1. American Irrationalism
2. We Must Tell the Truth About the Iraq War
4. Hate Propaganda Has Asymmetrical Power in an
5. Will Hillary Clinton Get America Back on Track?
This is a Nederlog of Monday, October 31, 2016.
is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1
is about an article by Chris Hedges about the - widespread - American
irrationalism; item 2 is about the Iraq war; item 3 is about an article by a mathematician who
tries to spur the Americans to vote (and he is right); item
4 is about "hate spin" and I found it both confusing, confused and
bad; and item 5 is about an article by Robert Reich
about Hillary Clinton (and he is a bit optimistic, I think).
part, for the moment --
In case you visit my
Dutch site: It was OK for two days now (!).
In any case, I am now (again) updating
the opening of my site with the last day it was updated.
(And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times
last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. 
C. In case you visit my Danish site: It now
works again (!), but I do not know how long it will keep working.
I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I
am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that
also went well for 20 or for 12 years.
I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days
in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen
for many months now.
The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
There is no shortage of signs of
impending environmental catastrophe, including the melting of the polar
ice caps and the rise of atmospheric carbon to above 400
parts per million. The earth’s sixth
mass extinction is underway. It is not taking place because of
planetary forces. Homo sapiens is orchestrating it. Americans are at
the same time bankrupting ourselves by waging endless and unwinnable
wars. We have allowed our elites to push more than half the U.S.
population into poverty through deindustrialization. We do nothing to
halt the waves of nihilistic violence by enraged citizens who carry out
periodic mass shootings in schools, malls, movie theaters and other
public places. The political and financial elites flaunt their greed
and corruption. Donald Trump appears to pay no federal income taxes.
Hillary and Bill Clinton use their foundation as a tool for legalized
bribery. Our largest corporations have orchestrated a legal tax
boycott. The judicial system is a subsidiary of the corporate state.
Militarized police conduct public executions of unarmed people of
color. Our infrastructure, including our schools, roads and bridges,
along with our deindustrialized cities, are in ruins. Decay and
rot—physical and moral—are pervasive.
Yes indeed. You might think the above is pessimistic. I
agree, but that is not the point. The point is
whether the above is mostly correct or not. And I think it is,
possibly minus some points about style.
Also, I think Hedges starts with the most
important point: The "impending environmental
catastrophe". I concluded about 45 years ago,
in 1971/2, mostly but not only on the basis of "The limits
to growth" and books by Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich, at a time
when there were between 3 billion and 4 billion
living people, that there probably was no room for more than 1 billion
people on earth, who could live there decently and well, and without
destroying too much. But in the last 45 years, the human population has
doubled to over 7 billion.
I think I was mostly correct 45 years ago. Indeed, there is this from
Wikipedia on "The limits
to growth" (quoted minus a footnote):
In 2016 a report published by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on
Limits to Growth concluded that "there is unsettling evidence that
society is still following the ‘standard run’ of the original study –
in which overshoot leads to an eventual collapse of production and
living standards". The report also highlights that some issues not well
covered in the original 1972 report, such as climate change, present additional
challenges for human development.
And of course I was not wholly
correct 45 years ago. There have also been many
ecological/environmental reports in the intervening 45 years. But I
think the evidence is on the side of "The limits
to growth" and I stick to that because I know it since it was
Next, here is part of an explanation:
Yes and no, though mostly yes:
We are blinded to our depressing reality
by the avalanche of images disseminated by mass media. Political,
intellectual and cultural discourse has been replaced with spectacle.
Emotionalism and sensationalism are prized over truth. Highly paid
pundits who parrot back the official narrative, corporate advertisers,
inane talk shows, violent or sexually explicit entertainment and
gossip-fueled news have contaminated cultural life. “Reality”
television, as contrived as every other form of mass entertainment, has
produced a “reality” presidential candidate.
First, I don't like the royal "We". I am not blinded
and have not been blinded the last 45 years, at least, and
indeed the same
thing holds for other intelligent people. I know intelligent and
knowledgeable people are in a minority - it seems of about 17%,
according to Bill Maher - but this is about 1 in 6 in the USA, which
means something like 50 million Americans.
And second, while there is indeed a lot more of massive stupidity than
of informed intelligence,
that also is for a good part created by the media, one should keep in
mind that the 1 in 6 are in a minority, but they also tend to be
much better educated than the many.
