Monday, November 6, 2017

Crisis: Paradise Papers, Hubris, On Bezos, On "RussiaDidIt", The Vietnam War

Sections                                                crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from November 6, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Monday
November 6, 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 November 6, 2017
1. 'Paradise Papers' Reveal Tax Avoidance, Shady
     Dealings of World's Rich and Powerful

2. Trump and Dangerous Hubris: We Have Never Had
     a President Like This One

3. The Definition of Obscenity Is the Huge Money and
     Benefits Our Gov't Hands Over to Amazon

4. RussiaDidIt: cheap meddling, closet Marxists and
     racial tensions

5. The Pity of It All
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. 'Paradise Papers' Reveal Tax Avoidance, Shady Dealings of World's Rich and Powerful

This article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:
Some of the world's wealthiest and most powerful people will be waking up on Monday to discover that some of their best kept secrets—how they hide their vast wealth and avoid paying taxes—are now being read about in newspapers across the world after the release of a trove of offshore legal and banking documents were leaked to journalists and published Sunday as a joint project called the 'Paradise Papers.'

First obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, the documents were then shared with scores of journalists and researchers associated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and other media organizations, including the New York Times, BBC, and the Guardian.
Yes indeed, although I did not know about the Paradise Papers until this morning, but there is a whole lot in the Guardian and some in the New York Times.

I chose Common Dreams, simply because I can copy it (unlike the pretty insane Guardian) and because I trust Common Dreams a lot more than the Guardian and others.

Here is a bit on the difference between the few rich and the few powerful on the one hand, and the very many non-rich and non-powerful on the other hand:
"There is this small group of people who are not equally subject to the laws as the rest of us, and that's on purpose," said author and financial expert Brooke Harrington in response to the new insights about how these elites secretly manage their wealth.
I think that is correct, and indeed may be formulated more generally:

The law exists - in the opinions of the few rich and the few powerful - to restrain or repress the non-rich and the non- powerful; it does not exist to restrain the rich or the powerful, and indeed these have both the money and the lawyers to circumvent almost anything.

There also is either a fair amount or a large amount of - financial -  information on various rich people. I have not sorted this myself yet, and do not know how interesting the material is, but here is one interesting bit from it (and the ICIJ = International Consortium of Investigative Journalists):

As the ICIJ reports, the "trove of 13.4 million records exposes ties between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump's billionaire commerce secretary, the secret dealings of the chief fundraiser for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the offshore interests of the Queen of England and more than 120 politicians around the world." According to the ICIJ, the documents

show how deeply the offshore financial system is entangled with the overlapping worlds of political players, private wealth and corporate giants, including Apple, Nike, Uber and other global companies that avoid taxes through increasingly imaginative bookkeeping maneuvers.

And this is all correct to the best of my knowledge, while there also is a lot more, both in this article and elsewhere.

This is a recommended article, and there may be more on the Paradise Papers later in Nederlog. 

2. Trump and Dangerous Hubris: We Have Never Had a President Like This One

This article is by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

What happens when someone with the temperament and knowledge-deficiencies of Donald Trump is backed into a corner? Let’s hope we don’t find out.
Humility’s unworthy opposite, hubris, is a quality we’re accustomed to in public life. Whenever the prospect of war looms, we should be especially worried. Hubris is a degenerative disorder that rarely, if ever, ends well. Before jumping to conclusions, though, in a way, it doesn’t matter that Donald Trump combines tough talk and peevishness with crude theatricality, immaturity, a short attention span and a scary ability to tell comforting lies to himself. There is nothing new about the hubristic presidency.

Both of the writers are "professors of history" and there is absolutely nothing in their article that even suggests that these "scientists" (I am sorry but history is not a science) have read any of the 62,000 psychologists and psychiatrists who do NOT say that Trump has "hubris" or "kleptocracy" or any other of the many "diagnoses" ignorant journalists have cooked up as "explanations" for Trump's behavior, but that he does have the personal pathology of grandiose or malignant narcissism, in the terms of the DSM-IV.

