Sunday, November 26, 2017

Crisis: On China, U.S. Protestors, Net Neutrality, On the GOP, Republican Knaves

Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 26, 2017 

This is a Nederlog of Sunday
, November 26, 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 26, 2017
1. In China, the Brutality of ‘House Arrest’
2. Arrestees at Trump Inauguration Protest Could Face 60-Year

3. Killing Net Neutrality Is a Critical Goal in Trump's Campaign
     Against Free Speech

4. GOP Insider Bruce Bartlett: 'The Republican Party Needs to Die'
5. Fools or Knaves?
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. In China, the Brutality of ‘House Arrest’

This article is by Steven Lee Myers on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Authoritarian regimes shroud their darkest features in euphemism. So it is with China’s “residential surveillance at a designated location.” It sounds like a kind of house arrest, a milder form of detention for those under investigation, perhaps, or awaiting trial. It is not.

It is in fact the codification in law of a widespread practice of whisking people into secret detention — “disappearing” them into a labyrinth where China’s stunted legal protections can do little to prevent abuse. The practice violates not only human rights but also international law, according to Michael Caster of Safeguard Defenders, a group founded in August to protect those in Asia who fight for human rights, women’s rights and civil society.

Yes indeed. In fact, I'd say that arresting people and putting them away into secret detention is an almost certain guarantee that they will be seriously abused and may be tortured, while it also threatens everybody else who is Chinese - more than one billion men and women now - that anybody whose ideas and values differ from those of the Chinese leaders risks precisely the same thoroughly illegal treatment.

Here is some more:

Article 73 of China’s Criminal Procedure Law was amended in 2012 to allow the authorities to detain people for reasons of “state security” or “terrorism.” Detainees can be held for as long as six months in “designated locations” — secret prisons.

China has shown that it can define those reasons so broadly that it sweeps up anyone viewed as a political threat to the supremacy of the Communist Party: dissidents, lawyers, activists and outspoken Tibetans and Uighurs. Among those who have been held under a form of “residential surveillance” are the artist Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo, the poet and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died in the state’s custody in July.

Yes indeed - and the arrests of Ai Weiwei and Liu Xiaobo show that absolutely noone with ideas or values that differ from the Chinese leaders is safe from this kind of thoroughly illegal treatment by the Chinese government.

Here is some more:

Mr. Caster’s group has compiled 12 accounts by those who have descended into this Orwellian legal abyss. They appear in a book, “The People’s Republic of the Disappeared,” that was published in English this month and is scheduled to come out in Chinese on Friday. These accounts — two of them anonymous, some written by those safely outside China, some by brave souls still inside — represent the experiences of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have been deprived of the legal rights the country’s Constitution ostensibly allows them.

The narrators tell of physical and psychological abuse, beatings and sleep deprivation, humiliations, isolation and threats to relatives. The nature of Article 73 fosters such abuse, its critics assert. In regular detention centers, institutional norms like the presence of guards and prosecutors can serve as a deterrent to violations. In the solitary confinement typical of “designated locations,” there are few constraints. It has become “a more severe, more terrible, coercive measure than normal criminal detention,” Teng Biao, a lawyer who left China after his own secret detentions, writes in the book’s foreword.

There is considerably more in the article, notably reports on four very brave Chinese who went through "this Orwellian legal abyss".

And this is a recommended article (that incidentally also shows the way Trump would like to go in the USA, or so it seems to me).

2. Arrestees at Trump Inauguration Protest Could Face 60-Year Terms

This article is by Emily Wells on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Thousands protested the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald Trump, but only those who marched in an anti-fascist, anti-capitalist demonstration known as Disrupt J20 have been charged with felony rioting. Opening arguments for the first group to go on trial began Monday, with arguments for all of the nearly 200 defendants scheduled through October 2018.

In her opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff described the protests as “a sea of black masks” and argued, “You don’t have to be the one who breaks the window to be guilty.” She claims all those arrested “actively helped those with the hammers and crowbars” and were “playing a role in the violence and destruction.”

The Independent reports they could face 60 years behind bars if convicted (...)
In fact, I have not much to say about the first two paragraphs except that in a democracy with a somewhat reasonable legal system (i) in principle everybody has the right to be an anti-fascist and an anti-capitalist, while also (ii) to deny these rights is to speak as an authoritarian.

But the last paragraph is utterly insane:

Saying you don't like Trump may mean that you are jailed for sixty years, which to me sounds fascistic. In Holland (under the present laws) you have to commit several cruel murders to risk such a punishment (if it is possible, which I do not know), while in Norway a man who killed 95 persons could not be legally committed for more than 20 years, simply because 20 years is the limit (in Norway, under present laws).

