October 2, 2018

Crisis: Lynching the Past, Money & Politics, Kavanaugh Incompetent*2, Chomsky on Facebook


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 2, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, October 2, 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 October 2, 2018:
1. Lynching the Past
2. New “Dark Money” Documentary Shines Light Into the Shadows Cast by
     the Super-Rich

3. Judge Brett Kavanaugh Has Lied Every Time He Has Testified Under

4. Noam Chomsky: Facebook and Google Pose a Manifest Danger
5. Why Kavanaugh Shouldn't Be Confirmed
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. Lynching the Past

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. This is from near the beginning, and reports on ¨a history¨ that is popular in southern parts of the USA:
We listened to the familiar story of the noble South and its “Lost Cause.” We heard about the courage of the Confederate soldiers in Jonesboro who fought gallantly on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 1864, in a failed effort to block the Union Army from entering Atlanta. We were told of the gentility and charm of the Southern belles. We learned that the war was fought not to protect the institution of slavery but the sanctity of states’ rights. Finally, we were assured that the faithful slaves, the “mammies,” “aunties” and “uncles,” loved their white owners, were loved in return and did not welcome emancipation.

That this myth persists and perhaps has grown as the country polarizes, often along racial lines, means that whole segments of the American population can no longer communicate. Once myth replaces history there is no way to have a rational discussion rooted in verifiable fact. Myth allows people to deny who they are and the crimes they committed and continue to commit.
I think this is quite true, but it also has an implication Hedges does not (quite) draw:

In some circles in the South, this myth, that may be described as ¨the blacks liked being slaves; the white liked having slaves; and so everything was quite OK in the South, at least until 1864¨ never went away, and ruled the southern whites (some of them) ever since 1864.

And I think that is correct, as it is also correct that (with my links added) ¨
Once myth replaces history there is no way to have a rational discussion rooted in verifiable fact¨.

Here is more on the myth ¨
of the noble South and its “Lost Cause”¨:
The Civil War, as portrayed in novels and films such as “Gone With the Wind,” histories such as “The Civil War” by Shelby Foote and television programs such as Ken Burns’ documentary series on the conflict, is usually reduced to stories about the heroic self-sacrifice and courage exhibited by the soldiers from the North and the South who fought as brother against brother. The gruesome suffering, widespread looting and rape and senseless slaughter are romanticized. (For every three soldiers who died on a battlefield, five more died of disease, and, overall, 620,000 Americans, 2 percent of the country’s population, perished in the war.) Meanwhile, the far more important struggle, the struggle of black people to rise from bondage to be free, is effectively eclipsed in these narratives of white self-pity and self-exaltation.
I have to admit that I did see “Gone With the Wind” over 50 years ago, and did not like it at all, but that otherwise I have not seen any of the myths, while I did know, also since 40 years at least, about the real facts about the war that was fought between the North and the South in the 1860ies.

And here is yet
more on the myth ¨of the noble South and its “Lost Cause”¨:

During my bus ride in Georgia, a woman on the audio guide impersonated Scarlett O’Hara as music from the 1939 movie played in the background: “Now y’all sit back and enjoy this journey back into a time of cavaliers, ladies fair, and cotton fields—called the Old South.”

The theme of the tour could be summed up as “ ‘Gone With the Wind’ accurately portrays life in the South during and after the Civil War.” Over and over, incidents and characters in the novel and film were related to actual events and people. Nowhere was this more pernicious than in the portrayals of black men and women who were enslaved.

I think this is quite correct, and I also have a partial explanation of it:

The vast majority of the southern whites who like ‘Gone With the Wind’ do not know any more or less systematic exposition of the facts that goes beyond ‘Gone With the Wind’ - ‘Gone With the Wind’ is probably the only more or less systematic exposition they ever saw or read.

And the reasons they accepted that myth as the truth are mostly their lack of any real education, which in considerable part is due to the stupidity and ignorance of most - and as to that, here is a Latin proverb: Ignorantia omnis malitiae fons est = Ignorance is the source of all evil.

