Dec 6, 2016

Crisis: Pilger, Chatterjee, Lennon, DeVega, Frank P. Ramsey
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The Fake News That Will Take Us to War With China

2. Publish, Punish and Pardon: How Obama Could Reveal
     the Nature of the National Security State

3. Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On
4. Forget “dialogue” with Donald Trump and his
     supporters: They have empowered hatred and harm

5. ‘One of the Great Intellects of His Time’

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, December 6, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links and it consists (mostly) of some further deliberations on the meanings of Trump's election as president of the USA:

Item 1 is about the latest film by John Pilger; item 2 is about an article by Pratap Chatterjee (of which only the beginning is excerpted here); item 3 is about an article about John Lennon I can't quite agree with (mostly because of Lennon, indeed); item 4 is about an article by Chauncey DeVega I don't quite
agree with; and item 5 is not a crisis item and is about a book about Frank P. Ramsey, who is one of my favorite philosophers.

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days and was so on most days in November 2016. But on 2.xii and 3.xii it was correct. I say!

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 to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: This was so-so till 18.xi and was correct since then (most or all days).

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 that for many months now.The Mafia State

1. The Fake News That Will Take Us to War With China (Video)

The first item today is by John Pilger (<-Wikipedia) on Truthdig and originally on The New Internationalist:

This starts as follows (and I only select some from the beginning):

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, “disappeared”, a political embarrassment.

I have spent two years making a documentary film, The Coming War on China, in which the evidence and witnesses warn that nuclear war is no longer a shadow, but a contingency.  The greatest build-up of American-led military forces since the Second World War is well under way. They are in the northern hemisphere, on the western borders of Russia, and in Asia and the Pacific, confronting China.

I think the image of the first paragraph is strong, as is indeed the fact that the image (of the shadow of a human being) disappeared, because it is "a political embarrasment".

And I haven't seen "The Coming War on China" but John Pilger is a good journalist, and it is probably well worth seeing - and indeed Pilger is more right now that Donald Trump is president of the USA, although Pilger may disagree with that, because he has said Trump is less dangerous than Hillary Clinton.

I disagree with Pilger about that last judgement, though I agree I neither like Clinton nor Trump. But I am a psychologist, and I think Trump is not sane, and for that reason very dangerous.

Next, there is this:

The great danger this beckons is not news, or it is buried and distorted: a drumbeat of mainstream fake news that echoes the psychopathic fear embedded in public consciousness during much of the 20th century.

Like the renewal of post-Soviet Russia, the rise of China as an economic power is declared an “existential threat” to the divine right of the United States to rule and dominate human affairs.

I think I probably disagree with the first of the above quoted paragraphs, but indeed it is not clear. What I disagree with - on my interpretation - is that the "public consciousness" is supposed to have "embedded" into it "a psychopathic
fear" "during much of the twentieth century" (which I think is the correct interpretation), that (and I disagree with the following, though it is not clearly stated) "the public" is not responsible for.

This seems a mistake to me. Here is why I think so - and these are the words of John Philpot Curran (1750-1817) (<- Wikipedia):

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

In other words: If "the public" is - by and large, in majority - too indolent to see to it that the news it gets is mostly true, then "the public" is - by and large, in majority - responsible.

But I agree with the second of the above two quoted paragraphs, and also with the following, which is the last bit I'll quote from this article:

A study by the RAND Corporation – which, since Vietnam, has planned America’s wars – is entitled, War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable.  Commissioned by the US Army, the authors evoke the cold war when RAND made notorious the catch cry of its chief strategist, Herman Kahn—“thinking the unthinkable”. Kahn’s book, On Thermonuclear War, elaborated a plan for a “winnable” nuclear war against the Soviet Union.

Today, his apocalyptic view is shared by those holding real power in the United States: the militarists and neo-conservatives in the executive, the Pentagon, the intelligence and “national security” establishment and Congress.

And please note that Herman Kahn (<- Wikipedia) was a - clever - fraud, whose fraudulent baloney that he was "thinking the unthinkable" (I am sorry: no one can do that, just as no one can say the unsayable or live the unlivable) now is repeated by the propagandists of the US Army that progandize their bullshit as "Research and development" (which is what "RAND" (<- Wikipedia) means).

