February 8, 2016

Crisis: Moral failures, Reich, Albright, Being Hooked, Sanders Economically
Sections                                                                     crisis index    

Flint’s Crisis Is About More Than Water
2. Why We Must Try
Rebuke Swift After Albright Declares: 'Special Place in
     Hell' for Women Who Don't Vote Clinton

4. We Are Hopelessly Hooked
What Would Sanders Do? An Analysis of His Proposals

This is a Nederlog of Monday, February 8, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an excellent article by Chris Hedges on Flint, together with quite a few remarks of myself on
stupidity, ignorance and egoism; item 2 is about an article of Reich about why Americans must try to do more than most politicians want them to; item 3 is about Madeline Albright who will send any American woman to hell (!) if she doesn't support Hillary Clinton; item 4 is about the fact that very many seem hopelessly hooked to their smartphones; and item 5 is about the economy and Sanders' plans.

This also got a bit longer than I thought it would, but this is mainly due to the very fine first item, which caused me to add quite a few personal remarks.

1. Flint’s Crisis Is About More Than Water

The first article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

What is in the mind of someone who knowingly poisons children and impairs their lives? Why did the politicians, regulators and bureaucrats who knew the water in Flint, Mich., was toxic lie about the danger for months? What does it say about a society that is ruled by, and refuses to punish, those who willfully destroy the lives of children?

I do have answers, which indeed are something like 45 years old (!) [1] for the most part, and that amount to something like this:

The great majority of people are stupid, ignorant and egoistic: They are too stupid to understand much of real science; too uninterested to read any serious science or literature; and they guide their lives mostly by what they see on TV.

They have totally inadequate ideas, and effectively live in an illusory world mostly made for them by TV. They are socially very inadequate, and live mostly for their family, their work and their friends, together amounting to 30 - 100 persons or so, and know little else about any other human being except vague (but often very false) generalities.

And their moral norms are mostly limited to the interests of themselves, themselves, themselves, and a few others, that are nearly all family members or friends, and otherwise they simply don't care, which basically means that they decide about others' needs (that is, nearly everyone) by how much it would cost themselves.

Finally, almost none of the ignorant, stupid egoists that make up the vast majority of Western men and women thinks of himself or herself as ignorant, stupid or egoistic: for most the moral top of their considerations is themselves, and their own interests, and very many also insist that absolutely no one is better - more moral, more learned, more intelligent - than they are....

But then I clearly must be very wrong to oppose so many excellent men and excellent women, all of the brightest intellects, and with the greatest values, who all just know (especially if Dutch), that everyone - absolutely everyone - is of equal value as themselves (so no one is any better than they are, will be or can be), and that everyone knows that truth does not exist, even though no one can define truth and hardly anyone knows any real science. [2]

Also, as I said, I am thinking something like this for 45 years or so (at least), but indeed I am severely handicapped by having a very high IQ, the very best academic degrees, and a communist education by intellectually gifted people who belonged to the very few in Holland (where there were 6 times more people who volunteered for the SS than who went into the resistance) who did go into the real resistance [3]. (So clearly a man with my opinions must be extremely inferior compared to the very many millions of excellent equals of anyone, who proudly surround me.)

Here is more Chris Hedges:

The crisis in Flint is far more ominous than lead-contaminated water. It is symptomatic of the collapse of our democracy. Corporate power is not held accountable for its crimes. Everything is up for sale, including children. Our regulatory agencies—including the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality—have been defunded, emasculated and handed over to corporate-friendly stooges. Our corrupt courts are part of a mirage of justice. The role of these government agencies and courts, and of the legislatures, is to sanction abuse rather than halt it.

I agree mostly, but I should add - with my radical background and radical opinions - that the groundwork for this existed already in the 70ies (and that groundwork can be simplified to: native and proudly acquired stupidity, ignorance and immoral egoism, while simultaneously insisting that everyone is of equal value, also quite regardless of ignorance and stupidity and immorality: all of that started in the 70ies).

Also, Chris Hedges is quite correct that these social forces - ignorance, stupidity and immorality - have been growing stronger and stronger over the last 35 years, and have been very much fanned by the propagandists for the rich, who
effectively have taken over both governments and most major corporations.

And Chris Hedges is right that it is especially profit - the single real moral value in a very capitalist society: How much do I profit from this? The more I profit, the better this is - that plays a key part:

The primacy of profit throughout the society takes precedence over life itself, including the life of the most vulnerable. This corporate system of power knows no limits. It has no internal restraints. It will sacrifice all of us, including our children, on the altar of corporate greed. In a functioning judicial system, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint’s former emergency manager, Darnell Earley, along with all the regulatory officials who lied as a city was being sickened, would be in jail facing trial.