And to me it also seems as if Jennifer Kerkhoff speaks as if she is a terrorist lawyer, in this case for the state. In case you doubt this, here is more:

During a July hearing, prosecutor Kerkhoff said it wasn’t necessary for defendants to have personally damaged property in order to be charged or convicted”: “A person can be convicted of rioting without breaking a window,” she said. “It is the group who is the danger, the group who is providing the elements.”

Other actions of the prosecution have also been challenged as inappropriate. For example, prosecutors have obtained warrants allowing them to inspect the social media accounts of the defendants, and another warrant sought a list of all visitors to an anti-Trump website promoting protests on Inauguration Day.
In other words: According to Kerkhoff anybody who belonged to that group is automatically guilty, also if they did precisely nothing, and may be for that reason be committed for 60 years in prison.

That is legal insanity in my eyes.

3. Killing Net Neutrality Is a Critical Goal in Trump's Campaign Against Free Speech

This article is by Joseph Torres on Truthdig and originally on FreePress. It starts as follows:
The president’s appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, unveiled his plan to kill Net Neutrality at a closed-door FreedomWorks-sponsored event last Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

It’s appropriate that Pai made this announcement at a gathering sponsored by a telecom-funded organization that played a key role in elevating the racist Tea Party movement. His plan will allow powerful corporations to silence the voices of everyday people — especially people of color — who struggle to be heard.
Yes indeed. Here is some more:

And now Pai will carry out Trump’s agenda to silence dissenting voices. Pai wants to kill the open internet by getting rid of the FCC’s legal authority to enforce Net Neutrality rules adopted in 2015.

The rules currently prevent internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from blocking and discriminating against websites and online traffic. Without those rules, ISPs would no longer have to treat all web content equally. They would have the power to slow down some sites or even block those that can’t or won’t pay extra.

Yes indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Pai, of course, claims that he’s actually protecting the open internet. But Pai, like the president who tapped him to run the agency, lies. And like the president, he lies all the time.

The Trump administration’s effort to kill Net Neutrality is part of its ongoing attack on free speech and the First Amendment.

I agree, although I'd qualify this by saying that Pai lies all the time when he is speaking for Trump. But this is a strongly neofascistic rule and approach, and it is very dangerous for any free speech. And this is a recommended article.

4. GOP Insider Bruce Bartlett: 'The Republican Party Needs to Die'

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

American democracy is in crisis, a fact that should be obvious to everyone but that too many people keep ignoring. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, does not believe in or respect basic norms of democratic governance. His words and behavior reveal a deep affinity for fascism.

I think Trump is a neofascist rather than a fascist, but while I give the links to my Philosophical Dictionary, I also give up (for the most part) articulating this distinction, in part for the simple reason that I have not seen anyone anywhere on the internet who is capable of giving reasonable definitions of these concepts.

And I also think this is quite sickening, for I have read many who accuse others of being "fascists", while these accusations - that may be correct - are absolutely never underpinned by any reasonable definition (and I know, because I am a philosopher whose grandfather was murdered in a Nazi concentration camp, while my father survived more than three years and nine months as a "political terrorist" in these camps).

Here are some backgrounds:

The Citizens United decision defined corporate money as free speech. This undermines American democracy by allowing the most powerful business interests and the richest individuals to overrule and veto the desires of the American people.

The United States is an oligarchy. Recent research shows that the country's elected officials are most responsive to the rich, business interest groups and others with the resources to buy access.

The Republican Party uses gerrymandering and voter suppression to remain in power. It has ceased to believe in any form of compromise or negotiation with Democrats or liberals.
I agree, although I'd like to point out that a state cannot be both a democracy and an oligarchy. But I do agree with DeVega that currently the USA is an oligarchy where there still are pretensions that it is a democracy, which are nearly all quite false.

Here is more:

How has the truth been assaulted by Donald Trump and the Republican Party? What role did Trump's incessant lies and his talking points about "fake news" play in his election? How does the myth of the "liberal media" empower the American right? Is there any space for a liberal or centrist alternative to Fox News and the broader right-wing disinformation-propaganda machine? Can the Republican Party in its present form be saved? Does the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election reflect a larger cultural and political problem?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Bruce Bartlett. He was a former White House adviser under President Ronald Reagan and also served under President George H.W. Bush. (..) He is the author of the new book "The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating Facts From Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks."
In fact, I don't think Bartlett answered most of these questions, but he is a bit interesting, indeed in good part because of his Republican background.

Here is the first bit that I quote:

Why do you think the mainstream news media was so reluctant to directly confront and expose Trump's lies? 

