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Nederlog

June 12, 2019

Crisis: The Thought Police, On Doublehthink & Orwell, On Trumponomics, US Foreign Policy


“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.






Sections

Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 12, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, June 12, 2019.

I realize that I did not commemorate the fact that I am writing Crisis files for six years now, since I started to do so after June 10, 2013, which taught me about Snowden.

I am registering it now, and may write about it the coming days, but I am also somewhat worse at present than I was for a long time.

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, though not yet quite decently working computers.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

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 four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 12, 2019:
1. The Thought Police Are Coming
2. Doublethink Is Stronger Than Orwell Imagined
3. The 7 Biggest Failures Of Trumponomics
4. Pompeo’s Vow to ‘Push Back’ Against Corbyn
The items 1 - 4 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Thought Police Are Coming

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Chris Hedges gave this talk Tuesday, June 11, at an event held in London in support of Julian Assange.

Ask the Iraqi parents of Sabiha Hamed Salih, aged 15, and Ashwaq Hamed Salih, aged 16, who were killed by shrapnel in Baghdad on July 31, 2004, what they think of Julian Assange.

In fact, there are five more similarly phrased personal testimonies. I skip them and arrive at this:

There is nothing like the boot of the oppressor on your neck to give you moral clarity.

None of these war crimes, and hundreds more reported to the U.S. military but never investigated, would have been made public without Julian, Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks. That is the role of journalists—to give a voice to those who without us would have no voice, to hold the powerful to account, to give the forgotten and the demonized justice, to speak the truth.

Yes indeed - and also I think I should add I am quite sure of the above, simply because I have been writing about the Crisis since September 1, 2008 and have been writing systematically about "the press" since 2013, after I learned about Edward Snowden, who said very similar things as I concluded myself in 2012, but who also had a great amount of evidence for his claims.

Here is some more:

We have watched over the last decade as freedom of the press and legal protection for those who expose government abuses and lies have been obliterated by wholesale government surveillance and the criminalizing of the leaking and, with Julian’s persecution, publication of these secrets. The press has been largely emasculated in the United States. The repeated use of the Espionage Act, especially under the Obama administration, to charge and sentence whistleblowers has shut down our ability to shine a light into the inner workings of power and empire. Governmental officials with a conscience, knowing all of their communications are monitored, captured and stored by intelligence agencies, are too frightened to reach out to reporters.

Yes indeed: I think all of the above is quite true (including totally insane punishments for people who only did their duties of 20 years imprisonment - for example - because of saving people at sea).

Here is some more:

Even if Julian were odious, which he is not, even if he carried out a sexual offense, which he did not, even if he was a poor houseguest—a bizarre term for a man trapped in a small room for nearly seven years under house arrest—which he was not, it would make no difference. Julian is not being persecuted for his vices. He is being persecuted for his virtues.

Yes, I think this is also true. As an aside: I did read some of the journalism/"journalism" (the second term is more adequate, and reflects my opinion that most journalism is in fact dead) that criticized Assange (e.g. a wild attack on him by C.J. Hopkins on The Off-Guardian) but none of this convinced me in the slightest, if only because I never knew Assange, I never mailed with him, and all I do know about him is from "the press" (most of whom lie or propagandize these days, unlike in the Seventies).

Here is some more:

His arrest eviscerates all pretense of the rule of law and the rights of a free press. The illegalities carried by the Ecuadorian, British and U.S. governments in the seizure of Julian two months ago from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London are ominous. They presage a world where the internal workings, abuses, corruption, lies and crimes, especially war crimes, carried out by the global ruling elite will be masked from the public. They presage a world where those with the courage and integrity to expose the misuse of power, no matter what their nationality, will be hunted down around the globe and seized, tortured, subjected to sham trials and given lifetime prison terms. They presage an Orwellian dystopia where journalism is outlawed and replaced with propaganda, trivia, entertainment and indoctrination to make us hate those demonized by the state as our enemies.

Yes, I totally agree. Here is some more:

The arrest of Julian marks the official beginning of the corporate totalitarianism and constant state surveillance, now far advanced in China, that will soon define our lives. The destruction of all protection of the rule of law, which is what we are witnessing, is essential to establishing an authoritarian or totalitarian state.

