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
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
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
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" (<-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
This starts as follows:
The third item is by John Whitehead on
Washington's Blog and originally on the Rutherford Institute:
“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
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
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
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 ).
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
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
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:
Yes, I mostly agree. What is amiss? Here is
part of DeVega's answer:
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.
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".
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
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:
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".
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.
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:
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
(who died in 1914) are the greatest philosophers of the 20th Century,
and also that Wittgenstein was considerably less intelligent than
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
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:
I haven't read Margaret Paul's book, but I
suppose Monk is correct. Skipping a lot, there is this on Ramsey on probability:
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.
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:
Yes, indeed. But who should write
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
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.
But I don't know. This is a recommended article, although I guess not
very many will read it.