When the mainstream media began to downsize to cope with the loss of revenue from advertising and subscribers, the first thing they did was lay off their most senior reporters. They were able to save a lot of money that way. The problem is that a lot of journalistic training takes place informally in the newsroom, where young reporters learn from the old veterans who have been around for a long time. One of the things that you learn in that way that can't be taught in the university is how to tell when somebody is lying.

I don't think (in general - there are a few exceptions) that you can tell when somebody is lying without knowing the real facts and his or her values and interests, while I did not know that many of the "most senior reporters" were laid off so as to increase the profits of the mainstream media, but I believe that Bartlett is right in that second point.

Then there is this:

Why do you think there has not been a successful counter to right-wing talk radio, and right-wing media more generally, from liberals and centrists?

Well I think the simple answer is that liberals and centrists are perfectly content with the mainstream media. They’re very happy with the New York Times and the Washington Post exactly as they are; they’re happy with ABC, CBS, NBC and NPR.
I doubt it, but I agree that (i) these matters are difficult to judge, while also (ii) Bartlett is probably right about a sizeable subset of the "liberals and centrists".

There is a lot more I'll leave to your interests, but here is the end of the article:

How did today’s Republican Party, in your estimation, become the way it is? Can it be saved?

The Republican Party needs to die. It’s already a zombie. It’s brain dead.

This is by a - former? - Republican. And this is a recommended article.

5. Fools or Knaves?

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

One of the most dangerous consequences of this awful period in American life is the denigration of the truth, and of institutions and people who tell it.

There are two kinds of liars – fools and knaves. Fools lie because they don’t know the truth. Knaves lie because they intend to mislead.

Trump is both, because he doesn’t even care enough about the truth to find out what it is. He’ll say whatever he thinks will get people to believe what he wants them to believe.

Yes, this is mostly correct, but I have nevertheless two remarks:

The first is that the situation with lying is a bit more complicated than Reich may assume it is, for he speaks as if he means by liars those who do not speak the truth. In fact, the correct definition of a liar is that one is a liar precisely if one asserts that something is true while oneself believes it is not true.

This means that one may be lying oneself while speaking the truth, though I agree this is probably only so in a fairly small minority of the many lies that are told.

The second is (once again) that (1) every student in the "University" of Amsterdam, and all their parents and family were told in August of 1978 (!!!!) by the historian professor M.A. Brandt, who may have been speaking as a conscious fascist, at least if we believe Hannah Arendt, whose books M.A. Brandt may very well have read, that (literally, in translation)

"Everybody knows that truth does NOT exist."

And (2) this was THE point of view of what "truth" was in the (semi-marxist) "University" of Amsterdam that prevailed for 95% of the students and 95% of the scientific staff between 1978 and 1995.

Also (3) I protested, but did not know at the time I protested that at most 5% agreed with me, and I also did not know that I - who had created a student party in 1981 - was to be terrorized for three years by an insane person who was protected by the Board of Directors of the UvA between 1981 and 1983, and was to be - illegally - removed from taking the M.A. in philosophy very briefly before taking it, because I had spoken the truth about my utterly incompetent, lying, and deceiving "teachers" of philosophy.

I have expounded the above many times, but hardly any Dutchman cares, indeed quite as the great majority of the Dutch reacted between 1940 and 1945, when "a mere" 116,000 of their supposedly Jewish fellow Dutchmen were rounded up to be murdered, and at least 95% did precisely nothing.

Back to Reich:

What about people like Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s point person on the Republican tax bills now making their way through Congress?

Mnuchin continues to insist that they put a higher tax burden on people earning more than $1 million a year, and reduce taxes on everyone else. “I can tell you that virtually everybody in the middle class will get a tax cut, and will get a significant tax cut,” Mnuchin says repeatedly.

But the prestigious Tax Policy Center concludes that by 2025, almost all of the benefits of both bills will have gone to the richest 1 percent, while upper-middle-class payers will pay higher taxes and those at the lower levels will receive only modest benefits. 

So is Mnuchin a fool?
Of course not, and indeed it also does not make much sense to ask whether the lies by the most powerful liars are those of a fool: They rarely are, for the most powerful have a very strong reason to lie, and this reason is precisley their own great power as compared with the vast majority.

In fact, Reich agrees:

Assuming Mnuchin isn’t a fool, he’s a knave. He intends to deceive the public.

By doing so he has abandoned his duty to the American people inherent in the oath of office taken by every cabinet official, in favor of advancing the goals of his boss and other Republicans in Washington who are desperate to pass their tax bill.  

He has also sacrificed his credibility and integrity.

I agree with Reich, 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 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 (!!).
      home - index - summaries - mail