August 28, 2018

Crisis: New Socialists, On John McCain, On Privacy, Surveillance Capitalism, Corporate Media


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 28, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, August 28, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from August 28, 2018:
1. The New Socialists
2. Obit Omit: What the Media Leaves Out of John McCain’s Record of
     Militarism and Misogyny

3. Can We Be Forgotten Anymore?
4. A Private Investigator on Living in a Surveillance Culture
5. 5 timely reminders that the media think you are an idiot…
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. The New Socialists

This article is by Corey Robin on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Throughout most of American history, the idea of socialism has been a hopeless, often vaguely defined dream. So distant were its prospects at midcentury that the best definition Irving Howe and Lewis Coser, editors of the socialist periodical Dissent, could come up with in 1954 was this: “Socialism is the name of our desire.”

That may be changing. Public support for socialism is growing. Self-identified socialists like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib are making inroads into the Democratic Party, which the political analyst Kevin Phillips once called the “second-most enthusiastic capitalist party” in the world. Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the country, is skyrocketing, especially among young people.

What explains this irruption? And what do we mean, in 2018, when we talk about “socialism”?

Well... I do think that socialism, which has many different definitions, which does make it rather difficult to make sense of without some sort of more specific definition, was a lot better understood in the USA from around 1875 till 1925 (or so), simply because there were a lot of socialist movements and a lot of socialist weeklies and monthlies.

But since then ¨socialism¨ has been associated often with the ¨socialism¨ of the Soviet Union (and ¨socialism¨ is between quotes because it was not socialism in any of the senses I acknowledge) in the American mainstream media, and was made mostly into a dirty word by them.

The rest of the above quoted bit is more or less correct, and I also can answer the first of the last two questions:

I think it are mainly the economical policies of all American governments since 1980, Democratic or Republican, that made the differences in payments between the rich and non-rich much greater than they were before (CEOs now earn more than 300 times as much as their workers, which was under the Republican Eisenhower 20 times as much) together with the fact that the non-rich (some 90% of the population) did not get a real increase in payments since 1980.

Here is more from the article:

Since the 1970s, American liberals have taken a right turn on the economy. They used to champion workers and unions, high taxes, redistribution, regulation and public services. Now they lionize billionaires like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, deregulate wherever possible, steer clear of unions except at election time and at least until recently, fight over how much to cut most people’s taxes.

Liberals, of course, argue that they are merely using market-friendly tools like tax cuts and deregulation to achieve things like equitable growth, expanded health care and social justice — the same ends they always have pursued. For decades, left-leaning voters have gone along with that answer, even if they didn’t like the results, for lack of an alternative.

It took Mr. Sanders to convince them that if tax credits and insurance exchanges are the best liberals have to offer to men and women struggling to make stagnating wages pay for bills that skyrocket and debt that never dissipates, maybe socialism is worth a try.

This is - vaguely, and with my criticisms left out - more or less correct, although I do like to add that I don´t think that Sanders - at least in his publicly stated opinions - is a real socialist, though I agree that he is an American social democrat (which is different and less radical than a socialist).

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

Socialism means different things to different people. For some, it conjures the Soviet Union and the gulag; for others, Scandinavia and guaranteed income. But neither is the true vision of socialism. What the socialist seeks is freedom.

Under capitalism, we’re forced to enter the market just to live. The libertarian sees the market as synonymous with freedom. But socialists hear “the market” and think of the anxious parent, desperate not to offend the insurance representative on the phone, lest he decree that the policy she paid for doesn’t cover her child’s appendectomy. Under capitalism, we’re forced to submit to the boss. Terrified of getting on his bad side, we bow and scrape, flatter and flirt, or worse — just to get that raise or make sure we don’t get fired.

The socialist argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree. When my well-being depends upon your whim, when the basic needs of life compel submission to the market and subjugation at work, we live not in freedom but in domination. Socialists want to end that domination: to establish freedom from rule by the boss, from the need to smile for the sake of a sale, from the obligation to sell for the sake of survival.