Yes, I agree again, though I think "corporate totalitarianism" in fact goes back to the late Sixties - see Crisis: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968 - and "constant state surveillance" to the early 2000s, indeed thanks to the corporate totalitarianism that makes anybody writing on an internet computer bait (for everything he or she thinks, wants, values, desires, writes etc. etc.) for both the large totalitarian corporations like Google, Facebook and Apple (and more) and for about each and every statefunded "national security" from almost each and every government.

Here is some more about the present situation in China:

Governmental abuse of WeChat, he wrote, “could deliver to the Communist Party a life map of pretty much everybody in this country, citizens and foreigners alike.
    (..)
This is almost certainly our future, and it is a future that Julian has fought courageously to prevent.

Yes, I totally agree. Here is some more about "the law":

Under what law did Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno capriciously terminate Julian’s rights of asylum as a political refugee? Under what law did Moreno authorize British police to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy—diplomatically sanctioned sovereign territory—to arrest a nationalized citizen of Ecuador? Under what law did Prime Minister Theresa May order the British police to grab Julian, who has never committed a crime? Under what law did Donald Trump demand the extradition of Julian, who is not a U.S. citizen and whose news organization is not based in the United States?

Yes, I agree although I like to point out that no one can trust "the law" these days, for "the law" also gets bought these days, certainly in the USA, but also elsewhere. (For example: As I have pointed out several times the purported European implementation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights in fact is the opposite of what it claims to be, for it gives all space to the spies and governmental security to do what they want, while precisely these are totally excluded by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights - and mind you: That is about Europe.)

Here is some more i.a. about the corrupt Hillary Clinton:

This character assassination was championed by the Democratic Party establishment after WikiLeaks published 70,000 hacked emails copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. The Podesta emails exposed the donation of millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the major funders of Islamic State, to the Clinton Foundation. It exposed the $657,000 that Goldman Sachs paid to Hillary Clinton to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe. It exposed Clinton’s repeated mendacity.

Yes indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote, from the ending of the article:

We must build popular movements to force the British government to halt the extradition and judicial lynching of Julian. We must build popular movements to force the Australian government to intervene on behalf of Julian. We must build popular movements to reclaim democracy and the rule of law. If Julian is extradited and tried, it will create a legal precedent that will terminate the ability of the press, which Donald Trump has attacked as “the enemy of the people,” to hold power accountable.

Well... I agree that it is highly desirable that "we" try to do these things, but by now - after ten years of reading and publishing about the ever declining freedoms of everyone who is not rich or powerful - I think this is unlikely to happen. And this is a very strongly recommended article.

2. Doublethink Is Stronger Than Orwell Imagined

This article is by George Packer on The Atlantic. It starts as follows:

No novel of the past century has had more influence than George Orwell’s 1984. The title, the adjectival form of the author’s last name, the vocabulary of the all-powerful Party that rules the superstate Oceania with the ideology of Ingsoc—doublethink, memory hole, unperson, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Thought Police, Room 101, Big Brother—they’ve all entered the English language as instantly recognizable signs of a nightmare future. It’s almost impossible to talk about propaganda, surveillance, authoritarian politics, or perversions of truth without dropping a reference to 1984.

I think this is basically correct, although I also believe I should add that the above is mostly true about intellectuals, and less about non-intellectuals (who read far less, and also do not prefer to read what they consider "difficult" or "long" books).

Here is some more:

I was too young and historically ignorant to understand where 1984 came from and exactly what it was warning against. Neither the book nor its author stuck with me. In my 20s, I discovered Orwell’s essays and nonfiction books and reread them so many times that my copies started to disintegrate, but I didn’t go back to 1984.
    (..)
So when I recently read the novel again, I wasn’t prepared for its power. You have to clear away what you think you know, all the terminology and iconography and cultural spin-offs, to grasp the original genius and lasting greatness of 1984. It is both a profound political essay and a shocking, heartbreaking work of art. And in the Trump era, it’s a best seller.

I think this is also basically correct, and since I am 10 years older than Packer and also come from a Marxist background (parents and grandparents) my own experiences of Orwell are rather different.

In fact, Orwell was one of the reasons I gave up Marxism when I was 20, and namely because I did know about Orwell since I was 15 or 16 (in 1965/66), I hadn't read any of him until 1970 or so, but I had heard from quite a few of my communist friends that (i) "Orwell was a traitor", and that (ii) they knew, although (iii) none of them had read anything by Orwell because "he was a traitor".

