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Nederlog

Aug 5, 2016

Crisis: Corbyn, Faces Recognized, Hedges vs Reich, On "Terrorism", Trump
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Introduction

1.
Jeremy Corbyn Launches Bold Progressive Vision to
     Transform UK

2. Microsoft Pitches Technology That Can Read Facial
     Expressions at Political Rallies

3. Chris Hedges vs. Robert Reich on Clinton, Third
     Parties, Capitalism & Next Steps for Sanders Backers

4. Terrorism as a Word and Epithet
5.
Watch a Year's Worth of Trump Supporters Spouting
     Vitriol, Racism, Fascist Rhetoric

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, August 5, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Jeremy Corbyn, who launched a decent plan; item 2 is about a dangerous piece of technology introduced by Microsoft: facial expressions and emotional states can be very rapidly recognized in political rallies (I am strongly against it so long as there also is an NSA, GCHQ etc.); item 3 is in fact a repeat from July 27, because I liked the interview and my review, and the interview was repeated by Democracy Now! today; item 4 is about an analysis of the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist" and is well worth reading (but I don't think it will be widely heeded); and item 5 is about Trump's vitriolic, racist and fascist rhetoric, with an additional remark by me on an idiot who denied me the right to apply what I learned in psychology.

1.
Jeremy Corbyn Launches Bold Progressive Vision to Transform UK

The first item today is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Leader of the British Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn announced a 10-point plan on Thursday designed to "rebuild and transform" the U.K. while undoing the damage wrought by privatization schemes and concerted attacks on the public good.

I say. This seems a good idea to me; it also seems a little late (Corbyn is the leader of the Labour Party for a while); and I certainly don't think most of the plan has a good chance or being realized soon, but that is in itself no objection.

Here is an outline of the plan:

The ten pledges include: An economy that works for all; Secure homes for all; Security at work; Secure our National Health Service and social care; A free national education service; Action to secure the environment; Democracy in our economy; Cut income and wealth inequality; Act to end prejudice and injustice; and Peace and justice abroad

Corbyn's announcement comes as he battles to retain his leadership position in the Labour Party, fighting off a challenge from Owen Smith, a more centrist Labour MP and former lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry. The two will square off in a debate Thursday night.

Read the full set of policy pledges here.

I agree with each of the ten points, although they are not worked out. The last of the above links - here - is worth looking into, because it expands each point some, but not much.

Here is some more, including a graphic (with my own setting of background color):

The overall plan is contained in ten pledges which put everyday people at the center of a pro-democracy agenda aimed at a more egalitarian economic vision, an end to war and violence, and a more sustainable energy future:


Incidentally, this program of ten points also sounds rather a lot like a defense of the welfare state - with which I agree if only because it has been broken down mostly by neoliberal propaganda of "Freedom! Freedom!" that in fact were claims of "Freedom for the rich! Freedom for the rich!".

Finally, while I like Jeremy Corbyn I strongly dislike the Blairite part of the Labour Party, and I have no adequate ideas whether this will last. I hope it does, but this is mostly because of the Blairite neoconservative attacks on Corbyn: I think Blairites should go to the Conservatives, and not stay with Labour.

2. Microsoft Pitches Technology That Can Read Facial Expressions at Political Rallies

The second item is by  Alex Emmons on The Intercept:

This starts as follows

On the 21st floor of a high-rise hotel in Cleveland, in a room full of political operatives, Microsoft’s Research Division was advertising a technology that could read each facial expression in a massive crowd, analyze the emotions, and report back in real time. “You could use this at a Trump rally,” a sales representative told me.

At both the Republican and Democratic conventions, Microsoft sponsored event spaces for the news outlet Politico. Politico, in turn, hosted a series of Microsoft-sponsored discussions about the use of data technology in political campaigns. And throughout Politico’s spaces in both Philadelphia and Cleveland, Microsoft advertised an array of products from “Microsoft Cognitive Services,” its artificial intelligence and cloud computing division.

At one exhibit, titled “Realtime Crowd Insights,” a small camera scanned the room, while a monitor displayed the captured image. Every five seconds, a new image would appear with data annotated for each face — an assigned serial number, gender, estimated age, and any emotions detected in the facial expression. When I approached, the machine labeled me “b2ff” and correctly identified me as a 23-year-old male.