I think that there are considerably better definitions of socialism (after all: socialism is a system that differs from capitalism, politically, economically and legally) but then again I agree with Robin that he did sketch the different kinds of values and ends that characterize the socialist (of many though not all kinds) from the kinds of values and ends that characterize the pro-capitalists aka ¨libertarians¨ (who seek their own freedom to exploit others, or so I think).

This is a recommended article.

2. Obit Omit: What the Media Leaves Out of John McCain’s Record of Militarism and Misogyny

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
We host a roundtable discussion on the life and legacy of John McCain, the Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, six-term senator and two-time presidential candidate, who died Saturday at the age of 81 of brain cancer. We speak with Mehdi Hasan, columnist for The Intercept and host of their “Deconstructed” podcast. He’s also host of “UpFront” at Al Jazeera English. He’s been tweeting in response to McCain’s death and wrote a piece last year headlined “Despite What the Press Says, 'Maverick' McCain Has a Long and Distinguished Record of Horribleness.” We are also joined by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, which McCain once referred to as “low-life scum,” and by Norman Solomon, national coordinator of RootsAction, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”
Of course, I was aware of McCain´s death last Saturday, but I am too skeptical of all the praise he was given - for example - in the New York Times, and waited for a critical, informed and honest assessment of him, and this article is a good attempt.

Here is some more:
NORMAN SOLOMON: It’s really natural to have a lot of empathy for someone who suffered through brain cancer, admiration for people who withstood great hardships with pride and determination. However, what we’ve seen is really what could be called the phenomenon of obit omit—obituaries that are flagrantly in conflict with the real historical record. And when you stop and think about it, you know, journalism is supposed to be the first draft of history. And when history is falsified in the way that we’re getting in the last few couple of days now, several days, really, in the lead-up to Senator McCain’s death, it’s really a kind of a fraudulence on the part of the U.S. mass media. If John McCain was a maverick, it’s only a high jump over very low standards. And while there were certainly some, from a progressive standpoint, admirable characteristics that he had, he also was a huge enthusiast for war, which included after his return from being a prisoner in Vietnam.
Yes, I agree. Here is more:

MEHDI HASAN: I think Norman is right to point to the obit-omit phenomenon. I think that’s one of the things I’ve taken away from the past couple of days, just watching some of the media coverage, which is less journalism and more hagiography. We know what McCain was good at and what he was praised for, but we’re not hearing about some of the darker sides of his political record. And there’s nothing wrong with bringing some light to the darker parts of a politician’s, a public figure’s record. This is not some sort of dancing on his grave. This is talking about what he did.

And, you know, look at his career. He was a man who was involved in a massive financial scandal in the late 1980s. He was part of the Keating Five, the savings-and-loan scandal. He agitated, as you mentioned, Amy, in your introduction, for the illegal and catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq—never apologized, never showed any regret for that. In 2008, he ran a nasty, desperate and bigoted campaign for the presidency of the United States, alongside Sarah Palin, which, as you pointed out, again, did pave the way for the election of Donald Trump and for Trumpism in 2016. These are things he should be held to account for.
Quite so. And this is the last bit that I´ll quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: Medea Benjamin, you had direct experience with Senator McCain, your organization. You’re co-founder of CodePink.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: Yes. We had constantly been lobbying John McCain to not support all these wars. Amy, I think it’s so horrible to be calling somebody a war hero because he participated in the bombing of Vietnam. I just spent the last weekend with Veterans for Peace, people who are atoning for their sins in Vietnam by trying to stop new wars. John McCain hasn’t done that. With his life, what he did was support wars from not only Iraq, but also Libya. He called John Kerry delusional for trying to make a nuclear deal with Iran, and threw his lot in with the MEK, the extremist group in Iran. He also was a good friend of Mohammad bin Salman and the Saudis. There was a gala for the Saudis in May when the crown prince was visiting, and they had a special award for John McCain. He supported the Saudi bombing in Yemen that has been so catastrophic. And I think we have to think that those who have participated in war are really heroes if they spend the rest of their lives trying to stop war, not like John McCain, who spent the rest of his life supporting war.