But third, I do agree the media are to a considerable extent
responsible for the stupification of considerable parts of the American
Here is more of Chris Hedges' explanation:
There are hundreds of millions of
Americans who know that something is terribly wrong. A light has gone
out. They see this in their own suffering and hopelessness and the
suffering and hopelessness of their neighbors. But they lack, because
of the contamination of our political, cultural and intellectual
discourse, the words and ideas to make sense of what is happening
around them. They are bereft of a vision. Austerity, globalization,
unfettered capitalism, an expansion of the extraction of fossil fuels,
and war are not the prices to be paid for progress and the advance of
civilization. They are part of the savage and deadly exploitation by
corporate capitalism and imperialism. They serve a neoliberal ideology.
The elites dare not speak this truth. It is toxic.
Yes and no, but mostly no:
Given the above (very rough) numbers - 1 in 6 of Americans is more or
less intelligent and knows something about social and natural reality;
5 in 6 of Americans is not really intellligent or does not know
much about social and natural reality - I tend to agree with Hedges'
phrase "hundreds of millions".
But I mostly disagree with Chris Hedges' diagnosis that "they lack" "the words and ideas to make sense of what is happening
around them", and I do so for two main reasons:
First, they do not themselves believe that "they lack" "the words and ideas to
make sense of what is happening around them":
They mostly believe in the myths the media and their religious and
political leaders tell them, and are often quite proud to repeat them.
And second, while I do believe that some of the "hundreds of millions of Americans"
really are too stupid and too ignorant to know and find out what really
happened to them, I'd say that a considerable part of these "hundreds of millions of Americans" have IQs over 100 (that is: they are natively more
intelligent than the average), and are perfectly capable of
reading alternative news, working their computers to find answers, and
thinking more or less rationally - but
they don't, in considerable part, simply because they find it more
convenient to be lazy, they think it nice (and safe) to be
and they are much rather stupid, ignorant, proud
than that they are actively trying to oppose their own ignorance.
I blame them, at least if their IQs are 100 or higher. They should
have been responsible more or less rational people;
they could have been from the point of view of their native
intelligence; but many are not rational nor responsible, simply
because they like conformism,
they like hating people
who are visibly different from them, and they lap up the prejudices and
hate that their leaders
serve to them as if they are too stupid
and too ignorant
to care and know better. In fact, many of them are lazy conformists
who refuse to think while they can.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
Because of this mass
indoctrination, we have become infected by what Daniel Boorstin in “The
Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America” calls “social
narcissism.” The bottomless narcissism of Trump and the Clintons caters
to this social narcissism. They reflect back to us our desperate
longing for, as well as celebration of, entertainment, celebrity,
wealth, power and self-aggrandizement. It is not only advertising and
public relations, as Boorstin pointed out, that carry out the incessant
manufacturing of illusions that feed social narcissism. Journalists,
book publishers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, positive
psychologists, self-help gurus, the Christian right and talk show hosts
all feed the mania for illusion. They all chant the insane mantra that
reality is never an impediment to what we desire.
Hm. First, grandiose
narcissism, which is a psychopathology Donald Trump has
(and I am a psychologist) is a form of insanity. But I do not
think Hillary Clinton is insane that way, and I think it is not fair to
suggest she is or may be.
Indeed, while I do not like
Clinton at all, my strong advice is to vote for Clinton, not
because she will be any good as president, but because she is not
mad while Trump is (I am sorry, but I am a psychologist and that is
what I think).
And second, while I agree that (i) there
is an enormous and to my mind rather crazy "celebration of entertainment, celebrity, wealth, power and
and while I agree that (ii) this craziness is brought about in
part by many "[j]ournalists, book publishers,
politicians, athletes, entertainers, positive psychologists, self-help
gurus, the Christian right and talk show hosts", and indeed I also agree that (iii) most of these "chant
the insane mantra that reality is never an impediment to what
we desire", the lesson I draw from this
is different from the one Chris Hedges draws:
I am sorry, but I blame those whose IQs are 100 or higher: They have the capacities to
doubt, to think rationally, to test evidence, and not to
the evident bullshit they are being offered by all kinds of
entertainers, but many of them don't and simply choose to go
with their emotions as if they are animals or apes.
And since they are not, and are
capable of some rational thought and some reasonable actions, I do
blame them, for they are the receivers of evident bullshit
who treat lies and nonsense as if it is true and important, while they
are perfectly capable of seeing through it, but simply are too lazy or
Then again, this is a good article by
Chris Hedges, and indeed some readers may like his approach
more than mine: Recommended.