Indeed: If it is not profitable for me to save some children, too bad (let them die). If it is not profitable for me that there is no lead in the water others drink, too bad (let them be poisoned, as long as I and my family aren't). If it is profitable to me that society corrupts, very good, for I profit (let them be corrupt). If it is profitable to me that our leaders are lying degenerates, very good (let them be degenerate and let's praise their moral excellence as Our Leaders). I do what I can, provided it is most profitable to me: I am a deeply moral citizen. [4]

Unfortunately, Chris Hedges turns to literature - Arendt, Adorno, Finkielkraut - that I have read (not all, to be sure) but that I don't much like or admire. An exception is Primo Levi (who survived Auschwitz):

“Monsters exist,” Levi noted, “but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men.” These technocrats have no real ideology, other than the ideology that is in vogue. They want to get ahead, to rise in the structures of power. They know how to make the collective, or the bureaucracy, work on behalf of power. Nothing else is of importance. “The new state did not require holy apostles, fanatic, inspired builders, faithful devout disciples,” Vasily Grossman, in his book “Forever Flowing, wrote of Stalin’s Soviet Union. “The new state did not even require servants—just clerks.”

Yes, indeed: It are the common men who keep up both the social structures and the morality by which these work. And indeed they are not monstrous: They are just ordinary men [5] who try the best they can in order to survive, and to make at least as much as those they know.

And there is this:

We churn out millions of these technocrats or clerks in elite universities and business schools. They are trained to serve the system. They do not question its assumptions and structures any more than Nazi bureaucrats questioned the assumptions and structures of the “Final Solution.” They manage the huge financial houses and banks such as Goldman Sachs. They profit from endless war. They orchestrate the fraud on Wall Street. They destroy the ecosystem on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. They are elected to office. They are empty shells of human beings who stripped of their power and wealth are banal and pathetic. They are not sadists. They do not delight in cruelty. They are cogs in the machinery of corporate power.

Yes, indeed - although I have a remark on sadism: Most of the Amsterdam bureaucrats I've dealt with were neither sadists nor non-sadists, for they simply didn't care at all whether I was in pain; whether my human rights were denied; whether I could not sleep; whether I was threatened with murder; whether I was ill; or how I felt or thought about anything whatsoever: I was not an important politician; I was not rich; therefore I could not touch them, and therefore they felt free to not care as much as they liked (and regardless
of all laws, all morality or any decency). [6]

There is this on the "universities" of today:

We have turned our universities into temples dedicated to corporate vocational training. Most graduates of Princeton or Harvard have no more ability to question the operating systems of the corporate state than an inner-city boy or girl who is taught basic functional literacy only so he or she can stock shelves or sell fast food. We all have our place in the great machine of corporate self-immolation. We all are drones.

First, of all this is not true of me - but then I am one of the very, very few who tried to save the universities as scientific institutions, and who completely failed, simply because hardly anyone cared: it was not profitable for them.

Otherwise, it is correct, and indeed apart from mathematics, physics, biology, and possibly computing I see no valid study in any university I know anything about, and also most students are not learning any real science anymore, but only a few bits that fit their "vocations" or that will allow them to pretend they
are "scientists" when faced with laymen.

This is Chris Hedges' ending:

If we cannot think morally, if we live devoid of empathy, if our advancement comes at the expense of the other, if we lose touch with the wisdom of the past, we cannot rebel. And if we do not rebel we will sustain a system that will ultimately slay us.

Yes indeed. And this is a strongly recommended article: Download and save it, for much of it is simply both too true and too bitter for many to face up to as long as they make decent amounts of money for themselves.

It may explain you quite a few things if and when you are out of work, as many will soon be, now that most profitable things are made in China or India and no longer in Europe or the USA (because of deregulation, in case you asked).

2. Why We Must Try

The second item is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

Instead of “Yes we can,” many Democrats have adopted a new slogan this election year: “We shouldn’t even try.”

We shouldn’t try for single-payer system, they say. We’ll be lucky if we prevent Republicans from repealing Obamacare.

We shouldn’t try for a $15 an hour minimum wage. The best we can do is $12 an hour.

We shouldn’t try to restore the Glass-Steagall Act that used to separate investment and commercial banking, or bust up the biggest banks. We’ll be lucky to stop Republicans from repealing Dodd-Frank.

We shouldn’t try for free public higher education. As it is, Republicans are out to cut all federal education spending.

