Monday, November 27, 2017

Crisis: On Genocide, U.S. Tax Reforms, Fake News, Net Neutrality, Big Money Rules

Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 27, 2017

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, November 27, 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 27, 2017
1. Enabling Genocide
2. Have Americans Finally Wised Up About 'Tax Reform'?
3. The Problem With Fake News
4. Protect Net Neutrality and Internet Freedom: World Wide Web

5. Big Money Rules
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. Enabling Genocide

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows and is mostly about Yugoslavia in 1995, when the Dutch (professional soldiers, all) played such extremely heroic roles:

On July 11, 1995, I was in the office of Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdžić in the besieged city of Sarajevo. As Serb artillery shells exploded in the streets around us, we listened to the last radio communication from the U.N. “safe area” of Srebrenica, being overrun by Serb troops led by Gen. Ratko Mladić. There was no doubt among any in the room that widespread killing of Muslims was about to begin.

“This is the result of a twisted policy of containment,” Silajdžić said to me bitterly. “The U.N. contained thousands of our tanks and artillery pieces and disarmed our population. And when we asked why the arms embargo
against us could not be lifted, we were told because it would endanger those Muslims living in the protected enclaves. This argument, after these Serb attacks, is now gone. But it means that the U.N. has become an accomplice to murder.”

Yes indeed. It is meanwhile over 22 years ago, but I recall this quite well, indeed also because 22 years ago there still was a BBC WS that I could get on my radio (disappeared in the 2000s), while also the Dutch NRC-Handelsblad was about a 100 to a 1000 times better than the present trash that´s sold under the same name [2].

Here are some of Hedges' reasons to say that ¨the U.N. has become an accomplice to murder¨:

Thousands of the 42,000 Muslims in the Srebrenica enclave, ostensibly protected by some 400 Dutch troops acting as U.N. peacekeepers, fled the Serbs advancing on the city and congregated in terror at the Dutch base at Potočari, three miles north of Srebrenica. Desperate pleas by the Muslim leadership in Srebrenica to the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for air support were ignored. The Bosnian Serb army, led by Mladić, who last week was sentenced to life in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes, ordered his soldiers to round up thousands of boys and men for execution or hunted them down as they tried to escape to territory under the control of Bosnian Muslims. When the slaughter was complete, more than 7,000 had been slain, the worst war crime in Europe since World War II.

Yes indeed. Here is more on the reasons that ¨more than 7,000¨ were slain:

Mladić, who in three years of war had overseen numerous massacres in the Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, had announced before the Srebrenica attack that he would make the Bosniak Muslim population of the region “vanish completely.” There was little doubt, given what he had done in the past, about his intentions or his willingness to murder on a large scale.
But Mladić was only one actor in the cast. The genocide was enabled by France, Britain, the United States, the United Nations and Muslim leaders in Sarajevo. The Western alliance and the United Nations—as in Rwanda a year earlier when it failed to halt the slaughter of 1 million Tutsis by the Hutu majority—never intended to fulfill the promise to protect the surrounded Muslims in Srebrenica.

Yes, I agree. As to the Dutch: Here is what professional Dutch soldiers are like:

The Dutch soldiers, who had no stomach to fight Mladić’s soldiers without air support, withdrew to their base. They permitted Serb soldiers to enter the base, where thousands of terrified Muslims had sought shelter, and round up men and boys, most of whom were executed, as well as women and girls who were later raped.
The Dutch commander in Srebrenica, Col. Ton Karremans, met Mladić on July 12 and provided 8,000 gallons of gasoline for the Serb trucks and buses that transported boys and men to the killing fields and powered the bulldozers that carved out the mass graves.

Note that ¨the Dutch soldiers¨ (..) (bolding added) ¨permitted Serb soldiers to enter the base¨ (..) ¨and round up men and boys, most of whom were executed, as well as women and girls who were later raped¨. Clearly, the Dutch professional soldiers acted heroically, that is, according to the Dutch. Indeed, I think the same applies to the heroic ¨Col. Ton Karremans¨ who ¨provided 8,000 gallons of gasoline for the Serb trucks and buses that transported boys and men to the killing fields and powered the bulldozers that carved out the mass graves¨.

