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Nederlog

 March 2, 2016

Crisis: Stupidity, Reich, Super Tuesday, Apple vs. FBI, Private "Trade" "Courts"
Sections                                                                     crisis index    
Introduction   

1.
Just How Stupid Can America Be? Facing the Truth
     About Donald Trump's Big Voting Bloc

2.
Robert Reich on Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump
3. Trump Dominates Super Tuesday, While Bernie Disrupts
     the Night Hillary Was Supposed to Lock Things Up

4. Not Backing Down on Backdoors, Apple Takes Privacy
     Fight to Capitol Hill

5. New Study Confirms: Private 'Trade' Courts Serve the
     Ultra-Wealthy
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, March 2, 2016.


This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is an interesting article about the question "How stupid can America be?": Very - on average, and in majority - it turns out; item 2 is about an interview Robert Reich gave, and I quote some of his opinions on Sanders and Trump; item 3 is about the outcomes of Super Tuesday (but I generally avoid discussing the candidates' elections, were it only because this is very plentifully done by very many journalists); item 4 is about the fight between Apple and the FBI about forced unencryption; and item 5 is about who the private "courts" of the TTP, TTIP etc. serve in fact: Only the clients they admit, the very rich corporations.

1. Just How Stupid Can America Be? Facing the Truth About Donald Trump's Big Voting Bloc

This first item is by Rick Shenkman on AlterNet and originally on History News Network:
This starts as follows:
Years ago I wouldn’t have been bothered by a TV series that exploits our darkest emotions anymore than I worried about the tabloids being sold at check-out counters with crazy headlines like the one featured above: “ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS A WOMAN! Shocking pix found in White House basement.” It was just entertainment, right?

But after what we’ve seen in this campaign cycle who can now rest easy?  There’s every reason to worry that millions of people take sheer nonsense seriously.  Their ignorance is making them sitting ducks for politicians like Donald "I love the poorly educated" Trump.  Election 2016 is turning into a civics teacher's case study from hell.

Yes and no. That is: Yes, I think the average American's stupidity and ignorance are very frightening, indeed not only for the USA but for the rest of the world as well, and no, I don't just think so now, but have thought very similar things for 50 years (!) now (though I started 50 years ago thinking this about Holland, where I live, where voters on average were about as unintelligent as Americans, but somewhat less ignorant about politics, though not much [1]).

Of course, one part of the reason that I thought so are that my parents were proud and intelligent communists and also poor proletarians, and another part is that I am quite intelligent - and in case you thought so: no, neither part implies I am mistaken in holding that in the type of democracy I live in, it is especially the great majority, that is not intelligent and not well informed, that will vote in the incompetent, the dishonest, the crude, and the sensational much rather than the competent, the honest, the subtle and the rational. (They did so the past 50 years, and not just in Holland.)

Here is some about Shenkman's qualifications and background:

Eight years ago I wrote a book to draw attention to the problem of gross public ignorance.  It carried an attention-getting title: Just How Stupid Are We?  Facing the Truth About the American Voter.  The book is filled with statistics like these:

● A majority of Americans don’t know which party is in control of Congress.  

● A majority can’t name the chief justice of the Supreme Court. 

● A majority don’t know we have three branches of government.

The reaction I often got when I presented these statistics at lectures was that people don’t need to know a lot of facts.  The posted comments on an interview I did on CNN when the book came out – an interview that has drawn more than a million views – indicate that a lot of people hold facts in low regard.
The reaction indeed is as common as are stupidity and ignorance, and the reply is very simple:

Whoever does not know the relevant facts is forced, when deciding on who to vote for, and anything else, to go by his or her fantasies and prejudices. People
need knowledge of the facts to make rational choices; if they do not know what the facts are (while these are known, as is the case in broad outlines in politics) they cannot decide on other than irrational grounds. And they do, in vast numbers also.

Here is a comment on Trump:

Many are now wondering what country they’re living in.  They cannot believe a politician can make all the false claims Trump has – like saying that thousands of Muslims danced on the roofs of apartment buildings in Jersey City as they watched the Twin Towers collapse on 9-11 – and get away with it.
Clearly, Trump is getting away with spouting many lies and many total bullshit plans - but these are self-evident judgements of the intelligent minority, and intelligent minorities never win ordinary elections.

This is the end of the article (minus the last sentence):

Just why mass ignorance seems to be afflicting our politics at this moment is a complicated question.  But here again history can be helpful.  The answer seems to be that the institutions voters formerly could turn to for help have withered.  Few today, for example, can turn to their union for guidance as few Americans belong to a union.  Nor do churches for the most part offer the kind of guidance they used to.  This has left millions of voters on their own.  Lacking information, millions do what you would expect.  They go with their gut.
Yes and no, again:

Mass ignorance has been afflicting politics as long as I know, which is over 50 years of direct experience. This is itself a huge problem (for this simply means that the average voter votes from wishful thinking, prejudices and ignorance of the relevant facts), but this is not new at all.

