November 28, 2018

Crisis: Guardian vs Assange, On Jack Ma, On The Rainforest, The US Democrats, Disbelief In Facts


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

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, November 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 November 28, 2018:
1. If Manafort Visited Assange, There Should Be Ample Evidence  
2. Jack Ma, China’s Richest Man, Belongs to the Communist Party. Of

3. Scientists Warn Brazil's New President May Smother Rainforest
4. Democratic Party "Leadership" Is Upside Down
5. 'In Front of Your Nose'—A Sequel to Orwell in the Trump Era
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. If Manafort Visited Assange, There Should Be Ample Evidence

This article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
The Guardian today published a blockbuster, instantly viral story claiming that anonymous sources told the newspaper that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange at least three times in the Ecuadorian Embassy, “in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016.” The article – from lead reporter Luke Harding, who has a long-standing and vicious personal feud with WikiLeaks and is still promoting his book titled “Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House” – presents no evidence, documents or other tangible proof to substantiate its claim, and it is deliberately vague on a key point: whether any of these alleged visits happened once Manafort was managing Trump’s campaign.
Yes indeed. That is to say: I know The Guardian did so; I know the article was written by Luke Harding - and there my interests stopped, for two reasons mainly:

First, it is The Guardian that published this, and since The Guardian was made uncopyable (in principle: it can be undone), I mostly lost my intererest, also because it has become under the new editor Katharine Viner a typical Blatcherist and lying paper. (I still read it, but this is mostly habit and to get a view of what the somewhat intelligent mainstream press writes these days in English.)

And second, I followed Luke Harding in 2013/2014 and found that he was a liar. Since I do not like reading liars, I stopped reading Harding somewhere in 2014.

So indeed I did not read the latest Harding on the uncopyable Guardian, for the simple reason that I had two reasons to know it was probably dishonest, and no reason whatsoever to assume
the opposite.

Here is more:

For its part, WikiLeaks vehemently and unambiguously denies the claim. “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation,” the organization tweeted, adding: “WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.” The group also predicted: “This is going to be one of the most infamous news disasters since Stern published the ‘Hitler Diaries.'”

Manafort vehemently denies any meeting with Assange or WikiLeaks, issuing a statement on the Guardian’s report that reads:

This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against the Guardian who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false.

I think the above is pretty convincing that The Guardian - once again - lied. Incidentally, Manafort's statement was added by Greenwald after he wrote the original article.

But then you may ask for evidence. I gave some of my evidence about The Guardian and Harding above, but here is specific evidence about the claimed visits of Manafort to Assange:

Of course it is possible that Manafort visited Assange – either on the dates the Guardian claims or at other times – but since the Guardian presents literally no evidence for the reader to evaluate, relying instead on a combination of an anonymous source and a secret and bizarrely vague intelligence document it claims it reviewed (but does not publish), no rational person would assume this story to be true.

But the main point is this one: London itself is one of the world’s most surveilled, if not the most surveilled, cities. And the Ecuadorian Embassy in that city – for obvious reasons – is one of the most scrutinized, surveilled, monitored and filmed locations on the planet.

And there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Harding wrote the truth, and that The Guardian printed the truth. I am not amazed at all, and this is a recommended article.

2. Jack Ma, China’s Richest Man, Belongs to the Communist Party. Of Course.

This article is by Li Yuan on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
Jack Ma, China’s richest man and the guiding force behind its biggest e-commerce company, belongs to an elite club of power brokers, 89 million strong: the Chinese Communist Party.

The party’s official People’s Daily newspaper included Mr. Ma, executive chairman of the Alibaba Group and the country’s most prominent capitalist, in a list it published on Monday of 100 Chinese people who had made extraordinary contributions to the country’s development over the last 40 years. The entry for Mr. Ma identified him as a party member.

It may sound contradictory that the wealthy Mr. Ma belongs to an organization that got its start calling for the empowerment of the proletariat. But Mr. Ma’s political affiliation came as no surprise to many Chinese and China watchers. Though it still publicly extols the principles of Karl Marx, the Chinese Communist Party largely abandoned collectivist doctrine in the post-Mao era, freeing private entrepreneurs to help build the world’s second-largest economy after the United States.