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

How is it that nearly all the diplomats, politicians, generals and U.N. representatives who are complicit in this genocide have never been held to account? Why were none forced to resign in disgrace? How could the U.N. and the international community promise to protect a population facing genocide and then refuse to defend it? How could they insist on imposing an arms embargo on the Muslims in Bosnia as the Serbs deployed heavy weapons against them? How could the Dutch soldiers hand over civilians, who they had every reason to suspect would be murdered, and then provide the gasoline used in the trucks and buses that transported the men and boys to execution sites? How could the Muslim leadership sacrifice thousands of its own people to achieve the goal of NATO intervention?

I think these are all excellent questions, but I will answer only this one (which is about professional Dutch soldiers, with decent pay):
¨How could the Dutch soldiers hand over civilians, who they had every reason to suspect would be murdered, and then provide the gasoline used in the trucks and buses that transported the men and boys to execution sites?¨
There are several possible explanations, but my own opinion is that this was extremely much like the Dutch acted in great majority between 1940 and 1945, when thanks to their enormous heroism ¨a mere¨ 116,000 Jews were arrested and subsequently murdered by the Nazis. (There also were a few exceptions, among whom were my parents and grandparents, in thanks for which my father and grandfather were convicted in 1941 by collaborating Dutch judges to concentration camp imprisonments because they were, according to the collaborating Dutch judges [3] ¨political terrorists¨.)

Anyway... this is a recommended article.

2. Have Americans Finally Wised Up About 'Tax Reform'?

This article is by Neil Gabler on Truthdig and originally on Moyers and Company. It starts as follows:

OK, you know the scenario by now. Congressional Republicans propose — surprise! — tax cuts. The vast bulk of these cuts go to the very wealthiest Americans and to corporations, which are headed by these wealthy Americans and which give them dividends that are taxed at lower rates. Meanwhile, ordinary working Americans, and by “working” I include professionals who earn a wage or salary, get modest cuts or no cuts at all.
And then Republicans pass the tax cuts, and a good many Americans — even those blue-collar Joes — cheer, because after all, they may get a few pennies on the dollar.

There is a name for this: “playing us for suckers.” And Americans seem to fall for it every single time. Who doesn’t want tax cuts? They are the opiate of politics.

Yes indeed. And who am I to deny that the very many Americans who ¨fall for it every single time¨ - since 1980, at the latest - because they seem to love being played ¨for suckers¨ fall for it because they are suckers a.k.a. stupid and ignorant?

As I said, this worked for nearly forty years (!!). According to Neal Gabler there now may be a change:

But a funny thing happened on the way to the new GOP cuts, billed fallaciously as “tax reform.” This time, the public hasn’t seemed to swallow the bait — at least not hook, line and sinker. Polls are all over the place, from those showing outright opposition to those showing decreasing support the more the public learns about the bill.

No, this isn’t exactly a political earthquake, but it isn’t nothing. Having been played for suckers for decades, Americans may be wising up. That doesn’t mean, of course, that the tax-cut package won’t pass.
I don´t think so, for two general reasons.

My first reason is that it is quite unlikely that ¨
[h]aving been played for suckers for decades, Americans may be wising up¨. Note that I am not saying this cannot happen, but merely that this is quite unlikely (indeed also because I have seen no reason whatsoever to believe that Americans are on average less stupid and less ignorant than they were before).

And my second reason is that if there are (or seem to be) a few changes, these are mostly due to the extremely radical thefts by the rich from the non-rich that is the essence of Trump´s tax plan.

Here is some more by Neil Gabler:

Finally, there is the larger issue. Republicans have managed to convince Americans — not that it took much convincing — that taxes are a form of government theft rather than a way to pay for services and what economists call “diseconomies,” or things that would not be paid for by the market, like defense or assistance to the needy. In effect, Republicans have delegitimized taxes in order to delegitimize government.

What’s more, they have convinced a good many Americans that our tax structure, rather than aiding the rich and hurting the poor and middle class, actually takes from that hard-working middle class and gives to the allegedly undeserving poor — another blatant fallacy.

Forty years of brainwashing can do that.
No, I am sorry: It is not just the ¨[f]orty years of brainwashing¨ that did this. It is the
¨[f]orty years of brainwashing¨ of a majority of the stupid and the ignorant that convinced the majority of the Americans of stark falsities. If the majority had not been stupid nor ignorant most ¨brainwashing¨ would have failed.

Here is Gabler´s ending:
I am not optimistic, but the fact that Americans seem so ambivalent about tax cuts may nevertheless be, as I said, a harbinger of a better, smarter politics from a more enlightened citizenry. I like to think that you can rob the middle class to give to the rich just so long before they figure out what’s happening. Perhaps now they do.