This was one of the first times I explicitly ran into totalitarianism, and this was again one of the main reasons (apart from the fact that I disagreed with much Marx had written as well) that I gave up Marxism when I was 20 (before reaching legal adulthood, in fact).

And I did read Orwell since the early 1970ies, and had read almost everything he wrote by 1980 (of which I admit I did not much like the early novels, but liked the rest a lot).

Here is some more:

The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984, by the British music critic Dorian Lynskey, makes a rich and compelling case for the novel as the summation of Orwell’s entire body of work and a master key to understanding the modern world.

In fact, Linskey's book is Packer's reason to write his article. Here is some more:

Lynskey traces the literary genesis of 1984 to the utopian fictions of the optimistic 19th century—Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888); the sci-fi novels of H. G. Wells, which Orwell read as a boy—and their dystopian successors in the 20th, including the Russian Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We (1924) and Huxley’s Brave New World (1932).

Yes, this is correct, and while I did not read Bellamy or Wells, I have read both We and
Brave New World.

Here is some more:

The argument recurs every decade or so: Orwell got it wrong. Things haven’t turned out that bad. The Soviet Union is history. Technology is liberating. But Orwell never intended his novel to be a prediction, only a warning.

Well... in the first place, Packer is right that that Orwell's 1984 is not "a prediction, only a warning" (and the title "1984" is an alternative for 1948, when it was written).

Then again, neither Zamyatin nor Huxley wrote much or anything about totalitarianism, while that was Orwell's main fear in "1984", in fact - among other things - because he had seen rather a lot of it in the 1930ies and 1940ies, while very few did see what he did see. But I think he was quite right, and very perceptive.

Here is some more:

We don’t live under anything like a totalitarian system. “By definition, a country in which you are free to read Nineteen Eighty-Four is not the country described in Nineteen Eighty-Four,” Lynskey acknowledges. Instead, we pass our days under the nonstop surveillance of a telescreen that we bought at the Apple Store, carry with us everywhere, and tell everything to, without any coercion by the state. The Ministry of Truth is Facebook, Google, and cable news. We have met Big Brother and he is us.

No, Lynskey is mistaken and so is Packer, for at least three reasons.

The first is that totalitarianism has been mounting and mounting over the last 20 or 40 years, even if you totally abstact from the internet, where almost everyone seems to be totally known to the local and the non-local spies, and also from the rich corporations: All of these can steal anything from almost any computer.

The second reason is that totalitarianism today is quite differently implemented from how it was implemented in the 1930ies and 1940ies: Now almost everyone is almost totally known by many spying organizations maintained by many governments, and besides by quite a few rich organizations like Google, Facebook and Apple. For me, that is an extra-ordinary increase in the means to influence, manipulate and lie to everyone, by the few who can and do read and store everything they can find about anyone.

The third reason is that totalitarianism does not depend on who does it, or initiates it, or swallows it, but on its reach, its dishonesty, its falsity, and its source (the "national security organizations" maintained by almost every government and the also by the rich).

Here is some more:

The warnings were justified, but their emphasis on the mechanisms of earlier dictatorships drew attention away from the heart of the malignancy—not the state, but the individual. The crucial issue was not that Trump might abolish democracy but that Americans had put him in a position to try. Unfreedom today is voluntary. It comes from the bottom up.

No, I disagree with this: If "unfreedom today is voluntary" it is so mostly because those who want it (i) have been manipulated successfully by - mostly - totalitarian propaganda and lies, and because (ii) in fact only a small minority understands much about computing. (How many can program decently in several languages? I don't think more than 1%.)

Here is some more:

As Lynskey points out, Orwell didn’t foresee “that the common man and woman would embrace doublethink as enthusiastically as the intellectuals and, without the need for terror or torture, would choose to believe that two plus two was whatever they wanted it to be.”

No, I disagree: He did foresee so, as should be clear from "1984" and "Animal Farm" and many essays collected in Orwell's "The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters". And indeed, why wouldn't they agree to totalitarianism if many of the intellectuals of Orwell's times were also convinced of totalitarianism, all without any tortures?!