In fact, the disclosure reveals a party that is eager to prove its legitimacy by affiliating itself with capitalist success stories.
Yes, I think that is mostly correct, although I did not know about Mr. Ma. And the above quotation suggests (at least) two questions.

First about Jack Ma. I gave the link to the Wikipedia on him and it gives more information about him than I want to summarize in this article. All I do want to say is that this member of the Chinese Communist Party is supposed to own $38.6 billions, which makes him one of the wealthiest people in the world.

Second about the Chinese Communist Party. I gave the link to the Wikipedia, but in fact this has a far too complicated history to discuss in this article, so I want to raise and answer only one question: To what extent is it communist?

In fact, the last question I posed is also quite ambiguous (What are communists? In China?) but I think I can give a somewhat specific answer, indeed mostly because both of my parents were both real communists for 45 years (I gave up the faith or ideology when I was 20, mainly on the basis of having studied Marx and Lenin):

If my parents were real communists (and they undoubtedly were), then the Chinese Communist Party is not communist anymore, for the simple reason that they protect the rich and help exploit the poor.

Then again, from the abstract point of view of power, the Chinese Communist Party closely resembles Western capitalist states, for they a little less than about 10% of the population, which is similar in the USA and Western Europe, where there also are about 1% of the truly very rich and about 9% of the reasonably to very well paid people who support the rich and/or the capitalist

Finally, it also differs somewhat from the West, in that the Chinese communists are explicitly totalitarian (and more so under Xi Jinping) and take pride in that, and are also at present trying
to know everything about anyone in China with the help of computers and Google, and also to
scale everyone in China as a more or less desirable citizen
, in the eyes of the Communist Party. (And less desirable citizens risk being punished.)

My guess is that they will succeed, though in fact the same totalitarian policy is implemented in the USA and (Western) Europe, with this difference (so far) that neither of these countries is itself totalitarian (so far).

There is a whole lot to be said about China, Chinese communism etc. but I will not do it in this article. Instead, I return to the article, and this is also the last bit that I quote from it:

Today’s party isn’t exactly exclusive. Its members represent nearly 7 percent of China’s population. Its ranks include government officials, businesspeople and even dissidents. Being a member often suggests a desire to network and get ahead rather than express one’s political views.

For businesspeople in particular, membership is more often a matter of expediency. Party membership provides a layer of protection in a country where private ownership protections are often haphazardly enforced or ignored entirely.

Though its constitution still describes members as “vanguard fighters of the Chinese working class imbued with communist consciousness,” the party has veered away from its communist roots and welcomed private entrepreneurs since 2001. Some of the richest men in China are party members (..)
Yes - and 7% (which is the percentage of Chinese admitted to the Chinese Communist Party) is quite close to the 10% of the rich and their mostly willing servants who run much of the West, while I agree that being a communist in China these days mostly depend on one´s power and income, and not on one´s communist feelings or values. And this is a recommended article.

3. Scientists Warn Brazil's New President May Smother Rainforest

This article is by Christina Larson and Mauricio Savarese on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
Scientists warn that Brazil’s president-elect could push the Amazon rainforest past its tipping point — with severe consequences for global climate and rainfall.

Jair Bolsonaro, who takes office Jan. 1, claims a mandate to convert land for cattle pastures and soybean farms, calling Brazil’s rainforest protections an economic obstacle.

I think this is very probably correct - and I also think that the nomination of a torture-loving degenerate like Bolsonaro is very dangerous for Brazil and for the world, indeed especially because of Brazil´s size and the world-wide importance of the rain forrest. (And besides, I also think that the Brazilian majority that elected Bolsonaro must be - in so far as they are neither rich nor degenerates who love tortuting people - mostly stupid and ignorant, but then I know I am one of the very few who writes so, these days.)

Here is some background on the Amazon rainforest:

Brazil contains about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, and scientists are worried.