I say. I really dislike this, and not so much because of the technology as because of the NSA and GCHQ, who also will get these data about your behavior and your emotions, which they then again can use against you, always in secret of course, if they don't like your attitudes.

Here is a little about how it works:

I asked Christina Pearson, a nearby Microsoft spokesperson, to confirm that the technology was meant to be used on a large crowd, like at a Trump rally. “Yes,” she confirmed. “Or it’s meant to be the Super Bowl, whatever you want.”

“Realtime Crowd Insights” is an Application Programming Interface (API), or a software tool that connects web applications to Microsoft’s cloud computing services. Through Microsoft’s emotional analysis API — a component of Realtime Crowd Insights — applications send an image to Microsoft’s servers. Microsoft’s servers then analyze the faces and return emotional profiles for each one.

Here is why this development is extremely dangerous:

But the use of facial analysis at political events is eerily reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, where the government monitors faces for any sign of dissatisfaction, or “facecrime.” In Orwell’s world, “to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense.”

Microsoft’s Realtime Crowd Insights could potentially pick out the stern faces of dissenters, or angry faces of future protestors, all in a matter of seconds.

Yes, indeed. I am strongly against it as long as the NSA, the GCHQ and many other secret services can do what they like and can track everyone and anyone.

There is considerably more in the original article, that is recommended.

3. Chris Hedges vs. Robert Reich on Clinton, Third Parties, Capitalism & Next Steps for Sanders Backers

The third item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

The Green Party’s national convention opens today in Houston, Texas, and Dr. Jill Stein is expected to win the party’s nomination. But will she win the support of former Bernie Sanders supporters? Last week, Democracy Now! hosted a debate between the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich about the presidential race. Hedges has endorsed Jill Stein. Reich is backing Hillary Clinton after endorsing Bernie Sanders during the primaries. Reich served in Bill Clinton’s Cabinet as labor secretary from 1993 to 1997.

But here I have a small problem:

As this introduction says, the interview was made last week, which is also when I dealt with it, namely on July 27. Then again, Democracy Now! is repeating it; I liked the interview with Hedges and Reich, basically because I like both men (without always agreeing with them) and because the interview was good; and therefore I simply (also) repeat the previous piece, in my rendering of it.

Here it is:

-----

First Robert Reich:

ROBERT REICH: Well, it’s very hard to tell what the delegates are going to do. And it’s very hard to tell—even harder to tell what the electorate is going to do. You know, this is a very agonizing time for many Bernie Sanders supporters. I, with a great deal of reluctance initially, because I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 50 years—50 years—endorsed Bernie Sanders and worked my heart out for him, as many, many people did. And so, at this particular juncture, you know, there’s a great deal of sadness and a great deal of feeling of regret.
(...)
And right now, at this particular point in time, I just don’t see any alternative but to support Hillary. I know Hillary, I know her faults, I know her strengths. I think she will make a great president. I supported Bernie Sanders because I thought he would make a better president for the system we need. But nonetheless, Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. I support her. And I support her not only because she will be a good president, if not a great president, but also, frankly, because I am tremendously worried about the alternative. And the alternative, really, as a practical matter, is somebody who is a megalomaniac and a bigot, somebody who will set back the progressive movement decades, if not more.
I don't think Hillary Clinton will be a great president, and I also do not think she will be a good president, but I do agree she will make a much less bad president than the horrors promised by a Trump presidency.

And I agree with Reich that Trump "
is a megalomaniac and a bigot" and indeed I also agree (as Reich wrote earlier this year) that Trump is a (neo)fascist, while Clinton - who I think is worse than Reich believes - is not a neofascist (but is a rightist Democrat who is funded and supported by the banks).

And here is Hedges:
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, reducing the election to personalities is kind of infantile at this point. The fact is, we live in a system that Sheldon Wolin calls inverted totalitarianism. It’s a system where corporate power has seized all of the levers of control. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or ExxonMobil or Raytheon. We’ve lost our privacy. We’ve seen, under Obama, an assault against civil liberties that has outstripped what George W. Bush carried out. We’ve seen the executive branch misinterpret the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act as giving itself the right to assassinate American citizens, including children. I speak of Anwar al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son. We have bailed out the banks, pushed through programs of austerity. This has been a bipartisan effort, because they’ve both been captured by corporate power. We have undergone what John Ralston Saul correctly calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion, and it’s over.
I think Chris Hedges is mostly correct here - except for his very first statement. Here are my views (in brief), and I start with everything but the first statement:

I think Chris Hedges is quite correct in saying (in effect, and I may be interpreting a little) that the Left has lost a major battle with the Right that was started by Reagan in 1980, and that was continued ever since, also under both kinds of presidents: "
corporate power has seized all of the levers of control", to phrase in in Hedges's terms.