2. We Must Tell the Truth About the
The second item is by Jodie Evans on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
The Chilcot Report, a damning
12-volume, 2.6-million-word inquiry into
Britain’s role in the Iraq War, did not get much attention on either
side of the pond upon its July release. The probe was overlooked at a
time that the Iraq War was still raging even though everyone thought it
was over, and the millennials I talked to had little idea of the lies
or the costs. This summer and fall, it became increasingly clear that
the tumultuous U.S. election cycle will not propel anyone with a peace
platform to the presidency. I decided I needed to do something that
will be useful in the face of even more wars after the election madness
is over. So we launched a People’s
Tribunal on the Iraq War as a tool to bring the anti-war movement
together and build what is needed for 2017.
This seems a good idea. Here are a few facts:
I say. I did not know the facts stated in the
second paragraph, and indeed I am also rather amazed that "suicides surpassed
war as a the leading cause of death in the U.S. military".
According to a report
released last year by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR),
Physicians for Global Survival and International Physicians for the
Prevention of Nuclear War, the U.S. invasion and occupation killed at
least one million Iraqi people. That would be more [than] 10 million
people in the United States if we compared it in terms of percentage of
the population. Imagine the effect of 10 million people dying.
There are over 100,000 casualties on
the side of the U.S. and the coalition of the willing, with a small
percentage of those dead. The rest are living with permanent physical
and psychological wounds, some so bad that U.S. military veterans are
committing suicide at a rate
of 20 a day. In 2012, suicides surpassed
war as a the leading cause of death in the U.S. military.
Then there is
this on the financial cost, here stated only for the USA:
Since 2001, U.S. wars have cost
taxpayers nearly $5 trillion, according to a new
report from Brown University’s Watson Institute. But few can
understand what that number actually means. Nor does this amount count
the cost to people in Iraq or other members of the coalition of the
Five trillion dollars = five million times a
million dollars - but yes, the number is gigantic (and could have been
used inside the USA to do all manner of things - infrastructure,
education, to take two examples - that have been very necessary the
last 15 years, and still are not done).
Here is the last bit I'll quote:
On day one, December first, we will
focus on the lies that fed the drive to war. On day two, we will hear
more than 50 people testify to innumerable costs of U.S. war in Iraq,
which in fact goes back at
least 25 years.
Yes, there is a staggering cost to U.S.
taxpayers—but also the cost to the planet and the militarization of our
cities and police departments. We will hear from the mother of a young
black man who was killed the last week of high school by a cop who was
a veteran of the Iraq War suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
We will hear from soldiers who were raped by fellow soldiers. Rabbis
and priests will discuss the cost to our morality. We will hear
about the costs of the U.S. use of depleted uranium to Iraqis and the
children of American soldiers who served there.
The event will be live streamed
on The Real News, with testimony delivered in person, by live stream or
This is a good idea and a recommended article.
The third item is by Peter
Woit on Not Even Wrong:
This starts as follows:
Normally I avoid politics here, but
these are not normal times. What follows is a request to my US readers,
followed by some general remarks about the disturbing state of US
democracy. Sorry, but if you want to discuss any of this, it will have
to be elsewhere (internet comment sections are part of the problem…).
This is here mostly because I do look at
some 33 (planned) sites every day to get the articles I review in
Nederlog. Nearly all these sites are "political" in the sense that they
tend to be magazines that mostly write about politics, but there are a
few exceptions, and Peter Woit's site is one of them.
My reason to follow him (more or less) is
that I like mathematics and physics, and I also like to keep somewhat
informed (but Woit is a real mathematician, and I am not). 
Anyway - this is one of the few times "Not
Even Wrong" produces an entry in Nederlog. Here is one bit (there is
more in the original):
To those not planning on voting
for Donald Trump:
- If you’re planning on voting for
Hillary Clinton: please be sure to get out and vote, by early voting if
available in your state or on Election day. This is extremely
important, with the election likely decided by who cares enough to turn
out and vote.
- If you’re planning on not voting:
please rethink this. One can in many elections make a reasonable case
that the differences between the candidates aren’t great, so, why
bother? If there ever were a US election where that was not true, this
And here is another bit (suppressed to the
minimum: again there is more in the original):
To those planning on voting for
And this is part of Woit's explanation for
why he does this:
How did we end up here?
Whatever happens, I think the huge question
facing US democracy is that of how, in an election contest between a
competent, honest centrist candidate and an unqualified con artist,
we’ve ended up with the majority of the electorate convinced that the
first of these is the one with serious ethical problems. American
politics has become a reality TV show, with the plot line all about
convincing people that a contestant is unethical and dislikable, and so
should be voted off the island.
