January 4, 2018

Crisis: On Steve Bannon, "Russia-gate", North Korea, 60 Years Of CIA, Buying With Cash


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 4, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 4, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 4, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Trump Breaks With Bannon, Saying He Has ‘Lost His Mind’
2. Debunking the Canard About Kremlin-Generated Social Media Madness
3. Trump Threatens North Korea with Nuclear Annihilation in Horrifying
     New Tweet

4. The CIA's 60-Year History of Fake News: How the Deep State Corrupted
     Many American Writers

5. Corporate Coercion and the Drive to Eliminate Buying with Cash
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. Trump Breaks With Bannon, Saying He Has ‘Lost His Mind’

This article is by Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman on the NYT. It starts as follows:
President Trump excommunicated his onetime chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, from his circle on Wednesday, ending for now a partnership of convenience that transformed American politics while raising questions about the future of the nationalist-populist movement they cultivated together.

The rupture came after Mr. Bannon was quoted in a new book disparaging the president’s children, asserting that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” in meeting with Russians and calling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Mr. Trump, described by his spokeswoman as “furious, disgusted,” fired back by saying that Mr. Bannon had “lost his mind.”

I say. In fact, there is quite a lot similar news elsewhere about Trump's break with Bannon, but I take the NYT's report, mostly because I check the NYT every day, and there is no doubt more to come.

And I also keep it short. Here is more on the falling out of the two:

In a written statement, the president excoriated Mr. Bannon as a self-promoting exaggerator who had “very little to do with our historic victory” in the 2016 presidential election and was “only in it for himself.” Rather than representing Mr. Trump’s hard-core political base or supporting his agenda to “make America great again,” Mr. Bannon was “simply seeking to burn it all down,” the president said.

While Mr. Trump had remained in touch with Mr. Bannon after pushing him out of the White House over the summer, the two now appear to have reached a breaking point. “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Mr. Trump said. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

In fact, this consists mostly of Trumpian lies and half-truths that I will not clarify here, except by saying that (i) Trump is either quite mistaken or quite lying when he said that “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency”, while (ii) Trump does not seem very sane himsef when he said that “When [Bannon] was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind”: Bannon may be rather mad himself, but I do not know much about that, and have read very little to that effect, while I have read a great amount of texts - by both psychologists and psychiatrists, and also quite a few journalists - that Trump is not sane (and I agree with this, as a psychologist).

And finally (iii) Trump did say something that may be more true than false when he said that "Mr. Bannon was “simply seeking to burn it all down”", namely because it seems to be one of Bannon's general plans to destroy most of the American government (and give their powers to private corporations).

But I leave it at these minimal elucidations and quote the next bit:

Assuming it lasts — and with Mr. Trump, nothing is ever certain — the schism could test whether he or Mr. Bannon has more resonance with the conservative base that has sustained the president through a tumultuous tenure marked by low poll numbers. Mr. Bannon’s Breitbart News has been a key weapon in Mr. Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party.

This may well be true, although I think myself that the greatest part of those who do - still - support Trump as president are so stupid and ignorant that they will follow the president rather than Bannon, and not because they can intellectually reason out who is more right, but because
they will side with the best known guy, and that is the president.

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

A private lawyer representing Mr. Trump sent Mr. Bannon a letter on Wednesday directing him to cease and desist making derogatory comments about the president and his family and threatening a defamation lawsuit. “Legal action is imminent,” said the letter, first reported by ABC News and confirmed by a person close to the president.

In brief, there will be more on this story, and meanwhile the present article is recommended.

2. Debunking the Canard About Kremlin-Generated Social Media Madness

This article is by Norman Solomon on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

For several months we’ve been hearing a crescendo of outcries that Russia used social media to sway the 2016 presidential election. The claim has now been debunked by an unlikely source—one of the most Russiagate-frenzied big media outlets in the United States, The Washington Post.

Far away from the media echo chamber, the Post news story is headlined: “There’s Still Little Evidence That Russia’s 2016 Social Media Efforts Did Much of Anything.”

The article focuses on “what we actually know about the Russian activity on Facebook and Twitter: It was often modest, heavily dissociated from the campaign itself and minute in the context of election social media efforts.”

In fact, the ballyhooed Facebook ads were notably not targeted to be seen in swing states, the piece by Post journalist Philip Bump reports. As for the much-hyped tweets, they were smaller than minuscule in quantity compared to overall election-related tweets.

