January 3, 2019

Crisis: The Guardian's Lies, US Federal Employees, On Bolsonaro, On Neofascism, Hartmann & GOP


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 3, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 3, 2019. 

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 January 3, 2019:
1. Five Weeks After The Guardian’s Viral Blockbuster
2. Federal Employees’ Union Sues Trump Administration

3. Bolsonaro's Opponents Warn of Regressive Policies & Threat of

4. Cornel West: We're Staring Down Global Neofascist Rule

5. Thom Hartmann: The GOP Is Reviving One of Its Favorite Scams
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. Five Weeks After The Guardian’s Viral Blockbuster

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

Five weeks ago, The Guardian published one of the most extraordinary and significant bombshells in the now two-plus-year-old Trump-Russia saga. “Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign,” claimed reporter and best-selling “Collusion” author Luke Harding, Dan Collyns, and a very sketchy third person whose name was bizarrely scrubbed from The Guardian’s byline for its online version but appeared in the print version: Fernando Villavicencio, described by the Washington Post, discussing this mysterious discrepancy, as “an Ecuadoran journalist and activist.”

That the Guardian story would be seen as an earth-shattering revelation — one that would bring massive amounts of traffic, attention, glory, and revenue to the paper — was obvious. And that’s precisely how it was treated, as it instantly ricocheted around the media ecosystem with predictable viral speed: “The ultimate Whoa If True. It’s … [the] ballgame if true,” pronounced MSNBC’s Chris Hayes who, unlike many media figures reacting to the story, sounded some skepticism: “The sourcing on this is a bit thin, or at least obscured.”

Yes, indeed. Then again, I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008, and meanwhile published over 2200 articles on it since then (which you can all read from here).

I have no idea whatsoever how many have read most of these articles (because neither of my two providers provides any statistics, other than statistics that were oldfashioned by 1996), but I wrote them all, and this also means that meanwhile I have fairly strong opinions pro and contra several journalists.

One of these journalists is The Guardian's Luke Harding (and indeed one of these papers is The Guardian since Viner became editor). I think Harding is a massive fraud trying to get as rich himself as he can be, and I base my opinions on articles in the media that I have read since 2013.

You need not believe me (you never have to), but here are some questions by Glenn Greenwald about some of the supposed - false - "facts" Harding lately asserted:

  • How could it be that Manafort, of all people, snuck into one of the most monitored, surveilled, videoed, and photographed buildings on the planet on three separate occasions without any of that ostensibly “smoking gun” visual evidence having emerged, including in The Guardian’s own story?
  • Why would The Guardian publish a story of this magnitude without first requiring that its Ecuadoran intelligence sources provide them with such photographic or video evidence to publish it or at least review prior to publication?
  • How could it be that Manafort’s name never appeared in any of the embassy entrance logs even though, as The Guardian itself admitted, “visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports”?
  • What was the bizarre, sensationalistic reference to “Russians” that The Guardian included in its article but never bothered to explain (“separate internal document written by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency and seen by The Guardian lists ‘Paul Manaford [sic]’ as one of several well-known guests. It also mentions ‘Russians'”).

Five weeks later, all of these questions remain unanswered. That’s because The Guardian — which likes to pride itself on flamboyantly demanding transparency and accountability from everyone else — has refused to provide any of its own.

In lieu of addressing the increasingly embarrassing scandal, The Guardian’s top editors and reporters on this story have practically gone into hiding, ignoring all requests for comment and referring journalists to a corporate PR official who provides a statement that is as vague and bureaucratic as it is non-responsive. It’s easier to get a substantive comment from the National Security Agency than from The Guardian on this story.
Yes indeed, again. There is more in this article, but I think the above is sufficient. And no, Luke Harding is one of the journalists I stopped reading because he is a liar. In fact, there are a few more, but not many. And this is a recommended article.

2. Federal Employees’ Union Sues Trump Administration

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

The government shutdown continues as President Trump prepares to meet with congressional leaders just one day before Democrats take control of the House. President Trump has insisted on including $5 billion for border wall funding before he’ll agree to sign any spending measure. Eight hundred thousand government workers’ lives have been thrown into disarray by the shutdown, with 380,000 workers on furlough and 420,000 who have worked without pay since December 22. We speak with a federal workers’ union that is suing the Trump administration over the shutdown. The American Federation of Government Employees, or AFGE, says it is illegal for federal workers to work without pay. We speak with Heidi Burakiewicz, lead attorney in the lawsuit, and David Borer, general counsel for AFGE.

Yes indeed. There is more below, but I want to start with a general question I have, which is as follows: I wrote several times about the above in the crisis series, and I have said each and every time (since I live in Holland) that according to me in Holland "it is illegal for federal workers to work without pay".