I mostly agree (though I wouldn't call
Hillary Clinton "honest" - but then she is a lot more honest than
Donald Trump is).
As I would put it: The choice is between a
competent centrist candidate (from whom I expect very little that I
consider good) and an utterly incompetent very much lying, quite insane
and mostly neofascist candidate - so yes: I think Woit is quite right
writing about it.
And this is a recommended article.
Hate Propaganda Has Asymmetrical Power in an Open Society
The fourth item today is by Cherian George on AlterNet and originally
on The Conversation:
This starts as follows:
Ahem. I have three remarks: "1984" should
have been quoted (or written in italics) ; we do
not live in a "post-totalitarian
world"; and Orwell was quite capable of foreseeing "wilful
blindness" (as "1984" indeed illustrates).
When George Orwell contemplated trends
toward tyranny in 1984, he saw a world where truths were violently
obliterated to leave Big Brother’s lies unchallenged. This negation of
knowledge and erasure of human experience, he
… more terrifying than mere torture or
But something curious has happened in
the post-totalitarian world, which even Orwell’s penetrating gaze did
Today, demagogues don’t actually need to
silence or censor their opponents. It turns out their followers are
quite happy to succumb to wilful blindness, believing what they want to
believe even as contradictory evidence stares them in the face.
Then there is this:
One result of this is open societies
remain surprisingly susceptible to misinformation that instigates
intimidation, discrimination and violence against vulnerable groups.
Untruths doled out in hate campaigns find ready buyers even in a free
marketplace of ideas.
The unholy appeal of outright lies has
been on stunning display in Donald Trump’s rise as the Republican
candidate for the US presidency. Independent fact-checking organisation
PolitiFact has found
71% of his statements to be mostly false, false or in the
This phenomenon is not new. More than a
decade has passed since satirist Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness”,
referring to stuff that some people lap up because it feels right –
even though it definitely isn’t.
I am sorry, but the first paragraph is not
grammatical English. Besides, I do not think there has been any era in
which "[u]ntruths doled out in hate campaigns" have not found "ready buyers". (And what "a free
marketplace of ideas" is, I don't know.)
And as to the third paragraph: Thirty-eight
(38) years have passed since the University of Amsterdam was officially
opened with the slogan
"Everyone knows that truth does not exist"
since when we have had some 25 years of
postmodernism that insisted on the same, and that also was widely
popular in philosophy, psychology, sociology, literature studies, and
George, who teaches journalism in Hong Kong, does not seem to know
about any of this.
Then there is this:
I am sorry but I regard a "tendency toward self-delusion" as harmful.
You may not care for the self-deluded, but somebody who is
self-deluded tends to be dangerous both for himself or herself and for
others: If you believe what is false and act on it, you are very likely
to create problems.
This tendency toward self-delusion might
be largely harmless but for the fact the untruths being circulated
often vilify other communities. And the invective is not confined to
idle gossip, but converted into blueprints for action: remove them; ban
their places of worship; censor their viewpoints; restrict their
practices; kill them.
Often this emerges as straightforward
hate speech or misinformation that incites hostility, discrimination or
violence against a group. Or it is expressed as righteous indignation,
accusing the targeted community of behaving in a manner that causes
These twin tactics – the giving and taking
of offence – meld into a potent political strategy that I call “hate spin”.
And I find the rest mostly exaggerated, while it seems to lead up to another
term, this time of Cherian George (?): "hate spin". I'm sorry, I don't
This article ends as follows:
Hate spin is more prevalent and
dangerous in countries with less freedom of expression, not least
because such countries usually have less regard for the equal rights of
Again paragraph one might be English, but
even if it is, it is very badly written.
Instead, we should begin by recognising
that a free marketplace of ideas, while necessary, is not sufficient.
Truth’s victory over hate propaganda is neither automatic nor
preordained. It requires a commitment to equal rights and norms of
tolerance that is at least as determined as the uncompromising hate of
demagogues and fascists.
And in the second paragraph we have again that strange "free marketplace of ideas" (what do ideas
need "a marketplace" for? what kind of "market"? why "free" if it is a
"market"?); we are told this "free marketplace of ideas" is
"necessary" but "not sufficient", but we are not told for what;
and the last part again is very vague, and does not seem to see
or recognize or know that "equal rights" and "norms of tolerance" are
part of the laws of the United States. And "demagoguery" or
"fascism" - so far, at least - are not.