Back to the article. Here is the last bit that I quote from it:

The Southern tradition, as James Baldwin pointed out, “is not a tradition at all.” It is “a legend which contains an accusation. And that accusation, stated far more simply than it should be, is that the North, in winning the war, left the South only one means of asserting its identity and that means was the Negro.”

The ability to disregard the horror of slavery, to physically erase its reality, and to build in its place a white fantasy of goodness, courage and virtue speaks to the deep sickness within American society.
In fact, I do not understand Baldwin´s phrasing, but he was a reasonable man. But the last quoted paragraph is quite true, and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. New “Dark Money” Documentary Shines Light Into the Shadows Cast by the Super-Rich

This article is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

If you, like most Americans, believe you’re being screwed by the U.S. political system, and would like to know exactly how the screwing functions, tune into “Dark Money,” a new documentary premiering Monday, October 1 on PBS. The film, directed by Kimberly Reed, is one of the most expert dissections ever conducted of the subterranean tentacles quietly strangling U.S. democracy. (“Dark Money” was co-funded by Topic Studios, which is part of First Look Media, along with The Intercept.)

The movie is largely about the last decade of politics in Montana. This long-term, close-to-the-ground focus is cinematically unique, and makes it possible for “Dark Money” to illuminate three startling facts about how America now works. 

First, the corporate hard-right is systematically investing in politics at an incredibly granular level, down to state and local races. 

Second, they’re not just trying to crush Democrats. Leaked documents examined in the movie show conspirators discussing a plan to “purge” all Republicans who don’t share their worldview — an ideology so conservative that it hasn’t been seen in full flower in the U.S. for 100 years. In fact, the politicians who appear in the film are largely Republicans who’ve been successfully targeted for the right-wing purge, who speak wistfully about Montana’s evaporating history as a small-d democracy.

Third, dark money, while just one tributary of the Mississippi of cash flowing through the U.S. political system, is a key tool of the corporate right. It gets its name from the fact that certain kinds of nonprofit corporations — unlike political campaigns and even Super PACs — currently do not have to disclose their donors.

As usual, I have not seen ¨Dark Money¨, but I agree with the three points Schwartz makes, although I did not know about the second point (which can be explained quite naturally by pointing to the fact that these extreme conservatives are nearly all totalitarians - except that according to the intentionally falsified Wikipedia on totalitarianism that cannot be true, for only countries can be totalitarian, which makes the USA forever non-totalitarian).

Anyway. Here is a more systematic exposition on money and politics:

Here are three possible situations involving money and politics. Any country can have no more than two of them simultaneously:

1. A functioning democracy

2. Glaring wealth inequality

3. No regulation of political spending by the super-rich

As Ann Ravel, former chair of the Federal Election Commission, points out in “Dark Money,” Watergate was in some ways a campaign finance scandal. In 1974, Congress responded by making sweeping revisions to campaign finance law, placing strict limits both on contributions to and expenditures by candidates.  

This was an attempt to keep #1 and #2 — i.e., democracy and yawning wealth inequality — while getting rid of #3, total freedom to spend for the super-rich. 

Ever since, the corporate right has been patiently eroding this arrangement.
Yes, I think that is quite correct, although #1 and #3 will not last long - which seems to be the case at present (and besides #3 seems to imply #2 since there are super-rich).

