December 11, 2018

Crisis: Google & China, Mueller & Trump, White Christianity, On Financial Inequality, On the EU


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 11, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, December 11, 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 three 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 December 11, 2018:
1. Rights Groups Turn Up Pressure on Google Over China Censorship
2. Mueller Probe Could Lead to Indictment of the Trump Organization

3. The Heresy of White Christianity
4. The Inequality to Be Suffered by Our Children
5. The EU and the warning signs of Fascism
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. Rights Groups Turn Up Pressure on Google Over China Censorship

This article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Google is facing a renewed wave of criticism from human rights groups over its controversial plan to launch a censored search engine in China.

A coalition of more than 60 leading groups from countries across the world have joined forces to blast the internet giant for failing to address concerns about the secretive China project, known as Dragonfly. They come from countries including China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, France, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Romania, Syria, Tibet, and Vietnam.

A prototype for the censored search engine was designed to blacklist broad categories of information about human rights, democracy, and peaceful protest. It would link Chinese users’ searches to their personal cellphone number and store people’s search records inside the data centers of a Chinese company in Beijing or Shanghai, which would be accessible to China’s authoritarian Communist Party government.

If the plan proceeds, “there is a real risk that Google would directly assist the Chinese government in arresting or imprisoning people simply for expressing their views online, making the company complicit in human rights violations,” the human rights groups wrote in a letter that will be sent to Google’s leadership on Tuesday.

Yes indeed - and I completely agree with these critics of Google. Here is some more:

The letter highlights mounting anger and frustration within the human rights community that Google has rebuffed concerns about Dragonfly, concerns that have been widely raised both inside and outside the company since The Intercept first revealed the plan in August. The groups say in their 900-word missive that Google’s China strategy is “reckless,” piling pressure on CEO Sundar Pichai, who is due to appear Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, where he will likely face questions on Dragonfly.

The groups behind the letter include Amnesty International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access Now, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Human Rights in China, the International Campaign for Tibet, and the World Uyghur Congress. They have been joined in their campaign by several high-profile individual signatories, such as former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and Google’s former head of free expression in Asia, Lokman Tsui.

As I said: I completely agree with these groups on the nature of Google´s Dragonfly, for that is explicitly and intentionally totalitarian and it will, once it is working, give the Chinese Communist Party more control and more knowledge of over a billion Chinese than the KGB had about the Russians, or the Gestapo had about the Germans.

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

Teng Biao, a Chinese human rights lawyer who said he had been previously detained and tortured by the country’s authorities for his work, recalled how he had celebrated in 2010 when Google decided to pull its search services out of China, with the company citing concerns about the Communist Party’s censorship and targeting of activists. Teng said he had visited Google headquarters in Beijing and laid flowers outside the company’s doors to thank the internet giant for its decision. He was dismayed by the company’s apparent reversal on its anti-censorship stance, he said, and called on “every one of us to stop Google from being an accomplice in China’s digital totalitarianism.”

Yes, I agree with Teng Biao, but I also think that (i) Google´s profits will be far more important to the leaders of Google than any other criterion, which means that (ii) very probably Google will implement Dragonfly for the Chinese, which in turn means - at least for me, and very probably for Teng Biao - that (iii) Google very probably will adopt the role of the Gestapo of China, although also (iv) Google´s leaders will say as little as possible about it. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Mueller Probe Could Lead to Indictment of the Trump Organization

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title.
It starts with the following introduction:
Federal prosecutors have accused President Trump of committing a federal crime by directing illegal hush money to two women during the presidential election. The accusation was revealed Friday in filings made public by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, including a damning sentencing memo for Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who has admitted to paying adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the campaign in order to prevent them from speaking to the media about their alleged affairs with Trump. The sentencing memo was made public along with two new sentencing memos from special counsel Robert Mueller: one for Cohen and another for Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort. “We keep talking about whether you can indict a sitting president,” says independent journalist Marcy Wheeler, editor of “There’s still a debate about that, but, really critically, you can indict a corporation. You can indict Trump Organization.”
Yes indeed - I agree with all of this except ¨whether you can indict a sitting president¨ for I think that in any democracy, which is what ¨the USA¨ still pretends to be, anyone including the president is subject to the laws of the country, and those who deny the president is are anti-democrats.

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Marcy, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you explain what’s most significant about these filings? And just for people to understand, we’re talking about filings from two different places, from the Mueller inquiry and from the U.S. court in New York, from the prosecutor’s office, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

MARCY WHEELER: Right. So, there’s two sentencing memos, actually, both for Cohen—one out of Manhattan, as you said, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York, and one out of Mueller’s office. And then, the Manafort thing is actually not a sentencing memo. It’s just a memo laying out the lies he told and the reasons he—that the government has said that he violated his plea agreement, and all of the benefits that he thought he was going to get out of that are now gone.