Incidentally, I also note that "
those holding real power in the United States" will tend to believe that they will survive a nuclear war, in their special bunkers. Perhaps they may, but I don't think there is any chance on a civilization after
a nuclear war.

There is considerably more in the article.

2. Publish, Punish and Pardon: How Obama Could Reveal the Nature of the National Security State

The second item is by Pratap Chatterjee on Truthdig and originally on Tom Dispatch:

This starts as follows:

In less than seven weeks, President Barack Obama will hand over the government to Donald Trump, including access to the White House, Air Force One, and Camp David. Trump will also, of course, inherit the infamous nuclear codes, as well as the latest in warfare technology, including the Central Intelligence Agency’s fleet of killer drones, the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance and data collection apparatus, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s enormous system of undercover informants.

Before the recent election, Obama repeatedly warned that a Trump victory could spell disaster. “If somebody starts tweeting at three in the morning because SNL [Saturday Night Live] made fun of you, you can’t handle the nuclear codes,” Obama typically told a pro-Clinton rally in November. “Everything that we’ve done over the last eight years,” he added in an interview with MSNBC, “will be reversed with a Trump presidency.”

Yet, just days after Obama made those comments and Trump triumphed, the Guardian reported that his administration was deeply involved in planning to give Trump access not just to those nuclear codes, but also to the massive new spying and

Yes, indeed. And that is a very serious problem. What will Obama do about the problem? If judged by his past behavior, in which he rather often said the right kind of thing, while he did the wrong kind of thing (without saying so), my own guess is that he will do nothing.

But this does not seem to be the position of Pratap Chatterjee:

So, at this late date, what might a president frightened by his successor actually do, if not to hamper Trump’s ability to create global mayhem, then at least to set the record straight before he leaves the White House?

Unfortunately, the answer is: far less than we might like, but as it happens, there are still some powers a president has that are irreversible by their very nature. For example, declassifying secret documents. Once such documents have been released, no power on earth can take them back. The president also has a virtually unlimited power of pardon. And finally, the president can punish high-level executive branch or military officials who abused the system (...)
In fact, I don't disagree with Chatterjee: Obama may still do quite a few things to try to diminish the dangers of Trump's presidency, and someone should point out what they are

And Chatterjee does point out what Obama can do in this article:

Here, then, are nine recommendations for action by the president in his last 40 days when it comes to those three categories: publish, punish, and pardon. Think of it as a political version of “publish or perish.”

You'll find his rather detailed recommendations to Obama in the rest of the article, that I leave to your interests.

It is recommended, but as I said I will be rather amazed if Obama does anything.

3. Power to the People: John Lennon’s Legacy Lives On

The third item is b
y John Whitehead on Washington's Blog and originally on the Rutherford Institute:

This starts as follows:

“You gotta remember, establishment, it’s just a name for evil. The monster doesn’t care whether it kills all the students or whether there’s a revolution. It’s not thinking logically, it’s out of control.”—John Lennon (1969)

Militant nonviolent resistance works.

Peaceful, prolonged protests work.

Mass movements with huge numbers of participants work.

Yes, America, it is possible to use occupations and civil disobedience to oppose government policies, counter injustice and bring about change outside the confines of the ballot box.

It has been done before. It is being done now. It can be done again.

I say, and I am a bit amazed. First, John Whitehead (<- Wikipedia, which lands you on the Rutherford Institute) is a bit of a conservative (though he does good work as an attorney). And second, the above is true only if one adds "some- times" after each occurence of "work" or "works" - or that is what I think.

And while I don't seriously disagree, the above is too optimistic, and especially now, because of Trump.

Here is part of the motivation to publish this article now:

This kind of “power to the people” activism—grassroots, populist and potent—is exactly the brand of civic engagement John Lennon advocated throughout his career as a musician and anti-war activist.

It’s been 36 years since Lennon was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet on December 8, 1980, but his legacy and the lessons he imparted in his music and his activism have not diminished over the years.