Also, this is quite important and it was a battle that lasted 35 years, which ended in "
what John Ralston Saul correctly calls a corporate coup d’état in slow motion, and it’s over".

And I do appreciate that Chris Hedges makes the point, for I think it is quite true, quite bitter, and hardly acknowledged by most of the Left.

Next, I think Chris Hedges is quite incorrect when he said that "
reducing the election to personalities is kind of infantile at this point".

First, he does nothing to answer Jealous's points (in the previous section, but known to Hedges) that Trump is not just any candidate, but is quite special in being both a madman and a neofascist. And second, his wording strongly suggests that he knows (but doesn't say) that in fact he is being rhetorical rather than realistic. (And he is, whether he knows it or not.)

Before turning to Reich's replies, here is some more by Hedges. First, there is this (and see the Nederlog of July 25 for more on Poland by Chris Hedges):
Poland has gone, I think we can argue, into a neofascism. First, it dislocated the working class, deindustrialized the country. Then, in the name of austerity, it destroyed public institutions, education, public broadcasting. And then it poisoned the political system.
I fear that is correct. The next bit is - I think - quite incorrect:
We’ve got to break out of this idea that we can create systematic change within a particular election cycle. We’ve got to be willing to step out into the political wilderness, perhaps, for a decade. But on the issues of climate change, on the issue of the destruction of civil liberties, including our right to privacy—and I speak as a former investigative journalist, which doesn’t exist anymore because of wholesale government surveillance—we have no ability, except for hackers.
More precisely, while I agree mostly with the second part (the last statement) I think the first two statements are indulgences in wild phantasies:

First, in fact that is about the only thing voters can do these days: Decide who is going to be nominated. The other means of influence on politics, such as setting the issues, deciding who is going to be candidates, making the political plans of parties and considerably more, simply have been taken away from the voters and have been handed over to the combination of elected party delegates and their lobbyists.

Second, Hedges seems to miss completely how extremely long four years is in politics, let alone eight years or "
a decade": Most politicians and most people interested in politics live on a day-by-day schema in which most things that take considerably longer are not often considered - and I am not saying this is
desirable, I am saying this is mostly fact (apart from a few themes, that often correspond to fundamental differences between parties or between politicians): Who knows what was in the paper even a mere three months ago? Few do.

Third, "
to step out into the political wilderness, perhaps, for a decade" is simply to give up politics, say for a decade, which seems quite irresponsible to me, for you should also do politics (if you do this at all) in cases where all you can do is to choose from several evils.

But here is Robert Reich. First, there is this:
ROBERT REICH: Well, Amy, it’s not just taking a walk in the political wilderness. If Donald Trump becomes president, if that’s what you’re referring to, I think it is—there are irrevocable negative changes that will happen in the United States, including appointments to the Supreme Court, that will not be just political wilderness, that will actually change and worsen the structure of this country. I couldn’t agree with Chris Hedges more about his critique, overall, of neoliberalism and a lot of the structural problems that we face in our political economy today.
Of course if the Left chooses to go into "the political wilderness", the Right has all the freedoms to "actually change and worsen the structure of this country". I am not saying the Left can prevent this (seeing how many laws have been deregulated the last 36 years), but it certainly cannot and will not prevent any of the changes the Right desires to make from "the political wilderness". That is just irresponsible.

And here is Reich on equating Trump and Clinton:
I think that voting for Donald Trump or equating Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump is insane. Donald Trump is certainly a product of a kind of system and a systematic undermining that has occurred in the United States for years with regard to inequality of income and wealth and political power. But we don’t fight that by simply saying, "All right, let’s just have Donald Trump and hope that the system improves itself and hope that things are so bad that actually people rise up in armed resistance." That’s insane. That’s crazy.
I quite agree. You can't welcome or tolerate a neofascist madman because you dislike his non-neofascist non-mad opponent. And if that is not "insane" and not "crazy" it certainly is irresponsible.