Yes. And there is a lot more in the article, which is strongly recommended.

3. Can We Be Forgotten Anymore?

This article - in fact, a foreword - is by Tom Engelhardt on TomDispatch. It starts as follows
If I had to pick a single moment when I grasped that we were on a new surveillance planet, it would have been the release of the stunning revelations of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now in exile in Vladimir Putin’s Russia (and if there isn’t irony in that, please tell me what your definition of irony is). Those revelations seemed to fit all too well with the then-developing picture of twenty-first-century America.  You know, the country with those black sites spread around the planet; whose top government officials had “enhanced interrogation techniques” (aka torture) demonstrated to them in the White House (and then authorized their use on actual human beings across that same planet); a country running a series of global kidnapping operations, placing its trust in secret courts, and thoroughly committed not just to the large-scale surveillance of populations, its own included, but to pursuing any whistleblower like Snowden who might want to tell us what was going on.
Yes indeed, although I think I should add that what I agree were ¨the stunning revelations of Edward Snowden¨ was strong confirmation for the theory I had first published in late 2012, (strongly recommended!) which was totally independent of Snowden.

And I admit that the present foreword was selected because I realized too late that I also had selected the article that it is the foreword to, namely the next item. Then again, I decided to select this bit because I like it as well.

Here is more:
Back in 2013, when it came to Snowden, I began a piece I called “How to Be a Rogue Superpower” this way: “It’s hard even to know how to take it in. I mean, what’s really happening? An employee of a private contractor working for the National Security Agency makes off with unknown numbers of files about America’s developing global security state on a thumb drive and four laptop computers, and jumps the nearest plane to Hong Kong. His goal: to expose a vast surveillance structure built in the shadows in the post-9/11 years and significantly aimed at Americans. He leaks some of the documents to a columnist at the British Guardian and to the Washington Post. The response is unprecedented: an ‘international manhunt’ (or more politely but less accurately, ‘a diplomatic full court press’) conducted not by Interpol or the United Nations but by the planet’s sole superpower, the very government whose practices the leaker was so intent on exposing.”
Yes indeed: quite so. Here is the last bit I selected:
I concluded: “It’s eerie that some aspects of the totalitarian governments that went down for the count in the twentieth century are now being recreated in those shadows. There, an increasingly ‘totalistic’ if not yet totalitarian beast, its hour come round at last, is slouching toward Washington to be born, while those who cared to shine a little light on the birth process are in jail or being hounded across this planet.”

And keep in mind that this was years before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office or any of us quite realized that what TomDispatch regular and private investigator Judith Coburn calls “surveillance capitalism,” as well as a planet of hackers, would join that government in creating an unprecedented surveillance culture, one that leaves all of us exposed. Honestly, I’d like to see the novel that George Orwell would write 34 years after 1984.
I have three remarks on this.

First, I quite agree with Engelhardt´s naming totalitarianism, but I also insist that at least the present Wikipedia´s article on totalitarianism is basically a lie that almost only gives Brezinski´s false opinions on it, while I also think totalitarianism is probably stronger in the USA than Engelhardt thinks it is. And see the third point below.

Second, I do like Judith Coburn´s term ¨surveillance capitalism¨ because it is quite adequate.

And third - having studied Orwell´s political and essayistic writings, and his ¨Animal Farm¨ and ¨1984¨ for 50 years now - my own conclusion on what Orwell would think had he lived now is that Orwell would be totally horrified, and especially by the universal surveillance of everybody with an internet computer.

This is a recommended article.

4. A Private Investigator on Living in a Surveillance Culture

This article is by Judith Coburn on Truthout and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:

Now that we know we are surveilled 24/7 by the National Security Agency, the FBI, local police, FacebookLinkedIn, Google, hackers, the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, data brokers, private spyware groups like Black Cube, and companies from which we’ve ordered swag on the Internet, is there still any “right to be forgotten,” as the Europeans call it? Is there any privacy left, let alone a right to privacy?