All of the many complaints we have about government today—surveillance, militarism, corruption, harassment, SWAT team raids, political persecution, spying, overcriminalization, etc.—were present in Lennon’s day and formed the basis of his call for social justice, peace and a populist revolution.

Again I don't seriously disagree, but both the "surveillance" and the "spying" are these days a million or a billion times (or more!) worse than they were when Lennon was alive: Everybody is spied on these days by the secret services, and it seems by now everybody with a computer or a cellphone has a private dossier in the NSA (of which not much will be read by the spymasters, but then it is a safe assumption these exist [2]).

Here is more on the past of the FBI:

The FBI has had a long history of persecuting, prosecuting and generally harassing activists, politicians, and cultural figures, most notably among the latter such celebrated names as folk singer Pete Seeger, painter Pablo Picasso, comic actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, comedian Lenny Bruce and poet Allen Ginsberg. Among those most closely watched by the FBI was Martin Luther King Jr., a man labeled by the FBI as “the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country.”

That is all correct - but these days the FBI and the CIA and the NSA plus 16 more mostly secret American "intelligence agencies" (mostly of the US army) do know millions or billions of times more (in principle) than they could know during Lennon's life.

Then there is this, which I think is mistaken:

While Lennon believed in the power of the people, he also understood the danger of a power-hungry government. “The trouble with government as it is, is that it doesn’t represent the people,” observed Lennon. “It controls them.”

No, I don't really think so: The great majority of "the people" does not need to be controlled because they are conformists, who believe what the majority around them believes, and who do so mostly simply because they lack real  individual intelligence and/or because they lack decent knowledge about the things they judge.

Also, while I agree that most of the press and most of the news is manipulated in various ways, I don't think that is the work of the governments. And as I said, "the government" does not need to control "the people": All it needs to control or manipulate are the 5 to 10% of "the people" who oppose "the government" and have some decent ideas, values and intelligence (and who may motivate considerably more people, in propitious circumstances).

Here is the last bit that I'll quote, which also seems mistaken to me:

As Lennon shared in a 1968 interview:

I think all our society is run by insane people for insane objectives… I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal means. If anybody can put on paper what our government and the American government and the Russian… Chinese… what they are actually trying to do, and what they think they’re doing, I’d be very pleased to know what they think they’re doing. I think they’re all insane. But I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”

I do not think that most of "our society" or most of our governors are insane.

I do believe that most people and most governors have mostly mistaken ideas, and I also think that most people and most governors are much more egoistic and much more intellectually limited than they themselves believe, but no: the vast majority may be ignorant or stupid or egoistic or  conformistic, but it simply is a mistake to consider them insane.

4. Forget “dialogue” with Donald Trump and his supporters: They have empowered hatred and harm

The fourth item is by Chauncey DeVega on Salon:

This is from near the beginning:

In total, in the days since Trump’s victory, the Southern Poverty Law Center has documented at least 900 hate crimes against people of color, Muslims, gays, lesbians and others who are marked as the Other in America. Trump’s election is not coincidental to this foul behavior. It is causal.

This post-Trump election outbreak of hate is yet another reminder that the United States is a violent society. Political violence is neither foreign nor strange here; it is part of the nation’s cultural DNA. But even by those standards, this political moment somehow feels different and out of step with the America that elected Barack Obama twice as president and the decades of social and political progress that made his victories possible. Something is very much amiss.

Yes, I mostly agree. What is amiss? Here is part of DeVega's answer:

Politics is often discussed using abstract and seemingly neutral language. Politics is about who gets what, how and why. In a democracy, “politics” and “public opinion” are often explained as being fundamentally about “matters of public concern” to which elites feel obligated to respond.

In all, politics in America is often made to feel and sound like something distant and sterile — matters for bureaucrats and political candidates to fight about. This is a veneer and a mask. The political is very much the personal, and the decisions of politicians impact our day-to-day lives and futures in a myriad of ways.
That is true, and indeed real "[p]olitics is about who gets what, how and why" and is not really about "matters of public concern".