Here is more Reich:
ROBERT REICH: Well, all I can say is that at this particular point in time—I mean, again, many of the things that Chris Hedges is saying, I completely agree with. The real question here is: What do we do right now? And what do we do to mobilize and organize a lot of people out there who right now are not mobilized and organized? And how do we keep the energy building? I disagree with Chris with regard to Bernie Sanders. I think Bernie Sanders has been a great and is a great leader right now of the progressive cause.
Yes, I agree with Reich. And I also agree with the following argument:
But I do fear Donald Trump. I fear the polls that I saw yesterday. Now, polls, again, this early in a campaign still—we’re still months away from the election, but they are indicative. They show Donald Trump doing exceedingly well, beating Hillary Clinton. And right now, given our two-party system, given our winner-take-all system with regard to the Electoral College, it’s just too much of a risk to go and to say, "Well, I’m going to vote—I’m not going to vote for the lesser of two evils, I’m going to vote exactly what I want to do." Well, anybody can do that, obviously. This is a free country. You vote what you—you vote your conscience. You have to do that. I’m just saying that your conscience needs to be aware that if you do not support Hillary Clinton, you are increasing the odds of a true, clear and present danger to the United States, a menace to the United States. And you’re increasing the possibility that there will not be a progressive movement, there will not be anything we believe in in the future, because the United States will really be changed for the worse.
Again quite so. But here is Chris Hedges again:
CHRIS HEDGES: Well, I think we have to acknowledge two facts. We do not live in a functioning democracy, and we have to stop pretending that we do. You can’t talk about—when you eviscerate privacy, you can’t use the word "liberty." That is the relationship between a master and a slave. The fact is, this is capitalism run amok. This whole discussion should be about capitalism. Capitalism does what it’s designed to do, when it’s unfettered or unregulated—as it is—and that is to increase profit and reduce the cost of labor. And it has done that by deindustrializing the country, and the Clinton administration, you know, massively enabled this.
I agree with this (for the most part) - but it doesn't meet any point Reich made. Here is Reich again:
ROBERT REICH: Well, let me just—let me just put in my two cents. I think political strategy is not to elect Donald Trump, to elect Hillary Clinton, and, for four years, to develop an alternative, another Bernie Sanders-type candidate with an independent party, outside the Democratic Party, that will take on Hillary Clinton, assuming that she is elected and that she runs for re-election, and that also develops the infrastructure of a third party that is a true, new progressive party.
And I think that is both a reasonable choice and a reasonable plan. Whether either will work out is the question, but that is nearly always the case with choices one makes and plans one has.

Here is Hedges' answer:
CHRIS HEDGES: I don’t think it makes any difference. The TPP is going to go through, whether it’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Endless war is going to be continued, whether it’s Trump or Clinton. We’re not going to get our privacy back, whether it’s under Clinton or Trump. The idea that, at this point, the figure in the executive branch exercises that much power, given the power of the war industry and Wall Street, is a myth.
I think Hedges is right in the middle part, but mistaken in the beginning and the end:

It is going to make a difference whether one chooses a neofascist madman or a rightist Democratic servant of the banks, who is neither a neofascist nor mad (and see the last item of today for how much difference this is likely to make).

Here is the last exchange I will quote:

ROBERT REICH: I just want to say, equating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is absolute nonsense. I just—anybody who equates the two of them is not paying attention. And it’s dangerous kind of talk.

CHRIS HEDGES: That’s not what I—that’s not what I did.

I think Robert Reich won this debate, but I may be a bit partial (for I agreed already with him about these issues, and already disagreed with Chris Hedges).

In any case, this was a quite important debate between two quite respectable progressives, and it is certainly worth reading completely: Recommended, if only because there is quite a bit more in the interview that I skipped.

-----

As I said, the above bit between "----"s was repeated from July 27. All I changed was adding some links to the original.

4. Terrorism as a Word and Epithet

The fourth item today is by  Michael Brenner on Consortiumnews:

This has a subtitle:

The word “terrorism” – classically defined as violence against civilians for political effect – has become an epithet hurled at despised groups while not against favored ones, a challenge of hypocrisy and propaganda, explains Michael Brenner.

Yes indeed - and some of the points Brenner makes were already made by me (in Dutch) on October 29, 2005.

The present article starts as follows:

Most Americans think they know what “terrorism” is: what happened on 9/11 or what happened in Orlando: Islamic militants murdering innocent civilians out of hate and in the cause of Islamist jihad. Experience shapes how we understand the world. The Global War on Terror has been oriented accordingly.