It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of the Amazon rainforest to the planet’s living systems, said Carlos Nobre, a climate scientist at the University of Sao Paulo.

Each tree stores carbon absorbed from the atmosphere. The Amazon takes in as much as 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year and releases 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen, earning it the nickname “the lungs of the planet.”

It’s also a global weather-maker.

Stretching 10 times the size of Texas, the Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest.
This is all correct. Here is more on Bolsonaro´s promises:

On the campaign trail, Bolsonaro promised to loosen protections for areas of the Brazilian Amazon designated as indigenous lands and nature reserves, calling them impediments to economic growth. “All these reserves cause problems to development,” he told supporters.

He has also repeatedly talked about gutting the power of the environmental ministry to enforce existing green laws.

“If Bolsonaro keeps his campaign promises, deforestation of the Amazon will probably increase quickly — and the effects will be felt everywhere on the planet,” said Paulo Artaxo, a professor of environmental physics at the University of Sao Paulo.

Yes. And the only thing I can think of that removes these threats is that either his government fails rapidly or Bolsonaro gets shot or a serious heart attack. This is a recommended article.

4. Democratic Party "Leadership" Is Upside Down

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

When Democrats take control of the House in early January, they’ll have two kinds of leadership—one from the top of the party’s power pyramid, the other from its base. With formal control, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer can brandish huge carrots and sticks to keep Democratic lawmakers in line. With grassroots support, a growing number of those lawmakers can—and should—strategically step out of line to fight for progressive agendas.

Pelosi and Hoyer have been running the Democratic machinery in the House of Representatives since 2003, and they’re experts at combining liberal rhetoric with corporate flackery. Pelosi is frequently an obstacle to advancing progressive proposals. Hoyer is significantly worse as he avidly serves such “constituents” as giant banks, Pentagon contractors and other Wall Street titans. The duo has often functioned as top-drawer power tools in the hands of powerful corporate-military interests.

Yes, I think the above quotation is quite correct. Here is more on the Democratic Party:

Pelosi is a longtime wizard at generating and funneling hundreds of millions of election-cycle dollars, and as speaker she’ll wield enormous power over committee assignments. But she must keep Democratic House members minimally satisfied—and along the way that should mean yielding more power to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Buoyed by wins in the midterm elections, the caucus includes two-fifths of all Democrats in the House.

That’s where the other kind of leadership comes in—if a hefty number of self-identified progressives in Congress go to the mat to vigorously represent progressive constituencies.
Yes. Then again, the question is whether these progressive Democrats (as they call themselves) will be able or willing to make a real difference, and there are at least two reasons why they may not:

In the first place, 2/5th is a minority of the Democrats in the House, and in the second place, it remains to be seen how strong newly elected Democrat members of the House are in resisting being corrupted by the ¨
hundreds of millions of election-cycle dollars¨.

I do not know, although I admit I am not very optimistic they will. In fact, here is Solomon on the same topic:
For that to happen, a dubious aspect of the Progressive Caucus past must not repeat itself.

“When historic votes come to the House floor, party functionaries are able to whip the Progressive Caucus into compliance,” I wrote six years ago. A grim pattern set in during the Obama presidency, “with many Progressive Caucus members making fine statements of vigorous resolve—only to succumb on the House floor under intense pressure from the Obama administration.”
That is quite true, and indeed is one of the grounds of my lack of optimism. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Progressive leaders can gain persuasive influence largely because they’re advocating for proposals that—as polling verifies—have wide support from the U.S. public, such as a $15-an-hour minimum wage (59 percent), Medicare for All (70 percent), progressive criminal justice reform (65 percent) and higher taxes on the wealthy (76 percent). Behind such political agenda items is an activist base eager to achieve many programs that have been obstructed by most top-ranking Democrats in Congress.

This is true as well, and this is a recommended article.