In a world in which most people reveal their intimate secrets voluntarily, posting them on social media and ignoring the pleas of security experts to protect their data with strong passwords — don’t use your birth date, your telephone number, or your dog’s name — shouldn’t a private investigator, or PI, like me be as happy as a pig in shit? Certainly, the totalitarian rulers of the twentieth century would have been, if such feckless openness had been theirs to abuse.

Yes indeed - I think this is all true, especially the first paragraph, and my own reply to its last two questions is that all privacy there was before internet computers has been totally and completely destroyed by internet computers, which also were designed and planned by DARPA to do just that (in fact the plans were there already in 1968).

Israeli spyware can steal the contacts off your phone just as LinkedIn did to market itself to your friends. Google, the Associated Press reported recentlyarchives your location even when you’ve turned off your phone. Huge online database brokers like TracersTLO, and IRBsearch that law enforcement and private eyes like me use can trace your address, phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts, family members, neighbors, credit reports, the property you own, foreclosures or bankruptcies you’ve experienced, court judgments or liens against you, and criminal records you may have rolled up over the years.

Precisely - and this is just a very small list from the very many things that all the secret services, and Google, and Facebook, and Microsoft and Apple know about you, that is also far more than you remember.

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

The authoritarian snoops of the last century would have drooled over the surveillance uses of the smartphones that most of us now carry. Smartphones have, in fact, become one of the primo law enforcement tools other than the Internet. “Find my iPhone” can even find a dead body — if, that is, the victim left her iPhone on while being murdered. And don’t get me started on the proliferation of surveillance cameras in our world.

I especially select the first statement: ¨The authoritarian snoops of the last century would have drooled over the surveillance uses of the smartphones that most of us now carry¨ and add: Precisely so - and all of this was carefully planned by DARPA since 1968: They wanted a surveillance state were a very few anonymous members of the secret services could control everyone, even to the extent of being abled to arrest a person for the plans he or she made.

And this was settled already in 1968. This is a strongly recommended article.

5. 5 timely reminders that the media think you are an idiot…

This article is by Kit on The Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:
The corporate media think we are stupid. All of us. They have as much respect for our intellect or ability to reason as they do for the truth. This is displayed, in size 20 font, on the front page of every newspaper every single day. They paint a picture of an absurd world, and expect us all to nod along with it, blithely accepting their stories as true, no matter what laws of reason – or even physics – they bend to suit their purpose.

The world in the newspaper and on the television is not real in any true sense of the word. Merely a crazy fun-house mirror reflection of the truth. Important features shrunk to nothing, tiny flaws blown up out of proportion. Apparently solid shapes that – on inspection – are nothing but strange plays of light and shadow.

With that in mind, let’s remind ourselves of the kind of completely bonkers things we’re all expected to believe.

I more or less agree with Kit - and she is talking about the corporate media (which indeed may be a better term than ¨mainstream media¨).

In fact, here are my personal experiences: I don´t have a TV since 1970 simply because I thought it was very propagandistic, quite stupid, and I had learned virtually nothing from it. Also, while I read the Dutch NRC-Handelsblad - a paper that is mostly read by liberal academics - from 1970 till the end of 2010, I stopped reading it then because of the many lies they told me and their readers, also without ever correcting them. (I did not lack information, since I have an internet computer since 1996.)

Next, Kit deals with 5 examples. I shall extract some, but it is too much text to review well in Nederlog. Here is the first bit:

ISIS – the all-powerful death cult, the existential threat to Western democracy, on the verge of “regional dominance”. There was a map and everything – world domination by 2020.

Despite all this, ISIS – the untouchable hydra of evil – completely fell apart as a force in the region just months after Russia and Iran got involved in the Syrian war.

Why was this?

Could it be that ISIS were just a media creation – the PR arm of the CIA’s jihadist proxy army – and, in truth, barely existed as fighting force? Existing, rather, to give Western powers an excuse to conduct air strikes on Syrian territory?