I am sorry, for I am not just ¨not optimistic¨, I also strongly fear that stupidity and ignorance are far stronger than rationality and knowledge, at least in the majority of American voters.

3. The Problem With Fake News

This article is by Amanda Marcotte on AlterNet and originally on Salon. I abbreviated the four-line, twentyone words title, and the article starts as follows:

A year out from Donald Trump's astonishing and disturbing presidential win, it's become clear that the absolute sea of disinformation — much of which was Russia-funded and most of which was disseminated through the internet — was critical in helping push a know-nothing reality TV star–turned-wannabe-dictator into power. With the 2018 elections less than a year away, the pressing question now is: How we stop this from happening again?

Unfortunately, on a Tuesday press call organized by the Factual Democracy Project, an anti-propaganda political action group, the experts did not have the magic bullet.
I am sorry, but someone who speaks of ¨the absolute sea of disinformation — much of which was Russia-funded¨ is speaking propaganda - see ¨Russia-gate¨ in the index.

Then there is this:
[U]ltimately, it was hard to avoid concluding that the reason that disinformation works is because there's an audience for it.

“We see communication in this transmission model," Claire Wardle, a research fellow at the Harvard Shorenstein Center, argued. We want to believe, she said that "more quality information" is the solution. 

"What we’re missing is that people’s relationship to information is entirely emotional," Wardle added. "People want to consume information that makes them feel good, because it reaffirms their worldview"; moreover, "disinformation agencies" understand that psychology.
I am sorry, but it is simply not true (bolding added) ¨that people’s relationship to information is entirely emotional¨: People´s relationships are - except perhaps in extreme psychological states of sickness - always based on a combination of emotion, rationality, reason, personal values and personal knowledge and information. Neither of these may be well-developed or well-informed, but that is the rule: To say it is ¨entirely emotional¨ is simply total bullshit.

Then there is this:
The biggest disseminator of disinformation in the country now is Trump himself, a man who is completely unencumbered by moral discomfort with blatant lying in order to get his way. For instance, Trump has been running around shamelessly claiming that the Republican tax bill will raise taxes on rich people like himself, when in fact it's the opposite — the plan is to cut taxes for the rich and pay for it by hiking taxes on lower- and middle-income people.
More bullshit: Trump may be - and probably is (in my opinion) - a very bad man who is lying extremely much, but there are extremely many purveyors of ¨information¨ on the internet, and clearly quite a few mix propaganda or lies with their information. To say that the person of Trump is the ¨biggest disseminator of disinformation¨ is both evidently false and in contradiction with the beginning, where the blame was mainly laid on ¨Russia¨ and ¨the internet¨.

Finally, the whole term ¨fake news¨ only occurs in the title.

4. Protect Net Neutrality and Internet Freedom: World Wide Web Inventor

This article is by Tim Berners-Lee. It starts as follows:

When I invented the World Wide Web as an information sharing system in 1989, I aimed to create a neutral space where everyone could create, share, debate, innovate, learn and dream. That’s why I gave my invention away for free, so that anyone, anywhere could access and build on it without permission. My vision was an online space that would give people freedom — and America’s entrepreneurial, optimistic spirit embraced it with enthusiasm.

I don´t like Tim Berners-Lee. The above is one version of his ends and the means he created to realize it; another version says that the internet is the most perfect system of spying on everyone that was ever designed.

And I strongly believe in the second version. I cannot prove anything about Tim Berners-Lee about whom I also do not know much, but I notice that as early as 1967
Zbigniew Brzezinski articulated the ends of spying on everyone that became of central importance to all spies anywhere

Here is Brzezinski (for many years had of the U.S.´s national security) in 1967:

The idea of the technotronic society seems to be under the
auspices of Zbigniev Brezezinski, until recently a member of
the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department, and now
Director of the Research Institute of Communist Affairs at
Columbia University. The 'technotronic society' seems to be the
exact opposite of the society of 'spontaneity' demanded by
revolutionary students, who Mr Brezezinskin evidently regards
as pathetic throw-backs, survivors of Romantic days, forlornly
playing out anachronistic roles (..)