There is more there in the same vein. I mostly agree, though I have one remark:

I make a considerable distinction between politicians of any kind (that is: those who make money from talking to people about politics and morals) and the rest of the population, and it is my sincere conviction that you cannot
trust almost any politician, indeed simply because they make money from their craft, and get power by it.

Politicians are power-hungry deceivers, virtually all of them (with a very few exceptions, also). And in case they are saying the kinds of things Robert Reich attributes to them (and many are), this means effectively that they are satisfied with the amounts of money and power they have.

Here is Robert Reich's reaction to the above and more:

I get it, but here’s the problem. There’s no way to reform the system without rocking the boat. There’s no way to get to where America should be without aiming high.

Progressive change has never happened without bold ideas championed by bold idealists.

Some thought it was quixotic to try for civil rights and voting rights. Some viewed it as naïve to think we could end the Vietnam War. Some said it was unrealistic to push for the Environmental Protection Act.

I agree. Here is part of Reich's diagnosis:

The situation we’re in now demands such mobilization. Wealth and income are more concentrated at the top than in over a century. And that wealth has translated into political power.

The result is an economy rigged in favor of those at the top – which further compounds wealth and power at the top, in a vicious cycle that will only get worse unless reversed.

Again I agree - and I note that the inequalities in both money and in power are now larger than they ever were since the 1920ies.

And here is his solution or recipe:

And the pay of top corporate executives continues to skyrocket, even as most peoples’ real wages drop and their job security vanishes.

This system is not sustainable.

We must get big money out of our democracy, end crony capitalism, and make our economy and democracy work for the many, not just the few.
We must try.  We have no choice.

And again I agree. And as to the "no choice": Something like 90% of the presently gainfully employed in the West effectively have been given up on, now that through deregulation - Bill Clinton's ideal - it has become possible to have the very much cheaper Chinese and Indians do nearly all of the real work for far less money.

You can try to keep "a service-economy" going, but with few real things produced, it seems only a matter of time till it collapses.

3. Rebuke Swift After Albright Declares: 'Special Place in Hell' for Women Who Don't Vote Clinton

The third item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Maybe it wasn't such a great idea for Hillary Clinton to invite Madeleine Albright to campaign for her in New Hampshire.

During a campaign event in Concord on Saturday, the former Secretary of State declared: "Young women have to support Hillary Clinton. The story is not over!"

"They’re going to want to push us back," she continued. "It’s not done and you have to help. Hillary Clinton will always be there for you. And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other."

And while it was not the first time Albright muttered that phrase, the backlash was swift and severe.

I say. Well...

First of all, it is not true that "women have to support Hillary Clinton", if only because Jill Stein is a woman, who also competes for the presidency (and who is a lot better than Hillary Clinton).

So Albright is a liar. Secondly, she also appears as a sadist (and I am a psychologist):

And just remember, there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.

Besides, this is such a case of duplicity and lying (which are the stock in trade of almost every politician, male or female) that she doesn't merely insist that women (in general) should help some women (for which something can be said), but that she insists that all (American) women must help Hillary Clinton or be send to hell (where they will have to burn for an eternity).

Finally, here is one tweet:

Madeline Albright helped hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women to death in the 1990s. Special place in hell, indeed.

Yes, indeed. So she is worthy of belief when she casts every American woman to hell who does not vote for Hillary Clinton.

4. We Are Hopelessly Hooked

The fourth item is by Jacob Weisberg on the New York Review of Books:
This starts as follows:

“As smoking gives us something to do with our hands when we aren’t using them, Time gives us something to do with our minds when we aren’t thinking,” Dwight Macdonald wrote in 1957. With smartphones, the issue never arises. Hands and mind are continuously occupied texting, e-mailing, liking, tweeting, watching YouTube videos, and playing Candy Crush.

Americans spend an average of five and a half hours a day with digital media, more than half of that time on mobile devices, according to the research firm eMarketer. Among some groups, the numbers range much higher. In one recent survey, female students at Baylor University reported using their cell phones an average of ten hours a day. Three quarters of eighteen-to- twenty-four-year-olds say that they reach for their phones immediately upon waking up in the morning. Once out of bed, we check our phones 221 times a day—an average of every 4.3 minutes—according to a UK study. This number actually may be too low, since people tend to underestimate their own mobile usage.
I say - which I do because I really didn't know. Also, I should admit that I do not have a cellphone, never had one, and never will have one: I will not be the willing butt of degenerate spies.