I more or less agree, mostly for the simple reason that I never could believe in the asserted  serious dangers that a few tenthousands of angry Muslims could pose for the armies of the USA.
Also, I just don´t follow the corporate media on ISIS and other subjects (which I do follow on the non-corporate media).

Here is more:

Several times, in the last couple of years, Western leaders have made remarkably prescient statements – something along the lines of “We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons on civilians”, or “We will act if chemical weapons are used”. In fact, in just the last few days both the US and France have reissued these warnings.

Despite these warnings, and though it offers him literally zero strategic advantages of any kind, Assad keeps deploying his super-secret chemical weapons against civilians…just because. He’s winning the war, it’s pretty much over, the only thing that could swing it against him is NATO, and he keeps deliberately inciting them to attack him.

There’s only 2 explanations for that – either he, and his government, are low-key suicidal, or it never happened, and the propagandists in the media truly believe we are completely stupid.

I take this mostly for granted, although I do not know, again because I just don´t follow the corporate media on Assad and other subjects.

Here is more:

Jeremy Corbyn is soft – maybe, arguably – too soft for the job that history has violently hoisted on to his shoulders, but soft none the less. He rides his bike to work, wears cardigans, is a vegetarian. He has campaigned for peace and against war his entire life. He was arrested for protesting apartheid whilst Margaret Thatcher was calling Nelson Mandela a terrorist, he spoke out against Pinochet while the General was a darling on both sides of the Atlantic.

He has won two international peace prizes.

The idea that, during a public career dedicated to the socialist ideals of decency and fairness, he was secretly thinking “Bloody jews!” the whole time is completely absurd. Insultingly absurd, and there is not a single piece of evidence to suggest otherwise. There is nothing more to be said on the matter.

With this I completely agree.

Then there is this on Russiagate:

This is the big one, currently. The grand-daddy of the nothingburgers. Russiagate never happened. There was no collusion, no cheating or vote hacking or pay-offs. They have found literally zero evidence anything ever took place, seizing upon tiny anecdotal scraps and blaring them out in FULL CAPS HEADLINES to make a case in the court of public opinion that would never stand in an actual court.

Where “Russiagate” is different from most invented media schlock however, is the sheer weight of counter evidence. For most media fiction you can say “Well, there’s very little evidence to support that” (see Corbyn = anti-Semite as a classic example). With Russiagate you can go even further: There is a ton – A TON – of evidence to the contrary, clear-cut evidence that Russia (and Putin) have nothing to do with Trump being President. The media refuse to acknowledge this evidence, directly and contemptuously challenging the public’s ability to reason.

Yes, I think I entirely agree again, and for - considerably - more on Russiagate see the indexes to Nederlog.

Here is the ending of the article:

They are either all delusional morons, think WE are all delusional morons, or – most probably – both.

The inmates are running the asylum, declaring the rest of us insane because none of us are hearing voices.

This is why the media is in decline, why the BBC is losing its audience and the newspapers have plummeting readership, because people are tired of being treated like idiots and herded like cattle. We’ve made a collective decision to cut the bullshit out of our lives. The world is heading towards a split, two parallel universes running together – the real world, where reasonable pragmatic people get on with the struggles of life, and the media world, where fake people write about pretend events in newspapers nobody reads.

The media has become that manipulative spouse who lies and cheats and tells you it’s all your fault. A narcissistic gaslighter who just will not change.

It’s time to make a clean break.

Well... I don´t really think that the journalists and editors of the corporate media are ¨delusional morons¨: I think many are clever deceivers and good propagandists, who are in fact often doing public relations (for governments) rather than supplying the honest facts.

And I do not know why the media is (are?) in decline, and I certainly know other good reasons than Kit has mentioned.

Finally, as to ¨a clean break¨: How? I think that my own case is - apart from refusing to use a computer - is a fairly clean break (without TV, without iPhone, without Facebook, without Google, without Microsoft, without Apple) while I rely for news mostly on the non-corporate media. But I do still read the corporate media (notably the New York Times and The Guardian) and I think one should, simply to know what they write. 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 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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