Here is more on money and politics (in the USA):
Over the following decades, other suits have stripped away additional chunks of the 1970s reforms, culminating in 2010 with the Citizens United decision. Citizens United and related rulings made it possible for anyone, including corporations, to spend unlimited amounts supporting a political campaign, on one vague condition: that the spending could not formally be “coordinated” with the candidate. This project has been an attempt to mold the U.S. into a country with situations #2 and #3 — i.e., wealth inequality plus total freedom to spend for the ultrawealthy — while getting rid of #1, a functioning democracy.
I think this is quite correct as well, and I should add that the Citizens United decision involved a total falsification of the First Amendment to the Constitution, for it equated money and votes. For more see Citizens United v. FEC.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Americans could also try to create a society that was a real democracy with few regulations of political spending. But that would require getting rid of our glaring wealth inequality. That’s certainly not on the table now, but it’s a totally normal, mainstream idea — at least if you consider Aristotle, Benjamin Franklin, or John Adams to be normal and mainstream. As Adams wrote in Philadelphia just before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “Power always follows property. … The balance of power in a society accompanies the balance of property.” Therefore, Adams said, if a country wants to be self-governing, it should engage in massive property redistribution from the rich to everyone else.
I say, for while I did read Aristotle and Franklin, I did not know that John Adams - one of the Founding Fathers of the USA, and its second President - had similar opinions. In fact, I argued rather similarly, although I doubt Adams would have agreed with that: See my Crisis: On Socialism which may be said to be found on a similar argument as John Adams seems to have put forward, namely
“Power always follows property. … The balance of power in a society accompanies the balance of property.” Therefore, Adams said, if a country wants to be self-governing, it should engage in massive property redistribution from the rich to everyone else.
Then again, this never happened in the USA. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Judge Brett Kavanaugh Has Lied Every Time He Has Testified Under Oath

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
The FBI is investigating Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified last week that he attempted to rape her in 1982. But Democrats say the FBI’s probe is too limited, and critics claim that Kavanaugh has repeatedly committed perjury by lying during his testimony about his drinking habits, the content of his yearbook and a spate of other topics. We speak with Lisa Graves, co-director of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy. She is the former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. Her recent article for Slate is titled “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About.”
I did not know this, and Linda Graves seems to have quite good and strong evidence. Here she is:
LISA GRAVES: Well, I think we’re seeing a lot of conflicting reports, but it’s very troubling, what’s emerging.
What we’re hearing is that the White House counsel, McGahn, has somehow put limits on who the FBI can interview, and made it a very small number of people. That’s ridiculous. That’s absurd. That’s not the way these supplemental background investigations proceed, and it’s not a real investigation. If it turns out that that’s what’s happened, that they’ve tried to whitewash this by interviewing only a couple of people, justice will not ne served, and this will be basically a whitewash.
Senator Feinstein has requested more information about the scope of the interviews. But, quite frankly, I don’t even think we should be having that sort of debate. What happened on Friday was a recognition that more needs to be known about Brett Kavanaugh before he is given this sort of lifetime position. I think there is ample evidence that he lied.
Yes, I completely agree (and for some more on this see item 5 below). Here is more by Graves:
What we saw was compelling, consistent eyewitness testimony from Dr. Ford, that should be fully credited. What Brett Kavanaugh offered was anger. Anger isn’t evidence of innocence. It’s certainly not evidence that refutes the consistent and compelling testimony of Dr. Ford. And, in fact, what you saw Brett Kavanaugh do was dissemble yet again, about his history, about his drinking history, about his yearbook
But that’s not the only time in which Brett Kavanaugh lied. He, I believe, lied in his earlier testimony, in 2004, in 2006 and earlier this month, about a number of matters, including his role in receiving stolen confidential information, information that was stolen from the United States Senate about judicial nominations, and lying about his role in those judicial nominations. I think that this man, Brett Kavanaugh, tells lies big and small. He is unfit for the bench. He is certainly unfit for the United States Supreme Court. And I’ve called for him to be impeached —not promoted, but actually impeached.
I agree, and for more see item 5. And this is a recommended article.

4. Noam Chomsky: Facebook and Google Pose a Manifest Danger

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” (1988), authors Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky identified what they called the “five filters of editorial bias”: Size, Ownership and Profit Orientation; the Advertising License to do Business; Sourcing Mass Media News; Flak and the Enforcers; and Anti-Communism.