Yes indeed - although "several months" is very much an understatement:

I heard the first news that Trump is not sane by the end of 2015 (which is this year three years ago, rather than "several months ago") and - being both Dutch and a psychologist - I decided that news was correct by March 14, 2016, while the story that Russia has been using "social media to sway the 2016 presidential election" dates back to the end of 2016, which is more than a year ago.

Also, I do not know about Solomon's earlier ideas about "Russia-gate" himself, but this is probably mostly due to the fact that I follow very few people personally. In any case, Solomon seems to be somewhat deferential to the Washington Post, while the real news about "Russia- gate" is much older.

And I don't care much, also because Solomon writes:

But don’t expect the fervent canard about Russian manipulation of social media to fade away anytime soon. At this point, the Russiagate atmosphere has become so toxic—with incessant propaganda, credulity, fear-laced conformity and partisan opportunism—that basic logic often disintegrates.

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

Narratives scapegoating Russia now have an extremely powerful grip on the USA. The consequences include heightened U.S.-Russia tensions that absolutely mean heightened risks of nuclear war—and worsening threats to democratic discourse at home.

The conditioned reflex to label as somehow “pro-Putin” any opinion that overlaps with a Kremlin outlook is becoming part of the muscle memory of much of the American body politic. Countless journalists, pundits, activists and politicians have fallen under the Russiagate spell.

And I agree with the first paragraph, while it seems to me that the second paragraph briefly charts a lot of evidence that very many "journalists, pundits, activists and politicians" not only "have fallen under the Russiagate spell" but have in fact been spinning many quite crazy and quite totalitarian stories - except that one cannot say this anymore if the the neofascist total bullshit definition of "totalitarianism" on Wikipedia is followed (and here it is):

Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible

that prescribes - utterly falsely - that no person, no political organization, no public, no human group, no human ideology can possibly be totalitarian except if it these persons etc. are part of a totalitarian state.

That is total bullshit, and it contradicts 50 years of my readings about totalitarianism, but that is also the sick and false propaganda that Wikipedia now engages in, and it has changed my ideas and values about Wikipedia: I abhor all conscious lying and this is either plain conscious lying or else is based on total ignorance.

Anyway... this is a recommended story.

3. Trump Threatens North Korea with Nuclear Annihilation in Horrifying New Tweet

This article is by Chris Sosa on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

In a late Tuesday tweet, President Donald Trump responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's assertion that he has a "nuclear button" on his desk and that his country's nuclear weaponry can reach the entire United States. 

"The entire mainland of the US is within the range of our nuclear weapons and the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office. They should accurately be aware that this is not a threat but a reality," Kim said.

I say. If you believe Kim Jong-un, you must be very stupid, for the simple reason that none of his rockets - so far - reached far beyond Japan.

Then again, the president of the USA is either very stupid or quite sadistic or else very much occupied by thoughts about his own - enormous - potency and - tremendous - virility:

Trump escalated the tension by responding to Kim's statement by mocking his country and seeming to threaten the nation with the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

"North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.' Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!" Trump tweeted.

For I am not the only one who has remarked that this seems to be coded language for "I too have a penis, but mine is much bigger & stronger than Kim's and besides I am quite potent".

And in any case, if that was not Trump's own underlying meaning, it still is the case that the conflict between North Korea and the USA may turn nuclear, which - at least in my opinion - will be the end of human civilization. (But who cares if Trump's Gigantic Greatness is at issue?!)

4. The CIA's 60-Year History of Fake News: How the Deep State Corrupted Many
American Writers

This article is by Robert Scheer on AlterNet and originally on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Joel Whitney’s new book, “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers,” explores how the CIA influenced acclaimed writers and publications during the Cold War to produce subtly anti-communist material. During the interview, Scheer and Whitney discuss these manipulations and how the CIA controlled major news agencies and respected literary publications (such as the Paris Review).


Their talk comes at a particularly tense time in American politics, as accusations of fake news and Russian propaganda fly from both sides of the aisle. But the history detailed in Whitney’s book presents a valuable lesson for writers hoping to avoid similar manipulations today.

Scheer opens the discussion with the question: “Were they really tricked?”

“It could have been ‘paid,’ it could have been ‘subsidized,’ it could have been ‘used,’ it could have been ‘collaborated with,’ ” Whitney responds. “So yeah, it might have been any other verb there besides ‘tricked.’”