And there is this, which seems quite correct to me:
Our transformation into device people has happened with unprecedented suddenness. The first touchscreen-operated iPhones went on sale in June 2007, followed by the first Android-powered phones the following year. Smartphones went from 10 percent to 40 percent market penetration faster than any other consumer technology in history. In the United States, adoption hit 50 percent only three years ago.  Yet today, not carrying a smartphone indicates eccentricity, social margin- alization, or old age.
In fact, I got fast internet only in 2009. And indeed I am not carrying a smartphone, and am an eccentric, who is socially marginalized through
being ill for 37 years, and who meanwhile also has reached old age.

Do I care? Yes, I am happy that I don't have a smartphone: I really do not want one.

To turn to the article. This is well done, and is a review of four books about being hooked, and especially about being hooked to smartphones.

I recommend that you read all of it, but I will only select a few brief topics I want to remark on. Here is the first one:
Turkle comments that digital media put people in a “comfort zone,” where they believe they can share “just the right amount” of themselves. But this feeling of control is an illusion—a “Goldilocks fallacy.” In a romantic relationship, there is no ideal distance to be maintained over time. As she sums up her case: “Technology makes us forget what we know about life.
I am pretty certain it is not just technology, though I agree that is a big part of it: Surely, the points I made in item 1 - stupidity, ignorance and egoism - also play a large role. (And who will read a book on a smartphone? Almost no one.)

Then again Weisberg is also sensitive to this point, for he says:

But in the main, the Web conversation Reagle considers suffers from tendencies similar to the ones Turkle identifies: narcissism, disinhibition, and the failure to care about the feelings of others. It’s a world devoid of empathy.
I prefer my terms - stupidity, ignorance and egoism - simply because they seem less technical and more appropriate, but I agree in principle.

Then there is this, that also is quite correct, and implicitly gives my reasons to
totally discard bulletin boards already in 1996, when I first got internet, and never to comment anything:

Anonymous comments are the worst, leading to vicious mob behavior. But flamers, cyberbullies, and trolls (who all rely on insults) ruin even identity-based, moderated conversation.
There also is another reason, next to anonymity: Democratization - at long last even the most stupid have access to means whereby they can multiply everything they write (etc.) all over the world, also in an automatic visually atrractive style as well, and this never happened before.

Finally, here is the motive that binds the billions to Facebook (and other similar stuff):

What compels this level of immersion? As Eyal writes, Facebook’s trigger is FOMO, fear of missing out.
Well, yes - although for me (and I am not the only one, although this seems rather rare) there is also FOBI, especially in regards of Facebook: fear of being in.

I really saw very little of Facebook but even the little that I saw made me very glad that I avoid it like the plague. (And sure, not everyone is mad or crazy there, but I am very glad not to be part of that very creepy and very sick way to find and target advertisements, which indeed is another thing I hate and despise.)

5. What Would Sanders Do? An Analysis of His Proposals
The fifth and last item is by Gerald Friedman (a professor of economy) on Truth-out:
This starts as follows, and is an interesting read:
Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed an ambitious program of social reform, including regulatory changes to raise wages and protect workers' rights, progressive tax reforms, and universal health insurance (Improved Medicare for All). Taken together, these policies would not only dramatically increase employment and national income, but would also raise wages, reduce poverty, and narrow the gap between rich and poor Americans.
I will restrict myself to mentioning the five topics Friedman treats, with data and graphics, and all without any critical word, and will leave the rest to your interests:
  • The Sanders program will end wage stagnation.
  • Faster growth, pro-worker regulation, and universal health insurance would all help push wages up.
  • Taxes on the wealthy would pay for widely shared benefits.
  • The Sanders program would dramatically bring down poverty.
  • Sanders's regulatory and tax programs would sharply reduce inequality.
This is a recommended article.


[1] I very probably will disappoint you, but then I have to admit that my parents were communists, my grandparents were anarchists or communists, while I am a scientist mostly because I have a very high IQ and could and did think and read for myself.

Alternatively - of course! - my parents (both in the resistance against the Nazis) were traitors (as communists), as were my grandparents, and I am very arrogant, totally misguided and really quite inferior. (The alternatives are what the great majority of my fellow Dutchmen think).

Of course! What is the relevance of someone like me, with the best M.A. and an IQ over 150 in a democracy where the great majority, including most "academically educated" these days have IQs of 115 maximally?

(This is a real question. My own answer since 1980 is this: Clearly, I am inferior to everybody who is normal in Holland - I will not be listened to, not be answered, and not be taken seriously. And for me, the only reason that I stay in Holland is that I am too ill and too poor to leave, since 1980.)

[3] The numbers are quite real. Holland is also the country where more than 100,000 people with a Jewish background were murdered in WW II, thanks to the help of many Dutchmen and some rich Jews.