While the Soviet Union has since been relegated to the dustbin of history, Herman and Chomsky’s text has proved indispensable, with multinationals like Google, Amazon and Facebook tightening their stranglehold on the news industry and the economy at large. As Chomsky warns, these corporations’ eagerness to appease their advertisers and manipulate their users’ behavior has “very serious distorting effects” on the stories we consume. “I don’t think that’s a healthy development, but it is happening,” he says. “And that means essentially dividing much of the population … into cocoons [or] bubbles, into which they receive the information conducive [only] to their own interests and commitments.”

Yes indeed. Here is a bit more:

Last week, Chomsky explored this topic and more in an exhaustive interview (“American Dissident) with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill. What follows are just a few of the activist author’s more trenchant observations and digressions.

In fact, I have reviewed that interview (namely here) and in fact Sugarman is doing what I am doing in my reviews, except that he only quotes bits of Chomsky without stating his own opinions.

In fact, I shall quote just one other bit from this article, which is a quotation of Chomsky:

On the imminent dangers of Big Tech

If you read a major newspaper, say the New York Times, you get a certain range of opinion. It’s narrow. It’s basically centrist to far right, but at least it’s a range of opinion. Those who are more addicted to social media tend to turn directly to what supports their own views, not to hear other things, that’s not a good thing. Google, Facebook and the rest, those are commercial institutions. Their constituency is basically advertisers, and they would like to establish the kinds of controls over their consumers that will be beneficial to [a] business model that enabled them to get advertising. That has very serious distorting effects. And we know that they provide massive information to the corporate system, which they use in their own efforts to try to shape and control behavior and opinion. All of these are dangerous developments. The power of these private corporations to direct people in particular [is] a serious problem which requires considerable thought and attention.

Yes, and in fact this confusion of Google, Facebook about what they really are: Providers of information to their readers, or providing their readers´ private information to their advertisers, has been carefully introduced by Google and Facebook and still persists - which allows them to switch from one role to another, as in ¨yes, we provide information, but no, you cannot have anything to say on what information we provide because we are private companies¨.

There is a lot more in this article, which is strongly recommended.

5. Why Kavanaugh Shouldn't Be Confirmed

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. This has a brief summary title:
Regardless of what the FBI finds, he’s shown himself to be unfit
Yes, I totally agree. Here is more from the article - and yes, this was new information on Kavanaugh, that I did not know before, and that in my eyes disqualifies him completely for any position in the Supreme Court:

Throughout the day, Kavanaugh came across as defensive, entitled, angry, and evasive. The fact that he refused to embrace an investigation that might clear him was particularly damning. This, despite his repeated assertions that his name and reputation had been ruined and his family harmed. One would think an innocent man facing such circumstances would demand further investigations and the opportunity to clear him that they would offer.  The clear inference is that Kavanaugh doesn’t believe an investigation would clear him – in fact, the anger and desperation he demonstrated suggested that he saw this hearing as nothing more than a threat to secure his coveted prize.

Those responses alone suggest there is legitimate cause for disqualifying Kavanaugh from consideration.
So Kavanaugh’s ill-tempered and petulant attempts to dodge questions, suggests he lacks the character and temperament required for the job, and worse, that he has no respect for the laws, principles and processes underpinning our system of government. His entire demeanor reeks of an upper class, white male privilege, angry at being frustrated in what he feels should be his manifest destiny.
Yes, I again totally agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

It is quite possible the FBI investigation will not result in any conclusive findings.  With only four witnesses being interviewed – one a man who was Kavanaugh’s best friend and possible accomplice in a crime he’s accused of -- that’s a likely outcome.

The Republicans will then say the investigation exonerated Kavanaugh and move swiftly to approve him.
The fact is, Kavanaugh should never have gotten this far, and by failing to confront his past lies and allowing the debate to be framed in a “guilty vs not guilty” context, Democrats may have failed to derail what is a monstrous threat to an essential institution.
Yes, I agree and 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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