The news that is catching attention is what you just said, which is that in the New York sentencing memo, it makes it very clear—doesn’t accuse Trump yet, but it makes it very clear that what Cohen did in setting up these hush payments, and, importantly, getting reimbursed by Trump Organization for these hush payments, he did it with Donald Trump’s knowledge and on his instructions.
I think this is all correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
MARCY WHEELER: And so, I would expect the next charges, the ones that might name Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator but will almost certainly name Trump Organization, because, remember, his company can be indicted, and also probably whichever one of his children is named in those filings, as well, they’re going to be charged with what’s called conspiracy to defraud the United States. And the argument is that any time you carry out fraud to hide the fact—to hide stuff that prevents the government from doing regulatory work, when you do that, that’s a crime in and of itself, irregardless of how serious the campaign finance violation is. So, that seems to be where they’re going in New York.
And I think this is correct as well, except that I insist that in any democracy everyone, including the president, is subject to the law. This is a recommended article.

3. The Heresy of White Christianity

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

There are, as Cornel West has pointed out, only two African-Americans who rose from dirt-poor poverty to the highest levels of American intellectual life—the writer Richard Wright and the radical theologian James H. Cone.

Cone, who died in April, grew up in segregated Bearden, Ark., the impoverished son of a woodcutter who had only a sixth-grade education. With an almost superhuman will, Cone clawed his way up from the Arkansas cotton fields to implode theological studies in the United States with his withering critique of the white supremacy and racism inherent within the white, liberal Christian church. His brilliance—he was a Greek scholar and wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Swiss theologian Karl Barth—enabled him to “turn the white man’s theology against him and make it speak for the liberation of black people.” God’s revelation in America, he understood, “was found among poor black people.” Privileged white Christianity and its theology were “heresy.” He was, until the end of his life, possessed by what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr called “sublime madness.” His insights, he writes, “came to me as if revealed by the spirits of my ancestors long dead but now coming alive to haunt and torment the descendants of the whites who had killed them.”

I say. I do so because I like and admire Chris Hedges, who has a lot of courage, a fine mind, and - unlike the vast majority of journalists - a fine style. These are also the reasons why I am following and reviewing Hedges since quite a few years (at least five), and why I will be following
him probably as long as he and I are alive, indeed mostly because he has a fine mind.

Then again, while I like and admire Hedges, there also are considerable differences between us, and one such difference is that he is religious, and indeed a minister, while I am a philosopher who is a total atheist and always has been, since my parents also were total atheists (and my mother´s family were atheists starting in the 1850ies, which was very rare then).

And Hedges´ present article is an example of his Christian values. Well... I am pro blacks in the USA, but my own attitudes have extremely little to do with any theology, and I also think that all theologians, of whatever faith, are mistaken.

The same applies to James H. Cone (and the last link is to Wikipedia): I have looked him up, thanks to Hedges, but I have very little in common with him.

And therefore I will quote only two more bits from Hedges´ present article. Both are from near its beginning, and the first is this:

“When it became clear to me that Jesus was not biologically white and that white scholars actually lied by not telling people who he really was, I stopped trusting anything they said,” he writes in his posthumous memoir, “Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian,” published in October.

“White supremacy is America’s original sin and liberation is the Bible’s central message,” he writes in his book. “Any theology in America that fails to engage white supremacy and God’s liberation of black people from that evil is not Christian theology but a theology of the Antichrist.”

I am sorry, but someone whose theology inspires him to insist that those who - fundamentally (?) - disagree with him most be servants of the devil has lost me completely.

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

White supremacy “is the Antichrist in America because it has killed and crippled tens of millions of black bodies and minds in the modern world,” he writes. “It has also committed genocide against the indigenous people of this land. If that isn’t demonic, I don’t know what is … [and] it is found in every aspect of American life, especially churches, seminaries, and theology.”

Cone, who spent most of his life teaching at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary, where the theological luminaries Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr preceded him, was acutely aware that “there are a lot of brilliant theologians and most are irrelevant and some are evil.”

I strongly dislike white supremacy and explain it myself as mostly based on a combination of stupidity, ignorance and prejudice, but I don´t think anyone - however bad - is a servant of the devil (¨the Antichrist¨).

But I agree on one thing with Cone: While I doubt there are in fact (bolding added) ¨
a lot of brilliant theologians¨ there undoubtedly will be some, but indeed ¨most are irrelevant¨, indeed especially for atheists.

4. The Inequality to Be Suffered by Our Children

This article is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:

The Inequality to be Suffered by Our Children

The fortunate ones will not be suffering. In the past eight years, the richest 5% of Americans have increased their wealth by $30 trillion -- almost a third of total U.S. wealth -- while the poorest 50% have seen their average wealth drop from $11,500 to $9,500. There is ample evidence for a nation soon to be made even more unequal by the transfer of wealth from rich baby boomers to their children and grandchildren, who will have done little if anything to earn it. The middle class will be further crippled by the ongoing growth in inequality. Unless progressive policies are demanded by American voters, most of our children and grandchildren will suffer from the continuing expansion of a Great-Depression-like wealth gap that already "dwarfs" the rest of the developed world.

