March 27, 2016

Crisis: Bernie Sanders, Warren on Trump, War on Drugs, Maher on Truth
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Massive Margins in Washington and Alaska Make
     Saturday Super for Sanders

2. 6 Ways Elizabeth Warren Trashed Trump This
     Week—And Stood by Bernie

The Global War on Drugs Has Unleashed an
     International Health Crisis, Says Top Health Panel

4. Real Time with Bill Maher: New Rule – Lies Are the New


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 27, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. It is the weekend and it is Easter, and perhaps therefore I found only three items that I want to review. I added the fourth, because I liked it and the theme is important (and also quite old: for me it started in 1978): Item 1 is about good news for Bernie Sanders; item 2 is mainly about Elizabeth Warren's trashing of Trump; item 3 is about The War On Drugs, which has totally failed and was originally based on political lies; and item 4 is about an item by Bill Maher, that says that truth does not exist anymore, and has been killed by the internet.

1. Massive Margins in Washington and Alaska Make Saturday Super for Sanders

The first item is by Common Dreams Staff on Common Dreams (and is here because I like Bernie Sanders):

This starts as follows:

Bernie Sanders did exactly what his campaign said he could do on Saturday if voter turnout was high: win and win big.

While voting was still ongoing in Hawaii, Sanders was able to claim landslide victories in both the Washington state and Alaska caucuses. As of this writing, with approximately 75 percent of precincts reporting in both those states, Sanders was leading rival Hillary Clinton 72% to 28% in Washington and by 79% to 21% in Alaska.

I say, for these are great differences (also better than Obama). Here is Bernie Sanders himself:

At a victory speech to supporters inside a packed arena at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Sanders said that though the establishment media and political class continue to count his campaign out, it would be "hard for anybody [tonight] to deny that our campaign has the momentum" in the Democratic primary race.

"We are making significant inroads in Secretary Clinton’s lead," Sanders told the more than 8,000 people in the crowd. "We have a path toward victory."

Yes, I think that is realistic. And I concede he may not win, but he definitely should keep trying, for he did better than most expected; also in spite of being heavily underrepresented in the main media; and also Hillary Clinton is a far less good candidate, in proposals, in support, and in honesty, though indeed I would vote for her if the choice is between Trump or Cruz and Hillary.

And in fact this is what the next item is about:

2. 6 Ways Elizabeth Warren Trashed Trump This Week—And Stood by Bernie

The second item is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is defending Bernie Sanders’ decision to keep campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination and calling out Donald Trump for being the worst kind of predatory capitalist.
Quite so, were it only because Sanders still can win, and is likely to win quite a few of the coming states.

Here are six points Elizabeth Warren made, which I quote here without the texts that come with them. If you want to read the texts, click the last dotted link:

1. Sanders is good for Democrats and the country.
2. Trump’s riches come from exploiting others’ pain.
3. Trump’s primary qualification is a big lie.
4. Trump quotes fascists and thinks that's just fine.
5. There is no good Republican candidate.
6. Old GOP attacks on her won’t work.
In fact, there are only two points about Sanders, and the second is indirect (and sound: Yes, there are no good Republican candidates).

But Elizabeth Warren is right. As to the points about Trump: I think these are mostly clear, and add as a clarification to 3. that Trump's primary qualification is supposed to be his business talent: This doesn't work, because many of his projects failed, and went broke.

There is also this:

Warren has not endorsed either Sanders or Clinton in the 2016 Democratic nominating contests. But her remarks this past week have prompted some commentators to speculate that should Sanders win the nomination, she would be an excellent running mate.
I agree. And in case she were thinking she can expect a similar offer from Hillary (I don't know): I don't think so, because Warren was too critical and independent.

And she has this on Trump's capacities and character. As to his capacities:

“Let’s be honest—Donald Trump is a loser,” she wrote. “Count all his failed businesses. See how he kept his father’s empire afloat by cheating people with scams like Trump University and by using strategic corporate bankruptcy (excuse me, bankruptcies) to skip out on debt. Listen to the experts who’ve concluded he’s so bad at business that he might have more money today if he’d put his entire inheritance into an index fund and just left it alone.”

In fact, this is pretty damning and - although I don't know her evidence - it is very probably correct: As a business man Trump is a failure, who has been kept afloat by his inherited wealth and the very lax American bankruptcy legislation.

As to Trump's character:

Warren continued, saying, “Trump seems to know he’s a loser. His embarrassing insecurities are on parade: petty bullying, attacks on women, cheap racism, and flagrant narcissism. But just because Trump is a loser everywhere else doesn’t mean he’ll lose this election. People have been underestimating his campaign for nearly a year—and it’s time to wake up.”

I think it is unlikely that Trump consciously knows he is a loser, but I agree that he seems to have a lot of "embarrassing insecurities", and the main ones seem to me to be that (1) he is grandiose narcissist (see: March 14, 2016 - and no, this is not healthy and quite difficult to cure) and (2) he is utterly unfit for being president, but he probably also will be about the last man to admit it.

Warren is also quite right in assuming that Trump may win the presidential elections, and that this is an outcome much to be feared:
Warren concluded that a Trump presidency could “tear apart an America that was built on values like decency, community, and concern for our neighbors.” She said, “Many of history’s worst authoritarians started out as losers—and Trump is a serious threat. The way I see it, it’s our job to make sure he ends this campaign every bit the loser that he started it.”
Yes, and three prominent losers who did get a lot of fame and who killed very many are Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin - and while none of them was fit to be the leader of their countries, they were, and in the first two
cases they also were democratically elected.

3. The Global War on Drugs Has Unleashed an International Health Crisis, Says Top Health Panel

The third item is by Sarah Lazare on NakedCapitalism and originally on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

A premiere public health commission warned Thursday that the global war on drugs and zero tolerance policies are unleashing an international health crisis by fueling “lethal violence, communicable-disease transmission, discrimination, forced displacement, unnecessary physical pain, and the undermining of people’s right to health.”

I quite agree, and indeed think myself since 1969 (!) that the only decent way to do something against the dangers of drugs is to legalize them, and that for two main reasons:

First, not legalizing them - that is: forbidding them, and locking people in prison for using them - simply does not help: "The War On Drugs" was started under Nixon (and see below) but only succeeded in giving the United States more prisoners than any other state, who also are often quite unfairly locked up for many years, e.g. for smoking some marijuana.

And second, only by legalizing drugs can one treat the drugsproblem properly - for no, I am not a proponent of heroin, cocaine, amphetamine and other addictive drugs, and indeed never used them, but to deal properly with the users, which will be medical in many cases, it is necessary that these users are not criminals.

Next, there is this:

A joint initiative of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and The Lancet, the commission released a report calling for a global transformation of drug policy—towards decriminalization and harm reduction.

“The goal of prohibiting all use, possession, production and trafficking of illicit drugs is the basis of many of our national drug laws, but these policies are based on ideas about drug use and drug dependence that are not scientifically grounded,” declared Commissioner Chris Beyrer, a professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The global ‘war on drugs’ has harmed public health, human rights and development,” Beyrer continued. “It’s time for us to rethink our approach to global drug policies, and put scientific evidence and public health at the heart of drug policy discussions.”

I completely agree with Beyrer, but I also want to point out that his ideas are in essence at least 45 years old - see e.g. the Wootton Report of 1969 (which was restricted to cannabis), which I read in 1969 and which influenced me, was quite good, and also well informed. [1]

Here is some of the evidence for the thesis that criminalizing drug abuse does not help the users, but harms or kills them:

They concluded that punitive measures that fail to reduce harm are meaurably killing people. “The persistence of unsafe injection-linked transmission of HIV and HCV that could be stopped with proven, cost-effective measures remains one of the great failures of the global responses to these diseases,” the authors wrote.