5. 'In Front of Your Nose'—A Sequel to Orwell in the Trump Era

This article is by Mike Lofgren on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
In 1946, George Orwell wrote a piece about the unfortunate human habit of failing or refusing to see what plainly lay before one’s face. Whether through conscious mendacity, or intellectual laziness, or the universal tendency to euphemism, or because facing the truth would be too personally unsettling, people espouse beliefs blatantly at odds with the evidence. Orwell titled his essay “In Front of Your Nose.”
Quite so - and I like the reasons Lofgren gives to explain why many human beings do not admit to the truth even if it is staring them in the face, while I strongly recommend that you also read
Orwell´s essay.

In fact, here is Orwell, from the quoted essay:

This is merely one example of a habit of mind which is extremely widespread, and perhaps always has been. Bernard Shaw, in the preface to Androcles and the Lion, cites as another example the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, which starts off by establishing the descent of Joseph, father of Jesus, from Abraham. In the first verse, Jesus is described as ‘the son of David, the son of Abraham’, and the genealogy is then followed up through fifteen verses: then, in the next verse but one, it is explained that as a matter of fact Jesus was not descended from Abraham, since he was not the son of Joseph. This, says Shaw, presents no difficulty to a religious believer, and he names as a parallel case the rioting in the East End of London by the partisans of the Tichborne Claimant, who declared that a British working man was being done out of his rights.

Medically, I believe, this manner thinking is called schizophrenia: at any rate, it is the power of holding simultaneously two beliefs which cancel out.
The example is good, but I don´t think this is schizophrenia (and I am a psychologist). And here is a conclusion of Orwell, after he quoted four examples:
There is no use in multiplying examples. The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
Yes, I think that is quite true. Here is more by Lofgren:

The world headquarters of the syndrome Orwell identified seems, however, to have moved across the North Atlantic. This is most clearly evident from the pronouncements of Donald Trump, his cabinet, and his assorted hangers-on and sycophants. Every statement issuing from them is a riot of illogic, contradiction, distraction and appeals to authority, emotion, or fear—all designed to camouflage the intolerable fact that Trump’s administration is essentially a syndicate dedicated to stealing anything that isn’t nailed down when it’s not too busy rigging the system on behalf of its cronies and campaign donors.

This state of affairs is unprecedented.
Yes, I think this is correct: ¨Trump’s administration is essentially a syndicate dedicated to stealing anything that isn’t nailed down when it’s not too busy rigging the system on behalf of its cronies and campaign donors¨.

Here is more:
But as horrific as Trump’s systematic perversion of reality is, it is a symptom of the problem, not the underlying problem. A distorting misrepresentation of evident facts, deliberate or unconscious, already suffused public life in America. It preceded Trump, paved the way for his ascent, and entrenches the misrule of the president and his cohorts. It is a “see no evil” mindset that always finds the most benign interpretation when facts and evidence suggest otherwise.
I think the above quotation also is mostly correct (though there is more at work). Here is more by Lofgren:
So why doesn’t the press plainly label what lies in front of their noses? (..) Is it intellectual laziness or fear of stating the truth that causes the imprecision?
Well... I give the last quotation of Orwell to (more or less) answer that question:
To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle. One thing that helps toward it is to keep a diary, or, at any rate, to keep some kind of record of one's opinions about important events. Otherwise, when some particularly absurd belief is exploded by events, one may simply forget that one ever held it. Political predictions are usually wrong.
Yes indeed. In fact, this is one of my reasons to write the crisis series (which currently goes on for ten years) and it may have very well have to do with Orwell, since I read his quoted essay, and indeed all his political writings, forty or more years ago (and repeatedly since).

It does not quite answer the question Lofgren asked. I think his two reasons are part of the truth, but there is considerably more involved.

Finally, here is a side effect of - what I think is fairly described as - the corruption of mainstream press, and here it concerns the meaning of the term ¨skeptic¨:
Yet the media continue to apply the label of skeptic, giving genuine rational skepticism a bad name and imputing more credibility than warranted. In that case, what shall we call the lovable cranks who are always with us, the eccentrics who claim the moon landings were faked but aliens are real and periodically abducting us? Moon landing skeptics?
Quite so 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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