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

For example, many on the left now share an unacknowledged but common assumption that a good work of art is made of good politics and that good politics is a matter of identity. The progressive view of a book or play depends on its political stance, and its stance—even its subject matter—is scrutinized in light of the group affiliation of the artist: Personal identity plus political position equals aesthetic value.

No. I have read Orwell's "The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters", indeed several times, and the above quotation is what Orwell did claim about most English intellectuals of the 1930ies and 1940ies, indeed in my opinion quite correctly and also as one of the very few who did so.

Anyway... I liked this article, but I will not strongly recommend it, mostly because of the mistakes at the end, but it is recommended.


3. The 7 Biggest Failures Of Trumponomics

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress keep crowing about the economy, when in reality Trumponomics has been a disaster. Here are its 7 biggest failures:

1. Trump promised to bring down America’s trade deficit “as fast as possible.” Instead, the trade deficit has hit an all-time high.

Yes indeed. In fact, I will quote all 7 failures Reich mentions, but in an abbreviated fashion. If you want to read all click the above title. Here is more:

2. As a presidential candidate in 2016, he said he could completely eliminate the federal debt in 8 years. Instead, the federal debt has exploded thanks to Trump and the GOP’s $1.9 trillion tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.

Yes indeed. Here is more:

3. He promised to boost the wages of American workers, including a $4,000 pay raise for the average American family. Instead, wages for most Americans have been flat, adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, over the same period, corporate profits have soared and the rich have become far richer, but the gains haven’t trickled down.

Quite so. Here is more:

4. His administration said that corporations would invest their savings from tax cuts. Instead, corporations spent more money buying back shares of their own stock in 2018 than they invested in new equipment or facilities.

Quite so. Here is more:

5. He promised a tax cut for middle-class families. Instead most Americans will end up paying more by 2027.

Yes, though perhaps this can be stopped if the USA does succeed in electing a leftist president. Here is more:

6. He promised to keep jobs in America and crack down on companies that ship jobs overseas. Instead, his tax law has created financial incentives for corporations to expand their operations abroad.

Yes indeed. Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
7. He promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington lobbyists. Instead, he’s put them in charge of health, safety, and environmental protections–which has endangered most Americans while increasing corporate profits even further.

Quite so, and this is a strongly recommended article.
4. Pompeo’s Vow to ‘Push Back’ Against Corbyn

This article is by Caitlin Johnstone on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
An audio recording from a private meeting that was leaked to The Washington Post reportedly features U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowing to “push back” against surging British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and many are concerned that what he said sounds an awful lot like a top U.S. official promising to interfere in the UK’s democratic process.
Yes, that is true, although it should be pointed out that (i) this is since many years the official policy of the USA (who also have 800 military bases in most other countries of the world), in fact (ii) also with Harold Wilson (because he was a socialist who became British Prime Minister).

Here is some more on Jeremy Corbyn:
The notion that Jeremy Corbyn advances anti-Semitism is literally just some gibberish the smear merchants made up to prevent the rise of a politician who threatens to upset existing power structures. It’s exactly as believable and exactly as legitimate as if British newspapers were constantly running headlines claiming that Corbyn is actually three children standing on each other’s shoulders inside grown-up’s clothes; the one and only difference is that they were able to make the anti-Semitism smear stick. Anyone who pretends to believe that Corbyn is a closet anti-Semite is exactly as honest and credible as someone who solemnly tells you, “I am very concerned about the fact that the Labour Party is led by a man who is secretly a cartoon mascot for a children’s breakfast cereal.”
Yes, I totally agree. The there is this on Pompeo:
So anyway, Pompeo is asked what he’s going to do in the event of a Corbyn-led Kristallnacht, and WaPo reports on his response as follows:   
    Pompeo said: “It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best,” he said to fervent applause from attendees.

     “It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened,” he said.
Yes, but I have pointed out above this is - more or less - ordinary US policy (namely to try to interfere in states that the US thinks is developing in ways the US strongly dislikes).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
It is no secret that the D.C. establishment considers other nations to be its personal property and has no qualms about openly working to topple the governments of nations like Venezuela and Iran, but people aren’t accustomed to hearing this sort of language directed at white, English-speaking liberal democracies.
Yes, I mostly agree and this is a recommended article. 
Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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 3 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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