Well... it turns out to be the same in the USA, and here is my question: Why did no one I read - lots - about Trump or the wall recently make the same point? And since I asked that question, here is another: Why has no American journalist that I read (plenty) said that what Trump and his government did to the children of poor immigrants was kidnapping?! (While this is literally true!)

I am only asking these questions here, but they are quite realistic.

Here is more from this article:

Eight hundred thousand government workers’ lives have been thrown into disarray by the shutdown, with 380,000 on furlough and 420,000 who have worked without pay since the House and Senate failed to pass an end-of-year spending bill on December 22nd.

This is President Trump speaking to Fox News on New Year’s Day.

PETE HEGSETH: So, how far are you willing to go, Mr. President? When do you anticipate talks with Chuck and Nancy, as you say, sir?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I assume when they get back. I’m in Washington. I’m ready, willing and able. I’m in the White House. I’m ready to go. They can come over right now. They could have come over anytime. I spent Christmas in the White House. I spent New Year’s Eve now in the White House. And, you know, I’m here. I’m ready to go. It’s very important. A lot of people are looking to get their paycheck. And so I’m ready to go anytime they want. No, we are not giving up. We have to have border security. And the wall is a big part of border security—the biggest part.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This comes as Trump has issued an executive order freezing federal workers’ pay, eliminating a 2.1 percent pay raise that was set to kick in in January.

Quite so - and incidentally, if you look at Trump's prose, he is repeating no less than six times that he is ready, in various forms.

Here is some more from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we turn now to look at a federal workers’ union that’s suing the Trump administration over the shutdown. The American Federation of Government Employees, or AFGE, says it’s illegal for federal workers to be forced to work without pay.

In Washington, D.C., we’re joined by two guests. David Borer is general counsel at the American Federation of Government Employees.

DAVID BORER: (..) That’s right. We represent 42,000 TSA workers. And, yes, they are being forced to work without pay. They’ve been designated as essential employees. And there is no pay for them or other—the furloughed employees because of the lapse in appropriations when the spending authority ran out before the holidays. So, yes, they’re being forced to work without pay, 400,000 federal employees coming to work every day in essential services like TSA, like the Bureau of Prisons, like food inspectors and so forth, and yet no promise even that they will ever be paid for this.

Quite so, which is to say that Trump is pretending that 400,000 federal employees need to pay no rent and need not to eat any food until Trump's conflict has ended, since he forces them all to work without any pay. There is considerably more in this article, which is recommended.

3. Bolsonaro's Opponents Warn of Regressive Policies & Threat of Dictatorship

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

Far-right former Army Captain Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in as president of Brazil on New Year’s Day. His election marks the most radical political shift in the country since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. We speak with Fernando Haddad, former Brazilian presidential candidate on the Workers’ Party ticket who lost in a runoff to Jair Bolsonaro. Haddad is the former mayor of Săo Paulo and served as education minister under former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Yes, and since this is a good, clear and long interview I will review some more of this article than I usually do. This is from the start of the interview:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Bolsonaro was sworn in as Brazil’s [38th] president, marking the most radical political shift in the country since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. Many fear Brazil’s young democracy is now at risk. Bolsonaro has announced Brazil will withdraw from hosting this year’s United Nations climate change conference. This comes as environmentalists fear he will speed catastrophic climate change by opening up vast swaths of the Amazon to agribusiness giants. Brazil’s new foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, has described climate change as a plot by cultural Marxists aiming to help China.

AMY GOODMAN: So far, Bolsonaro has named five former military officials to serve in his Cabinet. For years, Bolsonaro has praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship, which ended 33 years ago. He has also spoken in favor of torture and threatened to destroy, imprison or banish his political opponents. Human rights groups are also alarmed over Bolsonaro’s past comments about women and the LGBT community. He once told a female lawmaker she was too ugly to rape. He also said he would rather hear his son died in a car crash than learn that his son is gay.

Yes indeed: Bolsonaro said all this (and lots more that is equally bad), and I could read all of this in Holland, but even so the Brazilians seem to have fairly elected Bolsonaro, which I find rather comparable to Hitler's fair election in 1933. I have also concluded that the only way that I can explain this neofascist's presidency is by assuming that over half of the Brazilian voters are both stupid and ignorant. (You may disagree, but this is what I think.)

Here is more from the article:

Bolsonaro recently picked Sérgio Moro to serve as justice minister. Moro is the judge who convicted the former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in a controversial corruption case that prevented Lula from running for president in last year’s election. This helped pave the way for Bolsonaro’s victory.

AMY GOODMAN: Lula remains in prison, serving a 12-year sentence.

Well, Democracy Now! recently spoke with Fernando Haddad, who ran against Bolsonaro with the Workers’ Party once Lula was barred from running. Bolsonaro beat him 55 to 45 percent. Haddad is Brazil’s former minister of education, the former mayor of Săo Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world.