As to the real resistance: The whole Dutch communist party went into resistance from May 15, 1940 (ten days after the outbreak of the war in Holland), indeed well before the Soviet Union was attacked. This was the real resistance, together with some groups of Christians.

Much of the rest of the resistance - keeping a radio, spreading illegal pamphlets etc. - was less real, because not armed, not oriented towards helping Jews, and less organized. It too was dangerous, but less dangerous than being a communist in Nazi-occupied Holland.

[4] I put in the bracketed parts because I did not want to have to make a note that I was speaking ironically...

[5] In case you missed the reference to ordinary men, here is a bit of it (and no, I am not an ordinary man, and neither were my parents or grandparents):

On ordinay men: Here are some human all too human weaknesses that - especially but not only - ordinary men easily fall prone to
  • Ordinary men  
    • engage mostly in wishful thinking (so as to keep themselves "happy")
    • are ruled by bias and prejudice
    • do not know real science, logic, mathematics or philosophy
    • do not do unto others as one would not be done by only within one's group
    • are role-players who play by wishful thinking, make-believe - "The quality or act of pretending; assuming something is true when in fact one knows it is not" (wiki dictionary) - and pretension who normally do not step out of their roles out of self-interest and because of group-sanctions
    • are collaborators: They mostly do as they are told by leaders
    • are followers, of fashions and leaders of all kinds, usually because it is the fashion and they are conformists
    • are levellers: The only ones who excel are the leaders of the group and what the media display as excellent
    • believe truth coincides with their interests and prejudices, especially as regards things that involve their or their groups' supposed interests
    • personalize or animate everything: all manner of abstractions - nations, corporations, groups, the people - are supposed to will and feel
    • do not reason in terms of quantified terms: Terms like "Some", "most" are carefully avoided often to infer all from some without mentioning either: ("Women are emotional", "Germans are no good")
    • cannot reason abstractly on any high level
    • make all manners of fallacies esp. of generalization, ambiguity and begging the question
    • are not independent individuals with their own ideas and values intentionally gathererd by their own life's practice

One result, supplementing Rummel's statistics, is this:

"I fear we live in a world in which war and racism are ubiquitous, in which the powers of government mobilization and legitimization are powerful and increasing, in which a sense of personal responsibility is increasingly attenuated by specialization and bureaucratization, and in which peer-group exerts tremendous pressures on behavior and sets moral norms. In such a world, I fear, modern governments that wish to commit mass murder will seldom fail in their efforts for being unable to induce "ordinary men" to become their "willing executioners." " (Christopher R. Browning, "Ordinary men", p. 222-3)

[6] I have had very much to do with Amsterdam bureacrats because Mayor Van Thijn decided to give his personal permission to two of his good friends to deal illegal drugs (in fact: both soft drugs and hard drugs, in the late 1980ies) from the bottom floor of the house where I lived, as if this were legal in Amsterdam or Holland, which it never was or is.

I learned that absolutely no one of the bureaucrats wanted to do anything for me - who was gassed (literally) and five times threatened with murder and who was kept out of sleep for 3 1/2 years: No Dutch bureaucrat or politician ever cared, not even enough to confirm the receipt of my letters or mails.

My conclusion is that the mayor and his lawyers - very, very, VERY probably - worked for the illegal drugsdealers, for a share in the profits. I have no valid legal proof of this (so you don't need to kill me, as did happen to many others in Amsterdam) other than asking for something like 10 years for protection or for replies to my many very clear letters and mails, which I never got.

As to the profits: The amount of money that was turned over merely in soft drugs - marijuana and hashish - in the 1990ies was around 10 billion euros each and every year. If hard drugs are added, the amounts triple or quadruple.

If the mayor and his friends received a 1/1000th part of the turnover, then they (would) have received 250 million euros in 25 years (merely for soft drugs) which is an amount of money by which you can buy very many Dutchmen and remain very rich on the rest.

Again, I am not saying they did, for I don't know (in good part because all these things have been successfully kept secret for more than 25 years now). But being completely neglected for 4 years in which I might have been murdered or
(again) gassed, and never slept enough incline me strongly to believing that
the masters of Amsterdam served themselves rather than the people they are
supposed to serve.

And yes, everything that is there that relates to illegal drugs (all drugs are illegal in Holland, in spite of hundreds of coffeeshops that sell them, all with "personal permission" from the mayor) seems to be in place to keep everything as secret and uncontrollable as possible.

Finally, for those who read Dutch: The full story is in ME in Amsterdam.
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