I am sorry: I am a psychologist and I have decided over 1 1/2 years ago that Trump is insane. I am not saying this is certain, but I am saying that (i) it is probable; (ii) it is the best known more or less systematic explanation for the many deviances Trump shows with other presidents, and (iii) I am now also saying that two historians who do not even mention any psychology or psychiatry, but do entertain all manner of psychological explanations (like "hubris" etc. etc.) are simply either extremely lazy or else incompetent or else out to pick their own financial gains.

Also, I don't know any evidence that "[h]ubris is a degenerative disorder".  I had another quote, but I discard it for I think this is simply a lousy article.

3. The Definition of Obscenity Is the Huge Money and Benefits Our Gov't Hands Over to Amazon

This article is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Jeffrey Preston Bezos is the man of unbounded ambition who founded Amazon, the online retailing colossus that trumpets itself as "Earth's most customer-centric company." He's considered a model of tech wizardry for having totally reinvented retail marketing for our smart-phone, globally-linked age. Amazon peddles a cornucopia of goods through a convenient "1-click" ordering system, rapidly delivering the goods right to your doorstep.
Amazon's most recent announcement is that it wants to get inside your home -- and, ironically, it's using "security" as its rationale. Rather than Amazon leaving products you order on your doorstep, the corporation wants a key to unlock your door so its delivery crews can do you the favor of placing the products you order inside your abode.
Well... as I said in item 5 I have no TV since 1970, which makes me a little odd. I also much dislike Amazon, Bezos, Apple, Windows, Google and the universally spying secret services, for which reasons I do not use any of these, and also do not and never wil have a cellphone: I hate being spied upon by all of the above + god knows how many secret services.

Finally, if you are stupid enough to trust Bezos or to buy into his schema for getting - anonymously - into your house, I think you are crazy.

But the above seems quite true, as does the following bit that shows some more about Bezos and Amazon:
We're presently witnessing the most disgusting spectacle yet of the politico-corporate cabal extracting money from the People's wallets to enrich themselves. The $136-billion-a-year internet colossus, has haughtily generated a shameful public bidding war over the location of its new corporate headquarters. The "winner" essentially will be the city and state that offers the most bribe money from their treasury.

Uber-rich Amazon doesn't need and certainly doesn't deserve this giveaway, but officials in 238 cities have prostrated themselves in front of the welfare queen in an embarrassing bid to win her nod. In fact, their offers have been based on Amazon's very specific demands, including a "business-friendly environment and tax structure," plus free land, payment of its capital and operational costs, tax breaks, relocation grants for executives and workforce, reduced utility bills and construction fees and... oh yeah, also give us first-rate schools and an educated labor pool.

There is more in the article, that is recommended.

4. RussiaDidIt: cheap meddling, closet Marxists and racial tensions

This article is by Ricardo Vaz on the Off-Guardian and originally on It starts as follows:
It seems like all the evils that plague the western world these days have a common cause. Brexit, Catalonia, Trump, racial tensions, the lack of credibility of the EU, all of these have a simple explanation, if we are to believe the mainstream media and pundits: Russia is behind it. And not just Russia, but Putin himself. He must be the busiest villain in history. True journalists like Robert Parry have analysed and exposed the rise of this new McCarthyism, and how uncorroborated, or sometimes outrightly false, allegations gradually become unquestionable facts.
Yes indeed - and I completely agree and indeed have rejected the "Russia-gate" explanations as total propaganda. (One thing most Americans seem to miss about Putin and Russia is that Russia is very capitalistic, and became so with the help of many Americans, in the 1990ies).

And indeed Robert Parry is one of the real journalists who has analyzed this idiocy quite a few times, and who did so quite rationally and reasonably.