Yes, and here is some background on Fernando Haddad (but since it is from Wikipedia, I cannot guarantee its truth).

Here is more from the article:

FERNANDO HADDAD: [translated] Bolsonaro is a tropical Trump. They have a very common agenda, a very regressive agenda, when it comes to civil rights, social rights and environmental rights.

But from the economic standpoint, there is a major difference between the two of them. Bolsonaro is adopting a regressive policy as regards rights, but a neoliberal policy when it comes to economic policy. Paulo Guedes, who you mentioned, who is going to be his minister of the economy, was trained at the University of Chicago. And he maintains the belief, his belief, in that sort of thinking, which was actually defeated by history, of total liberalization.

You talked about the massive state assets, particularly oil companies that are managed by the state today. Well, next year there’s likely to be a savage privatization of those assets and an unbound struggle against workers’ rights and social rights in Brazil, and gutting the public budget that protects the poorest of the poor and workers in relation to their employers.

So, from an economic standpoint, there is a difference that should be noted. Brazil is once again adopting a neoliberal agenda, a very strong neoliberal agenda, beyond what happened in the 1990s.

I think this is mostly true (although I probably disbelieve in the honesty of Paulo Guedes).

Here is more:

To be consistent with this discourse of lifting up the military dictatorship in Brazil, the dictatorship that extended from 1964 to 1985, Bolsonaro, his whole life, has been uplifting not only the dictatorship itself, but also the methods that the dictatorship used to stay in power, including torture.

AMY GOODMAN: Bolsonaro has threatened to destroy, imprison or banish political opponents. Certainly, you would be chief among them. You ran against him for president. And the man he was running against before, Lula, is in prison. Are you concerned?

FERNANDO HADDAD: [translated] I am more concerned about the consequences of Bolsonaro’s discourse on regular citizens than its impact on myself, because what is happening in Brazil is that regular folk—journalists, university professors, LGBT—members of the LGBT community—are all feeling insecure in Brazil. And my concern—well, I have sufficient means to protect myself.

I have two points on the above quotation: First - once again - how could 55% of the Brazilian voters vote for a neofascist who is for dictatorship and torture?! And second, while I more or less admire Haddad, I think of Hitler if I think of Bolsonaro, and I fear Haddad and Lula may soon be dead ("from unknon causes", undoubtedly, if this happens).

Here is more:

FERNANDO HADDAD: [translated] The media in Brazil is very conservative. First of all, it’s in the hands of just a few families. It’s practically a cartel, the media. And it operates ideologically as though it were a monopoly. Now, even though it’s four or five families that dominate the circulation of information in Brazil, from an ideological standpoint, they are very much aligned with the same purpose. In the 1964 coup d’état, the media was consistent with it. In the 2016 coup that resulted in the impeachment, the media all acted with a single voice. It’s as though they were all Fox News. Nothing really different from Fox News in Brazil.

So we don’t really have a plurality of opinions being voiced as in the United States, so it’s even tougher than here.

I say! This does explain some things about Bolsonaro's winning of the Brazilian presidency, although it still escapes me why 55% of the Brazilian voters voted for someone who is for dictatorship and for torture (unless they are more stupid and ignorant than I feared).

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

AMY GOODMAN: Bolsonaro calls media in Brazil fake news, just like President Trump calls the media here in this country. What impact do you think Facebook had on the election? Facebook owns WhatsApp, the popular message site that was widely used to distribute false news leading up to the election.

FERNANDO HADDAD: [translated] WhatsApp in Brazil played a crucial role, a decisive role, in the elections. We have a two-round election in Brazil because we have many political parties. And so, there are two rounds for the presidential election. Until one week before the first round, all of the polls said that I would be winning in the projections for the second round. The polls said not only would I go to the second round, but that I would likely win in the second round. Now, that ended in just a week, with a massive triggering of false messages that did not use Twitter or Facebook but did use WhatsApp. And it was very difficult in the second round to turn back or to undo the damage done in the last week of the first-round election, leading up to the first-round election. And we don’t know what was behind all of this, the resources behind this, who are those who financed these actions.

And this explains a bit more, although it still escapes me why so many Brazilians would believe the messages of WhatsApp. Anyway... there is a lot more in this article, which is strongly recommended.

4. Cornel West: We're Staring Down Global Neofascist Rule

This article is by Sharmini Peries of The Real Network on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
What follows is a conversation between Dr. Cornel West and Sharmini Peries of the Real News Network. Read a transcript of their conversation below or watch the video at the bottom of the post.
So in fact this article is derived from the video (which I strongly tend to avoid if the text is also avaible, because I read a lot faster than people speak).