This is about Trump's voters:

Are all of Trump’s voters and supporters sitting around sharpening their knives and salivating at the harm that their champion will do to their fellow Americans who are not white, Christian, straight and male? I imagine that many of them are just selfish, hoping that Trump cuts their taxes, creates new jobs out of nothing and brings back a vanished and largely imaginary era of social uniformity and widespread (white) prosperity.

Others are Christian theocrats who want to take away women’s reproductive rights. And of course, some of his public comprises outright bigots, racists and authoritarians; the basket of human deplorables is undeniably large. A good many are just ignorant nihilists who wanted to “shake things up” in Washington by electing a political incompetent and con artist as the leader of the free world. What was in their hearts as they elected a proto-fascist and an apparent racist to be president of the United States of America is irrelevant. Human history is replete with examples of “good people” doing horrible things to others.

I suppose the above is fair enough, although no one knows the 60 millions who voted for Trump.

The article ends as follows, and I disagree with the last paragraph:

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a large margin. Donald Trump will enter the White House as one of the least popular presidents in modern American history. The Democrats, liberals, progressives and others who opposed Donald Trump and the Republican Party occupy the moral and ethical high ground — even if, in politics it is often scoundrels and not saints who win.

Those who opposed Trump and the Republican Party were trying to protect America’s democratic traditions and institutions. Trump and his supporters are on a highway to hell, as shown by his and their behavior during the presidential campaign and in victory. People of conscience should construct barricades around it. And under no circumstances should they surrender to Trump’s movement.

In Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, he  famously promised to work toward a new American future “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” I publicly promise the opposite. I have nothing but malice toward Donald Trump and his voters, and I offer them no charity of any kind. In this moment true patriotism demands nothing less.

No. I very much dislike Trump; I probably have little intellectual or moral respect for most of his voters; and I agree Trump is very dangerous, but I do not think it is sensible to have only malice to both Trump and his 60 million voters, while I dislike the propagandist move that that is "true patriotism".

5. ‘One of the Great Intellects of His Time’

The fifth and last item today is by Ray Monk on The New York Review of Books:

The "great intellect" described in the title is Frank P. Ramsey (<- Wikipedia) and Ray Monk (<- Wikipedia) is completely right in describing him in that way: In fact I believe myself that Frank Ramsey, Bertrand Russell and Charles Sanders Peirce (who died in 1914) are the greatest philosophers of the 20th Century, and also that Wittgenstein was considerably less intelligent than Ramsey.

Also, I will not defend my judgements here and now, but I started my academic studies as a student of philosophy, and would have made an excellent M.A. in it if I had not been illegally denied the right to take the M.A. briefly before taking it, because I had criticized my very incompetent and very lazy teachers of philosophy in public for being incompetent and lazy. (I also am the only student who was abused in that way since WW II ended, to the best of my knowledge.)

To end this introduction, I add that I have read much of the work of the three great minds mentioned; I have read three books by Ray Monk (two about Russell and one about Wittgenstein (<-Wikipedia); and that I am personally not at all convinced of Wittgenstein's greatness (whom I have also seriously studied).

This is from near the beginning:

What drew [Wittgenstein] back to Cambridge was not the prospect of working again with Russell, who by this time (having been stripped of his fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, because of his opposition to World War I) was a freelance journalist, a political activist, and only intermittently a philosopher. Rather, it was the opportunity of working with Frank Ramsey, the man who had persuaded him of the flaws in the Tractatus. Most significantly, Ramsey had shown that the account Wittgenstein gives of the nature of logic in the Tractatus could not be entirely correct.

Yes, that is all true (and "the nature of logic" was considerably less clear during Ramsey's life than it has become since then).

Here is more about Ramsey and also about the reason for this article:

Ramsey was then only twenty-five years old but already recognized at Cambridge as one of the greatest intellects of his time, not only by Wittgenstein, but also by, among others, Keynes, C.K. Ogden, I.A. Richards, and Russell himself. He was to live just one more year, but in his very brief lifetime he made fundamental contributions to mathematics, philosophy, and economics. Despite the persistent and widespread admiration he arouses among academics, however, Ramsey is little known to the public at large. One of the chief purposes of Frank Ramsey (1903–1930): A Sister’s Memoir, by his younger sister Margaret Paul, is to introduce him to a wider audience.

Yes indeed, though Monk should have mentioned that Ramsey also made a fundamental contribution to logic (about the Principia Mathematica). And it is true that Ramsey is little known (in part because most of his work is technical, in part because he died in 1930), while the book by his sister is the reason for this article.

Here is Monk's opinion on the book by Ramsey's sister:

Perhaps because of the deeply felt desire among his admirers to see Ramsey receive some public attention at last, this memoir has been very warmly welcomed. David Papineau, a philosophy professor at King’s College London, reviewing it in the Times Literary Supplement, writes that Ramsey “has some claim to be the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century” and calls the book “a sensitive and philosophically well-informed memoir.”

What he and others fail to mention, however, is that in many ways this is a disappointing and unsatisfying book. Margaret Paul died in 2002, and the book was evidently not quite finished at the time of her death.
I haven't read Margaret Paul's book, but I suppose Monk is correct. Skipping a lot, there is this on Ramsey on probability:
At the heart of Ramsey’s views on [probability] was a rejection of Keynes’s idea that probability is an objective relation between two propositions. Instead Ramsey saw it as a measure of the strength of our beliefs in what will occur. With characteristic rigor, Ramsey provided a way of bringing to this subjective characterization of probability a strict mathematical analysis, thus preparing the way for modern decision and game theory. The “subjective probability” he devised was quite similar to the later “expected utility theory” of John von Neumann and others. When reviewing the posthumous collection in which “Truth and Probability” was published, Keynes summarized Ramsey’s view and added: “I yield to Ramsey—I think he is right.”
I think myself that indeed Keynes (<-Wikipedia) was mistaken about probability, and that Ramsey is more right, but I don't agree with Ramsey either, but this is too complicated to try to explain here.

This is on Ramsey on Wittgenstein's Tractatus:

The following year, Ramsey published in Mind a brilliant review of the book that combined masterful exposition with typically penetrating criticism. He wrote that the book had “an attractive epigrammatic flavour,” which

perhaps makes it more accurate in detail, as each sentence must have received separate consideration, but it seems to have prevented him from giving adequate explanations of many of his technical terms and theories, perhaps because explanations require some sacrifice of accuracy.

It was Ramsey’s criticisms, made both in that review and also in person when Ramsey visited him in 1924, that persuaded Wittgenstein to return both to philosophy and, eventually, to Cambridge with Ramsey.

That is also correct, and Ramsey was quite right that Wittgenstein did not give "adequate explanations of many of his technical terms and theories".

This is about Ramsey as a person:

Ramsey was an extraordinarily intelligent man whose every word on logic, mathematics, economics, and philosophy is worth contemplating. He was not, however, a great imaginative writer or a man blessed, or cursed, with a particularly intense, unusual, or noteworthy emotional life.

That is also true to the best of my knowledge (although I do not know how Monk knows that Ramsey was not a man "with a particularly intense, unusual, or noteworthy emotional life", but he may be right).

This is the last bit that I'll quote:

With Ramsey’s young death, the world of learning was robbed of one of its most glittering stars. It is now time that he receive his due. What is needed is a thorough biography that would describe and place in intellectual history his important contributions to economics, mathematics, and philosophy, while keeping an eye out for what Virginia Woolf called the “fertile facts” that would reveal to us not only the impressive mind, but also the somewhat elusive personality of this extraordinary man.

Yes, indeed. But who should write that biography? One possibility is Ray Monk himself, who is 59 and who spent 10 years on Russell's biography and it seems also 10 years on Wittgenstein's biography.

But I don't know. This is a recommended article, although I guess not very many will read it.

[1] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months verynow. 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 whatsoever for anyone).

[2] At least, that is what I think. You may disagree, but if so, see the
crisis index that now has over 1400 (!!) articles since September 1, 2008. (And I am very sorry that nearly everything about the NSA is secret.)

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