Here is more on the Guardian (that has become very much worse since the new editor Viner took over: they seem most interested in the incomes of their own journalists, at least so far as I can see):
As expected, the Guardian has embraced the idea that the Russians “hacked” the 2016 US elections (whatever that means) wholeheartedly.
Well... in fact here is the meaning of "Russian hacking":
The liberal media have often thrown these outrageous suggestions that activism like Black Lives Matter is part of a foreign agenda, as opposed to a reaction to the structural racism that exists in the US (more on this later). But the main point that needs to be addressed about this cunning plan is the following: how much did the Russians spend in these devious activities of inflaming tensions in the US? A whopping… 80.000 dollars! The Guardian thinks the activities of some alleged troll factory engaging in social media activity and paying activists a grand total of $80.000 represents unacceptable Russian “meddling”!
Quite so - and if you want to know more about "Russian hacking" see Parry's Blaming Russia for the Internet ‘Sewer’ (that I reviewed on October 19) from which I also quote the following - and $27 billion = the yearly advertising turnover on Facebook, while $100,000 is what Facebook says the Russians spend on advertising:
$ 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.”".
If you believe that is "meddling in the US elections" consider this: 
Let us put this number in perspective. Hillary Clinton made $3 million out of 12 speeches to big banks. The entire spending in the US presidential election was almost $2 billion. And the Guardian is worried about these $80.000 worth of meddling. For comparison USAID spent $4.2 million advancing US interests in Venezuela in 2015 alone.
And this is why Ricardo Vaz is quite right, and why this is a recommended article.

5. The Pity of It All

This article is by Frances Fitzgerald on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:
Ken Burns achieved renown with lengthy film histories of the Civil War, World War II, jazz, and baseball, but he describes his documentary The Vietnam War, made in close collaboration with his codirector and coproducer Lynn Novick, as “the most ambitious project we’ve ever undertaken.” Ten years in the making, it tells the story of the war in ten parts and over eighteen hours. Burns and Novick have made a film that conveys the realities of the war with extraordinary footage of battles in Vietnam and antiwar demonstrations in the United States.
Yes indeed. I have not seen any of it, and much doubt I will, for I do not even have a TV since 1970 (I hate propaganda, deceptions, advertisements, bullshit and stupidity and I get far too much of any of these items on TV, which I therefore don't have) but I did live and think while the Vietnam War lasted, and I have read several reviews of Burns' work.

This seems a decent review, and I will pick out three points from it. The first is this:

For those under forty, for whom the Vietnam War seems as distant as World War I or II, the film will serve as an education; for those who lived through it, the film will serve as a reminder of its horrors and of the official lies that drove it forward. In many ways it is hard to watch, and its battle scenes will revive the worst nightmares of those who witnessed them firsthand.

Asked why he and Novick took on this project, Burns said that more than forty years after the war ended, we can’t forget it, and we are still arguing about it. We are all, Novick added, “searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy.” Their aim, the filmmakers said, was to explore whether the war was a terrible mistake that could have been avoided.
I think this is probably correct, as is the following:
What is truly admirable about the film is the effort to show the many Vietnamese sides of the war. Burns and Novick interviewed Saigon government officials as well as dozens of NLF and North Vietnamese survivors: ordinary soldiers, officers, political cadres, and civilians. Many tell of the incessant bombing and the destruction of their villages.
Yes indeed, for this seems to be quite true. Incidentally, Peter Coyote, who voiced the comments for the film also remarked on this, and added that these efforts did not increase his sympathy for the North Vietnamese because these seem to have been as manipulative as the Americans.

And there is also this in Burns' The Vietnam War:
The filmmakers pay considerable attention to the antiwar movement. In the film, Bill Zimmerman, a relatively unknown moderate antiwar activist, explains the rationale behind the student strikes and demonstrations but deplores the violence of fringe factions such as the Weathermen. The footage of the demonstrations, the fracas outside the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and the veterans throwing their medals over the White House fence is well known but nonetheless effective in conveying the domestic turmoil that arose during the war.
This side also is usually excluded from American reports and document- aries, as were the efforts and values of the North Vietnamese.

There is a lot more in the article, that seems to be a decent review and is recommended.

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 (!!).
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