I also have to admit that I do not strongly like Cornel West, which has a lot to do with his prose and his academic career, both of which remind me strongly of the very many "leftists" who were not leftists at all but simply careerists in the "University" of Amsterdam (where quite a few pretended to be Marxists from 1971 till 1991, and then all converted, still in 1991, to neo- conservatives/neoliberals, simply because that position from then on would potect their careers and - excellent - incomes the best).

It is also true that I know less about the USA and its academics than I know about Holland. This also includes Cornel West, as I will try to make clear a little in what follows.

Here is the first bit:

SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you. Now, Cornel, when I look around the world–I’ve recently been to Greece. I’ve been in Latin America with you when President Chavez was here. And the world has changed dramatically in terms of the shift to the right. And we’ve just recently seen, you know, Bolsonaro coming to power in Brazil. We have Trump here. We have Duterte in the Philippines, and the political shift to the right in Europe that’s taking place. All these changes are taking place right before our eyes, dramatically different from the last time you and I met-

CORNEL WEST: Absolutely.

Yes, I agree with the facts, but I also register that both Peries and West sound very much like many academic "socialists" (many from the "University" of Amsterdam) who all travelled to very many places, such as Cuba and China, in order to write about them for subsidies for going and staying there.

I do not know whether this is true about West and Peries, but it certainly is true of many tens of former Dutch "socialists" (now neoconservatives/neoliberals since 1991) who did so from Holland.

Here is more by West:

CORNEL WEST: Well, I think at the present moment we’re seeing the imperial meltdown in the American empire. It takes the form of the relative eclipse of any integrity, honesty, decency, generosity, compassion among the vast majority of those who rule. You always have a prophetic slice of those who rule. And so you have both the wealth inequality on the one hand, you have the denial of the ecological catastrophe coming–or not the denial, the sense that somehow you can continually hold it back and defer.

This is partially correct, but I disbelieve that the American neoliberals (I shall say) lost a lot in "integrity, honesty, decency, generosity [or] compassion" since they rule.

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

CORNEL WEST: There is a growing callousness and indifference of elites vis a vis poor and working people. They feel as if they can get away with anything with impunity, immunity, no accountability. That’s what it means to live in a right-wing moment. And that right-wing moment is taking the form of an authoritarian populism; of a chauvinistic, narrow, nationalistic populism. But it’s headed toward neofascism, and that’s what’s frightening, it seems to me.

Well... I think the neoliberals (as I decided to call them) (bolding added) "can get away with" almost "anything with impunity, immunity, no accountability", for they have been explaining the laws and politics that way since Reagan, as can be seen - among other things - from the enormous gifts Obama made to the Wall Street banks, instead of prosecuting their leaders, as would have been correct.

Also, I decided that until I do get at least a passable definition of the term neofascism (and the link gives my definition) I will assume that those who use the term do not really know what they are talking about.

5. Thom Hartmann: The GOP Is Reviving One of Its Favorite Scams

This article is by Thom Hartmann on Common Dreams and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows:

Get ready to see it on your TV. The GOP is about to kick back into Two Santa Clauses mode and restart the scam they’ve been running since Reagan.

It’ll predictably begin in the first week or two of January, probably first on “Meet the Press” and other Sunday shows that feature “serious thinkers” and only rarely challenge Republicans. It’ll simultaneously roll out on Fox, on right-wing hate radio, and in the conservative media.

And there are more than a few “Third Way” Democrats eager to go along with it.

At its core, the strategy is simple and elegant: When Republicans are in power, run up as much debt as possible, mostly by borrowing and giving that cash to the Republican donor class through tax cuts and corporate subsidies; when Democrats have political power, Republicans suddenly become hysterical about the debt and demand that Dems keep taxes low while cutting social spending.

If successful, not only will Republicans (and corporate-funded Dems) block any genuinely progressive spending legislation in 2019 or 2020, but they’ll prevent any possibility of debt-free college, Medicare for All, or a Green New Deal in the entire next presidential term, clear through 2024 or beyond.

Yes indeed: I think this expectation very probably is quite correct. Here is some more:

This new idea of “trickle-down economics” wasn’t actually new; in the late 19th century it was called “horse and sparrow economics,” on the theory that if one fed more oats to the horses, there’d be more undigested grain left over in the horse poop for the sparrows to eat. (Seriously!) But the “supply side” marketing was pure 20th-century Madison Avenue.

At the same time, Arthur Laffer was taking that equation a step further. Not only was supply-side a rational concept to build a strong economy, Laffer suggested, but as taxes went down, he drew on his napkin, revenue to the government would magically go up!

Neither concept made any sense—and time has proven both to be colossal idiocies—but together they offered the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness.

Yes indeed again, although I think that what the Republican Party really got was a renewal of the propaganda-form of their ideology. But this is an interesting article that is recommended, and in which there is a lot more than I quoted.

[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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