In fact, this is from the beginning of a fairly long and interesting interview of Whitney by Scheer, that I will leave to your interests. It is about the past, but the final question + answer in the above paragraph also apply to today (and one reason is that so very much of what the CIA does is kept secret).

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

The two then delve into the tactics used by the CIA to influence writers. Whitney notes that the fearful political atmosphere at the time led to “secrecy being used to preside over and rule over the free press — which we’re supposed to be the champions of.”

“They drank the Kool-Aid and thought they were saving freedom,” Scheer agrees.

The discussion underscores the need for analysis of Cold War-era media as a way to avoid propagandized journalism today. Scheer says, “I look at the current situation, where we don’t even have a good communist enemy, so we’re inventing Russia as a reborn communist power enemy.”

I have two remarks on this:

First, that in the USA "
“secrecy [is] being used to preside over and rule over the free press" is evidence for totalitarianism in my sense, but definitely not on the Wikipedia's bullshit definition of "totalitarianism".

And second, a bit that has struck me as quite insane for some fifteen years now: The Americans have been "
inventing Russia as a reborn communist power enemy", indeed on a major scale and without any evidence (other than journalists pretending it is true) for Russia is since the 1990ies as capitalistic as is the USA, and indeed has been transformed into a capitalist system with much assistance and financial help from the USA.

But that major level of lying is what counts as "the news" in major parts of the US media.

There is considerably more in the interview, that is interesting, and that I leave to your interests.

5. Corporate Coercion and the Drive to Eliminate Buying with Cash

This article is by Ralph Nader on Common Dreams and originally on his site. It starts as follows:

“Sorry we’re not taking cash or checks,” said the clerk at the Fed Ex counter over a decade ago to an intern. “Only credit cards.”

Since then, the relentless intensification of coercive commercialism has been moving toward a cashless economy, when all consumers are incarcerated within a prison of corporate payment systems from your credit/debit cards to your mobile phone and very soon facial recognition.

“Terrific!” say those consumers for whom convenience and velocity of transactions are irresistible.

“This is nuts!” say a shrinking number of free-thinking consumers who are unwilling to be dragooned down the road to corporate captivity and coercion.  These people treasure their privacy. They understand that it’s none of any conglomerate’s business – whether VISA, Facebook, Amazon or Google – what, where, when and how consumers purchase goods and services. Or where and when they travel, receive healthcare, or the most intimate relationships they maintain. Not to mention consumers’ personal information can be sent to or hacked around the globe.

Precisely. Here is more:

Once you’re in the credit card system, lack of privacy and access to your credit are just the tip of the iceberg. That is why companies can impose penalties, surcharges, overcharges and a myriad of other corporate raids on your private treasury. They get immediate payment. If you object, you could see a lowering of your credit score or your credit rating. Besides, you don’t even know you agreed to all of these dictates – banks have over 300 different special charges for their revered customers – in fine print agreements that you never saw, read or even possessed to sign or click on.

Again, precisely. (And I can add that I will never have a cellphone, and that I have limited my computer use on the internet to Firefox and e-mail.)

Here is more (and this incidentally also seems Facebook's way - "you agreed in advance to all kinds of unconscionable abuses, so long as you are in a “customer” status with them", and indeed also when you try to stop using Facebook or you die: You are a slave of Facebook nevertheless and they keep most of your private data):

Coercive fine print contracts rob you of your consumer rights by preventing you from going to court, imposing fines as high as $35 fines for  bounced checks (which typically cost the banks less than $2), and decreeing that you agreed in advance to all kinds of unconscionable abuses, so long as you are in a “customer” status with them. Some companies are even charging customers for quitting them.

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

What it comes down to is whether consumer freedom is worth more than consumer convenience or whether the points earned for future purchases (assuming the costs are not passed on in hidden ways) are worth minimizing impulse buying, avoiding big data profile manipulations, keeping personal matters personal and requiring your affirmative consent to transactions where you decide what you want to buy and how you can pay.
Cash consumers of America arise, band together and organize a National Association for the Preservation of Cash Purchases. You have nothing to save but your freedom, your desire to push back and your precious, affirmative and personal right to consent or not to consent, before you are forced into contract peonage.

I completely agree - and I also am, once again, glad that I was born in 1950 and not in 2000, for while all of this is plain common sense, plain common sense is out of control of the internet, and indeed there are some two billion slaves on Suckerbug's Fuckbook who may love to trade their privacy for free advertisements.

But this is a 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 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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