And here he is in 1970:

Mr Brzezinski realises that the technotronic society fills some
people with uneasiness (in this respect the reactionaries and the
revolutionaries are as one).
   However Mr Brezezinski does not expect that the Luddite
lovers of freedom and anarchy will seriously obstruct the new
order. For one thing, 'it will soon be possible to assert almost
continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-
date, complete files, containing even personal information
about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in
addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be
possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the
future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the
rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.
And here he is once again in 1970:
"The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities." – Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, 1970

I think that the internet we presently have, that spies on everyone anywhere, both in the form of ¨national security personnel¨ in nearly all countries, as in the form of most or all of the greatest computing firms - Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft - that also know everyone they desire in all the detail they need (to further their own profits).

None of that would have been possible if Berners-Lee had included privacy in his design of internet: Emails should have been encrypted from the start, but were not, and still are not. He did not do that. DARPA was undoubtedly extremely enthusiastic.

Here is the other bit I quote from the article:

This week, I was in Washington telling America’s regulators and lawmakers the story of the Web’s invention, and explaining how dismantling net neutrality will result in fewer choices for consumers. But I need to ask you — the American public — to join me in making sure the United States retains its position as a leader of the free and open Internet.

Please help. If you believe a small group of companies should not control what you can access online, if you want your small business to be given a level online playing field, if you want the freedom to surf the Web freely with the same rights and privileges as others — call your congressional representatives today to urge them to stop the FCC from overturning net neutrality.

I am sorry, but ¨making sure the United States retains its position as a leader of the free and open Internet¨ is pure propaganda: The internet is not free, for everyone who is on it is spied upon by hundreds or thousands of security organs and rich corporations everywhere. And if the internet is ¨open¨ it is open in the sense that no encryption assures that everyone is and can be spied upon by everyone who has the money or the power.

And I do not think I (or anyone else who is not a spy) have to be thankful for that.

5. Big Money Rules

This article is by Diane Ravich on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:
I grew up in the 1950s, an era when many believed that our society would inevitably progress toward ever greater economic equality. Desperate poverty would recede, it was assumed, as new federal programs addressed the needs of those at the very bottom of the ladder and as economic growth created new jobs. The average CEO at the time earned only twenty times as much as the average worker, and during the Eisenhower administration the marginal tax rate for the highest earners was 91 percent. Today, the goal of equality appears to be receding. The top marginal tax rate is only 39 percent, far below what it was during the Eisenhower years, and most Republicans would like to lower it even more. Employers now make 271 times as much as the average worker, and half the children in American schools are officially classified by the federal government as low-income and eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Union membership peaked in the mid-1950s and has declined ever since; the largest unions today are in the public sector and only about 7 percent of private sector workers belong to a union.
Yes indeed: quite so. And in fact this article is mostly a review of two books that may be quite interesting, but all of which I skip. Then again, the above summary of what happened is quite good, and it gets continued as follows, which is also quite true:
Despite these alarming developments, however, politicians who support the deregulation of business and champion pro-employer legislation—from state legislators to members of Congress—have a firm electoral foothold in most states.
Yes indeed. And my own explanation for that fact is - it seems - quite unpopular but (I think) quite true: The only good explanation for the fact that at least 60 million Americans voted for a liar and a fraud is that most of them - those without any riches - happen to be rather stupid and quite ignorant. [4]
Why do people of modest means who depend on government-funded health care and Social Security or other supplements to their income continue to vote for candidates who promise to privatize or get rid of those very programs? Why do people who are poor vote for politicians who promise to cut corporate taxes?
Because they are stupid. Because they are ignorant. Because they all engage in wishful thinking. Because hardly any of them learned what are rational thinking, real science and real logic and mathematics.

There is a lot more in this article, that is 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] These are just two of very many changes for the worse that happened to me in the past 22 years - and yes, I read the NRC-Handels- blad from 1970-2010, so I do know what I am talking about, while I also know that - somehow, after surrendering most of your privacy - you are supposed to get the WS on the internet. Well, it never worked for me.

[3] Almost all Dutch judges collaborated. The complete Dutch Supreme Court collaborated, except for its Jewish head, who was dismissed and soon died. His wife was duly gassed. None of the Dutch collaborating judges were ever punished for anything. Is that perhaps also an explanation for the fact that all Dutch judges tolerated the selling of soft drugs - presently: for 300 billion dollars over the last 30 years (!!) - while soft drugs were and are illegal in Holland?!

[4] I have said so before, but do it again: I am and always have been a complete atheist, who also thought up his own ethical code. This is as follows:
Do not be mean, angry or dishonest; do not be stupid, ignorant or negligent.
This may be remembered by ¨Do not be mad, do not sin¨ (and the letters - "m¨, ¨a¨, ¨d¨ etc. - abbreviate the above rules).
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