And there is in fact another rather strong argument in favor of legalizing drugs, and it comes from John Ehrlichman (<- Wikipedia), who said this in 1994 - and
since he was a personal assistant of Nixon, he must have known what he was talking about:

The study follows the publication of a cover story in Harper’s magazine in which journalist Dan Baum resurfaced a damning, decades-old quote from President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman.

“You want to know what this was really all about,” Ehrlichman said of the drug war. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

So there you are: "The War On Drugs" was based on very conscious lies
by Nixon.

4. Real Time with Bill Maher: New Rule – Lies Are the New Truth (HBO)

The fourth item today is a video by Bill Maher that takes 5 m 30 s and that is quite good (and was originally aired on Jan 29, 2016):

Bill Maher starts from the question "Why isn't our government functioning?". Here is his answer: "Because truth is dead and the internet killed it".

In fact, I heard for the first time that there is no truth when I attended the public opening of the University of Amsterdam in August of 1978 (now 38 years ago) which was being done by professor M.A. Brandt, who told everyone present the following gross lie (literally, but translated to English) - which he either believed or pretended to believe:

"Everybody knows that truth does not exist"

So professor Brandt thought that it was not true that millions of Jews had been killed in WW II, and in fact he must have thought WW II had not truly happened and so and so forth - except that he did not say so (as he should have, if he had been honest and intelligent).

For me, the saying was an evident blatant falsehood [2], but one of the things I soon learned was that this evident blatant falsehood was in fact embraced as if it were an important liberalizing truth by most of the students of the University of Amsterdam and most of its staff, and indeed they also had "good" intellectual reasons, that come down to this: If there is no truth, there is no falsity and therefore no valid refutation of their own pet crazy beliefs - and indeed also not of the pet crazy beliefs of anyone else.

You must see that this has enormous liberating potentials, for if there is no truth absolutely anything goes - but yes: This was the intellectual background that ruled the University of Amsterdam from 1978 till 1995, not coincidentally also in the time that all Dutch universities had been given (in 1971) to the students, and in the time that all Dutch universities were governed by parliaments, in which everyone who worked in any university - as a toilet cleaner, a secretary, a student, a lecturer or a professor - got 1 vote, which in turn meant that the students always had the absolute majority.

In brief - to return to Bill Maher - I cannot quite accept his thesis that the internet killed truth (or better: introduced a considerable number of lies about truth that are quite popular), because the above happened before there was
any internet, and it did rule most of the Dutch universities' "progress" from the late seventies till the middle nineties.

Then again, I am quite willing to agree that many of the lies about truth that were popularized by internet came from postmodernism (a whole "philosophy" that denies there is truth, and that tends to deny there is a reality: real postmodernists believe that all there is are texts and interpretations), and therefore I accept that the internet contributed a lot to the popularity of the - completely false - thesis that there is no truth.

Next, Bill Maher is also mostly correct about another thing: The Republicans - people like the presidential candidates Trump and Cruz, but not at all restricted to them - now simply state gross lie after gross lie, and say to people who try to correct their non-facts that they don't care, because their fans don't care.

And Bill Maher is correct in saying that at least the Republican liars simply have stopped caring if they get caught, and also that this is new, even in American politics.

[1] Also - and I am philosopher and a psychologist, and think this should be said clearly - I do not think medical science is as good as medics say it is, while I also think modern psychiatry is just bullshit (in case you doubt this, you should read the long essay Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis").

And I am not saying this in criticism of professor Beyrer: I am saying this because I think I have very good reasons to think what I said I think (indeed much better than most medics or most philosophers or most psychologists have, in considerable part because I am ill for 37 years now).

[2] In case you need a proof that "Everybody knows that truth does not exist" is a plain lie I only concentrate on the first two words: It is simply not true that "everybody" knows this, for most do not know this. Second, since to know something means that what one knows is true nobody can know anything that implies or states that it is not true. Therefore the thesis is both false and incoherent.
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