So no: This article seems mostly nonsense to me.
(And I must say Cherian George writes very badly, for an
associate professor of journalism.)
5. Will Hillary Clinton Get America Back on Track?
The fifth item today is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
Yes, I agree with this, though I should also
point out that there are quite a few relevant differences, and three
important ones are (1) during the Gilded Age
(<- Wikipedia) most
of the non-rich knew what had made and kept them non-rich: The rich and
their system of exploitation, which they did in good part because (2)
there was a great and variegated free press that catered to very
many somewhat or very different points of view, and also (3) there were
strong trade unions.
The parallels are striking. In the last
decades of the nineteenth
century – the so-called “Gilded Age”— America experienced inequality on
scale it had never before seen, combining wild opulence and searing
American industry consolidated into a
few giant monopolies, or
trusts, headed by “robber barons” who wielded enough power to drive out
competitors. A few Wall Street titans like J.P. Morgan controlled the
These men used their huge wealth to rig
the system. Their lackeys literally
deposited stacks of money on the desks of pliant legislators, prompting
great jurist Louis Brandeis to tell
America it a choice: “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth
concentrated in the hands
of a few, but we cannot have both.“
We face a similar choice today.
Neither is the case now: Many of the non-rich do not blame the rich
these days; the days of a variegated and free press are over; and I
think now only 7% of all Americans are members of a trade union.
Here is some more by Reich about the Gilded Age:
Then, America chose democracy. President
railing against the “malefactors
of great wealth,” broke up the trusts. And he pushed Congress to
end the most blatant forms
His fifth cousin, FDR, went further –
enacting social insurance for
the elderly, the unemployed, and the disabled; a minimum wage and
workweek; the right to unionize; compensation for workers injured on
and strict limits on Wall Street.
In other words, between 1870 and 1900,
American capitalism got off
track. Between 1901 and 1937 (the effective end of the New Deal),
capitalism back on track.
Yes, though I should add that FDR also
became president immediately after a huge economical crisis and
that he prided himself, a bit later, on being the man who saved
Here again is some more:
Inequality is now nearly at the same
level it was in the late
nineteenth century. Half
of all families are poorer today than they were a
decade-and-a-half ago, the pay of CEOs and Wall Street bankers is in
the stratosphere, and child
poverty is on the rise.
Meanwhile, American industry is once
again consolidating – this
time into oligopolies
dominated by three or four major players. You can see it
in pharmaceuticals, high tech, airlines, food, Internet service,
communications, health insurance, and finance.
Yes, though I should add that while
inequality may be "nearly at the same level it
was in the late
nineteenth century", poverty is not: The poor
were a lot poorer from 1870 till 1940 than they are now. I do not
say it is pleasant to be poor now (and I am poor and ill since
1.i.1979) but most of the present-day poor have it a bit better than
the poor 100 years ago.
Then again, Reich is right on the rest.
Here is the last bit I'll quote from this article:
History has proven the early generation
of reformers correct. While
other nations opted for communism or fascism, Americans chose to make
capitalism work for the many rather than the few.
If Donald Trump is elected next week,
all bets are off.
But if Hillary
Clinton assumes the presidency, could she become another Teddy or
You may think her too much of an
establishment figure, too close
to the moneyed interests, too cautious. But no one expected
dramatic reform when each of the Roosevelts
took the reins. They were wealthy patricians, in many respects
figures. Yet each rose to the occasion.
Perhaps she will, too. The timing is
right, and the need is surely
as great as it was over a century ago.
I agree "all bets
if Trump gets to be president. And my own guess on Hillary Clinton is
that she will not be another Roosevelt. She will be less bad ("better")
than Trump, which is why Americans should vote for her, but she also is
much too close to the rich, and especially the bankers, to do as the
But one may hope, of course.
this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for
months now. I
do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of
"xs4all" (really: the
KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from
2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control
myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because
"you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which
is the perfect excuse never to do anything
I think myself that these celebrations are fairly to very crazy, but I
have to admit that they also strike me as "typically American", and
that I have seen them (in various forms, also) since the 1960ies.
 Also one reason
for me to pick Woit is that I agree with him on string theory
(<- Wikipedia) (about which he knows much more than I do).
 I think the original title was
"Nineteen Eigthy-Four" but Orwell himself also called it "1984" (in
letters, at least). And yes, booktitles should be quoted or stated in