Yes, I think this is basically correct. Here is more:

Nearly a Third of U.S. Wealth will be Handed Down, Mostly to Rich Kids 

Total U.S. wealth is about $98 trillion. According to an Accenture study, $30 trillion in financial and non-financial assets will be inherited by the children of Baby Boomers in the next thirty to forty years. A Boston College study predicts an overall transfer twice that size, at $59 trillion, with $36 trillion going to heirs. Deloitte predicts a $24 trillion transfer of wealth (to and from all generations) in the next fifteen years. America's richest 20% own nearly nine-tenths of this impending windfall (Table 6-5).

Well... I take it that ¨a third¨ of the American financial and non-financial assets will be inherited.
And I also take it that is a fair estimate (but I don´t know).

Here is more:

The Rich Kids will have Learned How to Avoid the Public Good

Skipping out on tax obligations will start right away, as over 99.8 percent of estates are not currently required to pay any estate tax. 

Here's another way for the young heirs to skip out on taxes: Offshore hoarding of private American wealth is estimated to be $3.3 trillion (4% of U.S. $82 trillion financial wealth). 

And yet another way: Make a fortune, then move out of the country and renounce U.S. citizenship to avoid taxes.

In brief: The vast majority of the children of the rich will (and do) behave as the rich. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The Growing Number of Poor Kids 

The expected growth in inequality is shown dramatically in a 2017 report by the Institute for Policy Studies, which predicts ZERO median Black household wealth by the year 2053, if current trends continue. Median Latino household wealth would hit zero twenty years later. Right now the poverty rates for Black and Hispanic kids are 30 and 26 percent, respectively. Overall, for all demographic groups, income instability and debt are diminishing the quality of life for middle- and lower-class families with children. It's frightening to anticipate a worsening poverty rate for children already largely ignored by the privileged members of society. 

Democrats have not been the answer to all this. Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton were buddies with Wall Street; Obama spent public money on drone warsClinton decimated the safety net and increased mass incarceration.

Yes, I completely agree and this is a recommended article. 

5. The EU and the warning signs of Fascism

This article is by Kit Knightly on The Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:
Things are spiralling out of control in Europe, faster than many predicted. Outside of Brexit, there is strong anti-EU feeling in Hungary, Spain, Italy, Greece and France. The EU is in danger of crumbling, and people afraid of losing power are prone to extreme acts of dictatorial control.

How long before the EU truly becomes the authoritarian force that people from both ends of the political spectrum have always feared?

Well... for me ¨the EU¨ already is an ¨authoritarian force¨ that is out of control. But then I never believed in the EU, while I also agree that the ¨authoritarian force¨ of the EU may - and probably will - become considerably stronger soon.

Here is more:

Earlier this year, the EU voted to “punish” one of its own members, Hungary, for the internal policies of its elected government. To be clear about this – whatever you think of Viktor Orban, he was elected by the people of Hungary. He is their legally recognised democratic leader. Hungary voted for him – in contrast, Hungary did NOT vote for any of the 448 MEPs who supported the motion, posed by Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini, that:

The Hungarian people deserve better…They deserve freedom of speech, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and equality, all of which are enshrined in the European treaties.”

Note that “democracy” is not included on that list. “Tolerance”, “justice” and “equality”, but not democracy. A Freudian slip, perhaps.

I am not much impressed by the fact that Viktor Orban ¨was elected by the people of Hungary¨, for several reasons, of which I will mention here and now only that the same held for Adolf Hitler.

Then again, I am certain I dislike Sargentini, while it also seems likely to me that “democracy” is missing from the list Sargentini drew up because she does not consider it important (but I do not know this).

Here is more from this article:

This month, Paris (and other French cities) have seen the massive Gilets Jaunes
protests against the fuel tax, austerity and income inequality. The violent repression of these protests has received no criticism from either individual member states of the EU, or the EU itself. However, an armored vehicle
painted with the EU’s insignia was seen on the streets of Paris. 

Both Macron and Merkel have talked, recently, of the need for an EU Army – will these protests in France be used as an excuse to implement those plans?

Let’s assume the EU Army is brought about – let us supply the European Union with its coveted “defence force”. 250,000 hypothetical men, drawn from all the member states. What is their purpose? What is their function?

For example, would they have been deployed to Catalonia last year to “keep the peace”? Would an EU army have moved against a peaceful vote to “defend” the integrity of the Union?

Well... I agree that several European figureheads want a European army. But it is not there yet. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

To sum up:

  • The European Union’s two major figureheads are both in favour of an EU army.
  • The European Union’s flag is painted on armoured vehicles repressing anti-government protests in France.
  • The European Union is putting aside £4.6 millio (5 million Euros) to “help people recognise disinformation”.
  • The European Union wants to pressure social media companies into “shutting down” accounts that spread “fake news”.
  • The European Union wants Google to alter their algorithm, to promote news that praises the EU and demote sites critical of it.
  • The European Union wants us to understand that this is about “transparency” and is definitely NOT censorship.
Does this sound like an organization of which we want to be a part?
No it does not, that is: not to me. Also, the last four points are quite clearly attempts by the EU to influence news that is ¨allowed to be seen¨ by the leaders of the EU, and to repress other news. 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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail