerous.

Yes, this seems all correct to me, though I think one thing has to be added: Iran has also insisted that the deal has been made; that they are sticking to it; and that they will not renegotiate a deal that has been made and that they are sticking to.

Here is a bit more about Trump:

Yet Trump scorned pleas from key U.S. allies, members of Congress from both parties, and his own top security advisers, all of whom urged him to maintain the deal.

In withdrawing from a deal that Iran was keeping in good faith, Trump abandoned any pretense of maintaining U.S. credibility as a reliable negotiating partner. Instead, he justified decertifying Iranian compliance with a combination of exaggerations, complaints about actions that have nothing to do with the actual terms of the deal, and outright lies.
He also tossed out the line, without a shred of evidence, that “many people believe Iran is dealing with North Korea.”

I think that is also all correct. There is more in the article that I leave to your interests.

4. An Independent Thinker’s Guide to the Tax Debate

This article is by Chuck Collins on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

For 40 years, tax cutters in Congress have told us, “we have a tax cut for you.” And each time, they count on us to suspend all judgment.

In exchange, we’ve gotten staggering inequality, collapsing public infrastructure, a fraying safety net, and exploding deficits. Meanwhile, a small segment of the richest one tenth of 1 percent have become fabulously wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Ready for more?

Now, Trump and congressional Republicans have rolled out a tax plan that the independent Tax Policy Center estimates will give 80 percent of the benefits to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers.

The good news is the majority aren’t falling for it this time around. Recent polls indicate that over 62 percent of the public oppose additional tax cuts for the wealthy and 65 percent are against additional tax cuts to large corporations.

I think this is mostly quite correct, although I also think that the reason many people do not see this is less that they suspended "all judgment" than that they were lied to and propagandized, and believed the lies and the propaganda.

Here is more:

You’ll hear that the U.S. has the “highest corporate taxes in the world.” While the legal rate is 35 percent, the effective rate — the percentage of income actually paid — is closer to 15 percent, thanks to loopholes and other deductions.

The Wall Street corporations pulling out their big lobbying guns have a lot of experience with lowering their tax bills this way, but they don’t use the extra cash to create jobs.

The evidence, as my Institute for Policy Studies colleague Sarah Anderson found, is that they more often buy back their stock, give their CEOs a massive bonus, pay their shareholders a dividend, and lay off workers.

Yes indeed - except that it may be even worse, at least according to "Corporate tax in the United States" on Wikipedia, from which I quote this bit:

However, the average corporate tax rate in 2011 dipped to 12.1%, its lowest level since before World War I, largely due to the great recession and a bonus depreciation tax break.

And I grant this is about 2011, but even so. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

When Congress passed a “repatriation tax holiday” in 2004, these same companies gave raises to their CEOs, raised dividends, bought back their stock, and — you guessed it — laid off workers. The biggest 15 corporations that got the amnesty brought back $150 billion while cutting their U.S. workforces by 21,000 between 2004 and 2007.

And the reason for that is that the Indian or Chinese workforces of the U.S. corporations - who could go there thanks to Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin - cost very much less than U.S. workers.

There is more in the article, that is recommended.

5. Taking Orwell’s Name In Vain

This article is by Nick Slater on Current Affairs. It is here because I like George Orwell a lot since I was 17, in 1967. It starts as follows:

Few dead old white guys have a holier aura than George Orwell. Despite his place next to Dickens and Dostoevsky in the pantheon of Writers You Had to Read in High School, he enjoys a popularity amongst the general population that can’t be attributed (entirely) to the shortness of his books. Neither can his books’ simplicity (the lack of “thees” and “thous” and ten-syllable names) fully explain Orwell’s appeal. No, what makes him great is the universal thought bubble that has burst above the head of every teenager who’s ever picked up Animal Farm or 1984:

“Damn, this dude was right.”

Orwell was right about the badness of Stalin and he was right about the badness of the surveillance state. He was right that people are easily brainwashed, and he was right that technology is making things worse. This is where most people conclude their reading of Orwell.

I don't like the exaggerated and bombastic style of Nick Slater, that also is manifested by the subtitle of his article:
Everyone loves George Orwell, though hardly anybody cares what he said or thought…
I am not everyone; I am absolutely certain that Nick Slater knows hardly anyone of "everyone" (just like me and everybody else: there are more than 3 times as many people as there are seconds in the life of someone who is 70); I did not have to read Orwell in high school but discovered him myself in 1967; evidently a writer of the 20th Century does not use "thee" and "thou", nor are there many ten-syllable words in English; and his books are not simple but are quite well-reasoned.

Besides, I am intelligent and I know that Orwell wrote especially for the intelligent, although I grant he was much less popular during his life than he was later.

Here is some more of the same bombast:
Orwell’s prophecies inspire pilgrimages from the faithful and great volumes of scholarship from a priesthood of learned elders. When calamity strikes, people seek his wisdom to help them grapple with the incomprehensible. He’s as universally beloved as one can be in this snide, contentious age. Squint hard enough, and the tall, lanky Englishman starts to look a little like Jesus Christ.
In case you doubt this is bombast: "prophecies", "pilgrimages", "the faithful", "priesthood", "calamity", "wisdom" and "the incomprehensible" - all in two sentences, that are supposed to describe a very clear and quite non-bombastic writer.

It is true there is also this in the article:
His full body of work is available for free online, and anyone with an ounce of curiosity can easily see for themselves what Orwell thought about everything from race relations to nuclear war to the rising price of cigarettes. Even the briefest peek beneath the surface reveals that Orwell, far from being a “both extremes are bad” proto-centrist, was in reality a dedicated socialist who fought against everything the Clintons and Watsons of the world represent.
I agree, but I do conclude that - for me, at least - Nick Slater may mean well, but he can't write. Then again, I do agree to this last quotation, and here is once again the Russian site that I have mentioned myself quite a few times:

It is a fine site that is much recommended to anyone who does want to understand Orwell.

Finally, I think myself that the four volumes of "The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell" [2] are the best introduction to Orwell. They were published by Penguin, and are very strongly recommended.


[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 1 1/2 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 (!!).

[2] I am getting more and more sick of Wikipedia, that I have read a lot of (the English one) in the last eight years, simply because I am interested in many things, and I also like to be factually correct in what I write:

Whereas one can find for quite minor writers explicit lemmas on Wikipedia of many of their - hardly read - books, one cannot find such an item for the
"The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell": I had to link to Sonia Orwell's site to mention it - and Orwell is certainly one of the most important writers in English of the 20th Century.
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