What is new to some extent are the gross and stupid lies of Donald Trump and most other presidential candidates, and what is also rather new - in these days where "the free press" almost only lives on the fringes of the news reporting - is that these lies are now widely accepted as if they are true, even while they are evident lies. But the mainstream media do not contradict evident lies anymore: they rather spread them or at least support them by not contradicting them.

And I doubt there is much to the asserted present lack of guidance of the unions or the churches, simply because if these were there, they still have to guide the ignorant and the unintelligent.

But I agree mass
ignorance is going to be a major force in the coming presidential elections, and this is a recommended article that gives some backgrounds.
2. Robert Reich on Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump

The second item is by Amy Goodman and consists of one interview with
Robert Reich that is spread over two items on Democracy Now:

This starts as follows:

We speak with Robert Reich, the former labor secretary under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997, about his decision to formally endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for president on the Democratic ticket. "What worries me about other candidates, particularly Hillary Clinton, is that the message seems to be we cannot aim high, or we must not be ambitious, we must not try to be bold, because we can’t get there. That, to me, is exactly the wrong message," Reich says. "In terms of mobilizing Americans and organizing and getting the kind of response we need from Americans to push Congress, to change Congress, to get a government that is responsible for us, the message should be we must and can aim high. We can do it. And we’ve done it before in this country."

This is from the introduction, and is adequate. And I should also say that Reich has known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 (as he remarks in the interview), and while I agree that Clinton indeed does not aim high, it seems to me that the reason she doesn't want to (while indeed she could) is that she is one of the big defenders of the big American banks.

Here is Reich on economic inequality, which is his main reason to support Sanders rather than Clinton (in which I think he is quite right):

ROBERT REICH: (..) I’ve been talking about the increasing concentration of income and wealth, and the political power that comes with increasingly concentrated income and wealth, for many, many years. And the problem is that it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse, unless we have a mobilization, a real movement, to get big money out of politics and to cure up—to kind of deal with this, this imbalance in our economy. It’s not going to be remedied on its own. And that’s why I support Bernie Sanders. He’s leading a movement to reverse what we have seen in terms of income and wealth at the top, and also leading the same kind of movement—and it really is the same thing—to get big money out of politics.

I agree. And there is this on what are in fact the enormous profits generated by the pharmaceutical corporations, who teamed up with corrupt medicine: [2]

We are now paying—well, healthcare is about 18 percent of the entire economy. If we actually did move to the single-payer plan, that would generate huge productivity increases that would free up resources in our economy and generate the possibilities for economic growth and also low unemployment of a sort that we see in that plan’s projections.

I think that is more or less correct, though I think the very rich also must pay more taxes (under the Republican Eisenhower they paid 90% and still remained rich: 90% of a lot is a lot, but also leaves a lot), which I also think is eminently justified: "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society" (Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.), which also holds in the reverse: Those who refuse to pay taxes proportional to their incomes are uncivilized.

Finally, here is Reich on the politics of Trump:

ROBERT REICH: I don’t think Donald Trump is a conservative. I think he’s an authoritarian. And there is a difference. I don’t think he cares about democracy. I don’t think he cares. In fact, I think that Donald Trump, from everything he’s said, may view democracy as an impediment to what he wants to do. I think he’s very close to some of the other authoritarians who have shown themselves, both in American history and in history around the rest of the world.

This is a very dangerous attitude. It’s particularly dangerous when we don’t have strong mediating institutions, such as labor unions or other organizations and political parties, that can soften and subdue or in any way reduce the influence of an authoritarian when so many people in America now feel so atomized, so isolated, when so many people are getting their news and expressing themselves on twitters. Without intermediary institutions, this kind of authoritarian power grab is particularly dangerous.

I agree. And this interview (or these interviews) is (are) recommended.

3. Trump Dominates Super Tuesday, While Bernie Disrupts the Night Hillary Was Supposed to Lock Things Up

The third item is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:

This is a summary of yesterday's Super Tuesday that is adequate:

Super Tuesday, the most delegate-rich day of 2016’s presidential nominating season, confounded the expectations of both political parties.

Bernie Sanders won four states—Vermont, Colorado, Oklahoma and Minnesota—far more than anyone expected in mainstream Democratic Party circles. As expected, Hillary Clinton won across wide swaths of the South—from Virginia to Georgia to Arkansas to Texas—doing well among Black and Latino voters. However, Sanders surprising wins outside Vermont show that Clinton’s candidacy has weak spots.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump expanded his grip on the GOP nomination—winning seven states—as his foremost challengers, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, had minimal successes. Cruz, as expected, won his home state of Texas and nearby Oklahoma. Rubio, who campaigned extensively in Virginia but lost that state, only won Minnesota, a disappointment for a candidate touted by the GOP establishment’s best hope to derail Trump.

Regular readers know that I do not pay much attention to the outcomes of the presidential candidates elections, but Super Tuesday is an important date; it was yesterday, and the above is a factually adequate report on it. So there you are.

If you want more, consult the above link or plenty of others.

4. Not Backing Down on Backdoors, Apple Takes Privacy Fight to Capitol Hill

The fourth item is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Apple and the FBI will take their high-profile encryption battle to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, with both sides calling on Congress to weigh in on the "watershed" privacy case—as well as the significant precedents it could set.

FBI Director James Comey, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and Apple's senior vice president and general counsel, Bruce Sewell, will testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled "The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans' Security and Privacy."

Sewell is expected to reiterate Apple's argument that building a backdoor to the iPhone linked to the San Bernardino attacks "would not affect just one iPhone."

"The FBI is asking Apple to weaken the security of our products," Sewell wrote in prepared testimony (pdf). "Hackers and cyber criminals could use this to wreak havoc on our privacy and personal safety. It would set a dangerous precedent for government intrusion on the privacy and safety of its citizens."

I agree, though the hackers and cyber criminals who work for the NSA, the GCHQ, Facebook and Google (etc. etc. etc.) have had something like 20 years of field days simply because the internet was unencrypted from the start (which was a huge and quite possibly intentional mistake [3]).

That is, I think there has been a completely illegal "
government intrusion on the privacy and safety of its citizens" and also a completely illegal corporate intrusion into the privacy and safety of all citizens - living anywere - who owe computers or cell phones for over 20 years.

Again, my reasons for my opinions are simple: On the one hand, the gigantic amounts of private data that are appropriated - in utter secret - as if this was normal, by secret services, by policemen, and by very many dataminers, including Google and Facebook, and on the other hand the self-evidently true Fourth Amendment that clearly and unequivocally forbids this:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
-- Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution
And here is some legal opinion backing this up:

The proceedings come one day after Apple "scored a major legal victory" when a judge in New York ruled that the U.S. government could not compel the tech company to unlock an iPhone so that investigators could analyze its data as part of a drug case.

In a 50-page ruling, Magistrate Judge James Orenstein found that the All Writs Act—the same law the government is citing in the San Bernadino case—did not justify the government's request. According to Reuters, "Orenstein also found that Apple was largely exempt from complying with such requests by a 1994 law that updated wiretapping laws."

I agree.

5.
New Study Confirms: Private 'Trade' Courts Serve the Ultra-Wealthy

The fifth item is by Richard Eskow on Common Dreams and originally on
Campaign for America's Future
:
This starts as follows:

A new study confirms what many activists have suspected for a long time: The private courts set up by international “trade” deals heavily favor billionaires and giant corporations, and they do so at the expense of governments and people.

Smaller companies and less-wealthy individuals don’t benefit nearly as much from these private courts as the extremely rich and powerful do. Other interested parties – whether they’re governments, children, working people, or the planet itself – are unable to benefit from these private courts at all.

The “investor-state dispute settlement” process, or ISDS, is built into treaties like NAFTA and the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It allows foreign investors to sue participating governments if they do anything that harms their investment in that nation. Corporations can sue governments through this process, but governments can’t sue corporations.

Which means - I will not be getting tired of drawing your attention to obvious facts, even if these are not termed in a politically correct way - that this is in effect a fascist power grab:

Only the multi-national corporations have access to "courts" manned by their own lawyers who are going to decide on how much money inhabitants of states have to pay to multi-national corporations who did not get their expected profits (!!), while governments, small businesses, and private individuals are comple- tely excluded from these "courts", that also move mostly in secret and that  know no appeals.

Here are some examples of how these corporate fascistic "courts" work to undermine any legal decision they dislike that was legally reached by nations:

As Todd Tucker pointed out in The Washington Post, a “wide range of policies can be challenged” under ISDS: “Argentina has had its macroeconomic policies challenged, Australia its anti-smoking efforts, [and] Costa Rica its environmental preservation laws.”

Suits are not brought through a normal, public court process. Instead, they are heard before private panels of arbitrators, often made up of attorneys who represent corporations as part of their practice. These hearings are conducted under rules set up by independent arbitration bodies that include the International Chamber of Commerce.

I am sorry, but these "courts" are textbook examples of fascism; indeed they are not at all a "normal, public court process": They are neo-fascistic, and also the supposedly "independent arbitration bodies" are all unelected.

This article ends as follows:

As a trade campaigner for Greenpeace said of a similar “trade” deal:

“This trade deal is not about trade. It’s about the transfer of power from people to big business.”

Thanks to this new report, we now have objective evidence that she’s right. These agreements have given great power to the wealthy and powerful few, at the expense of the many. 
Which again - "This trade deal is not about trade. It’s about the transfer of power from people to big business." - simply spells F.A.S.C.I.S.M. to me - who knows a whole lot more about both fascism and politics than most do.

And indeed - as one who was called "a (dirty) fascist" for 12 years by the lying Stalinist assholes who led the ASVA (a communist student party that in fact had absolute power in the University of Amsterdam between 1971 and 1995 [4]) and did not know shit about me except that I was pro science and pro truth, and all of them were against science and against truth - by now I begin to believe that people do not want to say this sounds just like fascism because they are all too politically correct to use a term that might inconvenience a few, even if these few behave like evident fascists.

So once again: If you want Europe to be brought down to the level of civilization of Texas or lower, vote for the TTIP; if not, vote it out. It is neo-fascism, but without honestly saying so, and it also is so in a very pure form:

It is an enormous power grab by the very rich; it is authoritarian, it is anti-democratic, it is anti-judicial,
it is anti-government, it is anti-parliament, and it is only pro the very rich, who thereby get their own "courts" to assign their own punishments to any nation, any government, any parliament, and any inhabitants that have signed up to these extremely false "trade laws" and who transgressed against their expected profits.
--------------------------
Note

[1] The average IQ is 100 everywhere, and no: That is not large at all, but comprises within 15 IQ-points up and the same amount down the majority of the people and of the voters everywhere.

The reasons Holland was a bit better informed than the USA is that Holland is a much smaller country, which had 50 years ago a considerably better education. Meanwhile, the latter difference has grown less, but I do not know by how much, although I do know that already by 1984 the average IQ of the Dutch university student was 115 - which is ridiculously low for an academic education, but then again I am in the small intelligent minority, and these days the average must be still lower.

Incidentally, this is also an important part of the reason why I never voted: I do not want to be part of a process in which a majority of dumb irresponsibles vote for a few of the best liars to rule them. (I am sorry, but I think that is fundamentally irrational.)

[2] You may disagree but I have an excellent M.A. in psychology (which makes me - in a sense - "a health professional") while I am also ill for 37 years with a rare and largely unacknowledged but severely invalidating disease:

Since I have fast internet since 2009, I have been able to investigate what medicine is like these days, and I say (1) it is very much worse and very much more expensive than when I was young, and (2) a good part of these medical (!) developments in the USA (and elsewhere, but a bit less so) are the enormous growths in both medical profits and medical corruptions in medical circles.

In case you doubt the corruptions, check out this items:
DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis". This is from 2012, and while it was downloaded a lot (and is good, informed and thorough) it has never been answered. 

There are these days also very many more medical corruptions outside psychiatry, and the main reason seems to be that many medical doctors these days choose for their own profits rather than their patients' health. (It is as simple as that, I am afraid. And no, while doctors had fine incomes when I was considerably younger, they also were significantly more honest.)

[3] I am not accusing anyone, but am in fact relying on the evidence that the NSA, the FBI and the CIA were expecting to get from "teletronic computing" in the 1960ies what they started to harvest from the 1995ies onwards, all thanks to the fact that no one (?!) had thought about encrypting the whole internet, with the strong encryption only being undone in case of a judicial order as prescribed by the Fourth Amendment. (See February 22, 2016.)

Actually, I suppose there were people argueing for a strongly encrypted internet by 1995, but I do not know of them (and did not have fast internet myself until 2009).

[4] This is one of the facts that makes any discussion of politics and education in Holland the last 45 years (since 1971) completely inunderstandable to almost any foreigner, but yes it is a fact that all the Dutch universities were given to the students in 1971 by a ministerial parliamentary approved decision, and they remained in the students' hands until 1995 (when they were removed by a similar process).

It is also a fact that the students had the absolute majority always in these years, and that all the Dutch universities in these years were ruled by parliaments that were yearly elected (also on faculty level) by ordinary majority of votes, in which all students had 1 vote, all professors and all lecturers had 1 vote, and all doormen, toilet cleaners and part-time secretaries had 1 vote. (For "everybody in Holland is of equal value as everybody else".)

Finally - in this very brief sum-up - it is also a fact that the Dutch universities were all these years thoroughly corrupt, and that very many students (now nearly all neoconservative academics, who are all much richer than I am) got their degrees almost without doing anything.

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