More formal definitions of “terrorism” try to extend the term so as to encompass a wider range of violent acts. Here is one: “Terrorism is commonly defined as violent acts (or the threat of violent acts) intended to create fear (terror), perpetrated for a religious, political, or ideological goal, and which deliberately target or disregard the safety of non-combatants (e.g., neutral military personnel or civiliansWikipedia.

Here is another: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them” — United Nations General Assembly 1994

These definitions at least are decent definitions. I like the Wikipedia's best, because it does list "a religious, political, or ideological goal" and because it mentions "the safety of non-combatants", who generally are the main aim of (correctly identified) terrorists.

Here is some on the difference between the above usages of "terrorism" and "terrorists" and the much more common usage of these terms in the ordinary
main media:

These formulations strive to be objective and disengaged from individual events however noteworthy. Popular attitudes, the media usages and political oratory tend to revert to the entrenched more common usage.

For “terrorism” – as word and concept – is emotionally charged. Hence, the killings of U.S. soldiers by Dr. Nidal Hassan at Ft. Hood are labeled “terrorism” while the rampage of Dylan Roof in Charleston, South Carolina, in the name of White Supremacy is just mass murder. The killing by the mentally disturbed, apolitical Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (half Bulgarian, half French-Canadian) at the Ottawa Parliament is “terrorism” while the Sandy Hook massacre is not.

Yes, indeed: It seems that the terrorism by white racists is not called "terrorism" because it is by white racists, while the terrorism or "terrorism" by the mentally disturbed is called "terrorism", especially if there is an Islamic connection.

And that is just propaganda. Here is some more on ordinary comman usage of the terms "terrorism" and "terror", which turn out to be (often) used as propaganda terms:

Many participants in the public discourse about “terror” have a quite different purpose.  It is to apply the word as a pejorative to certain acts and actors in order to stigmatize them. This is a political exercise rather than an intellectual one. Hence, the promiscuous appellation “terror” and “state sponsor of terrorism” in accusations that target Iran – however inconsistent that usage is with the terminology applied to the behavior (real or imagined) of other states, e.g. Saudi Arabia and its GCC partners or Turkey.

The aim is to produce a certain emotional effect that encourages certain types of responses. In popular usage, it is akin to calling someone a “bastard” or a “son of a bitch” as an insult without bothering to determine the legal status of his parents or his mother’s temperament.

There is a third – also loose – use of the term “terror” by the media. They seek the “wow” effect. If eight people die from the violent act of some crackpot, they are just as dead whether an anchor decides to use the word “terror” or not.

There is a whole lot more in the article, which is recommended, although I tend to be skeptical about the chances that the main media or indeed most ordinary people will learn to use these terms in a more or less objective way.

And part of my reasons is that George Orwell, who died 66 years ago this year,
warned against this, 71 years ago:

"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419, written in May 1945.)

It is a very great pity, but this does seem to be still the common reaction.

This doesn't mean Michael Brenner is wrong; it does mean that most people are more propaganda-minded than objectively minded, and often don't make the appropriate distinctions, indeed since more than 70 years.

5. Watch a Year's Worth of Trump Supporters Spouting Vitriol, Racism, Fascist Rhetoric

The fifth item today is by Nika Knight on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

It's no secret that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fills his speeches with nationalism and xenophobia.

And in a three-minute video published by the New York Times late Wednesday, a collection of clips from the divisive nominee's rallies throughout the past year reveals how Trump's chilling rhetoric is being channeled by his followers.

It so happens that I couldn't start the New York Times video, probably because it wants to make my computer more free from safety-measures than I am willing to allow it.

Meanwhile, that was a mere three minutes worth of video, and I have seen considerably more by Donald Trump, from which I - a psychologist - inferred that it is, according to what I learned in the study of psychology, far more probable that Donald Trump is mad, namely with a grandiose narcissism type of madness, than that he is not mad.

But I recently read an extremely stupid piece in The Guardian which said that I am not allowed to apply what I learned in psychology, it seems because that would upset the journalist (not a psychologist) who wrote this bullshit.

Well... I am sorry for upsetting you, but I do think I am quite justified in applying the things I learned. And I think that I am also quite justified in warning against what seems to me - a psychologist - an obvious madman.

In case you doubt this, read the
chilling rhetoric article.

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