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Nederlog

Wednesday, Apr 5, 2017

Crisis: On Trump's Lies, Cellphone Searches, Noam Chomsky, Mainstream Media


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Why Trump Lies
2.
Lawmakers Move To Stop Warrantless Cellphone Searches at
     the U.S. Border

3. Full Interview: Noam Chomsky on Trump's First 75 Days &
     Much More

4. Mainstream Media as Arbiters of Truth
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday
, April 5, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and ten dotted links: Item 1 is about part 2 of a good series in the Los Angeles Times; item 2 is about the warrantless cellphone searches that are done at the U.S. Border: A new law has been introduced that forbids it, but it is based on the Fourth Amendment and only applies to American
citizens; item 3 is about a fine interview with Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now! and
I should add that I reviewed the first article, but there are no less than six more, which
are all linked in this Nederlog, but not reviewed; and item 4 is about an article by Robert Parry on a really crazy attitude of the mainstream media: They are - they themselves completely falsely propose - the ones who decide what the truth is, much
rather than the people who lived through it or the people who got a decent scientific education to find out what may be the truth: Now it are the journalists and editors of the - usually lying - mainstream media who are set up by
the journalists and editors of the - usually lying - mainstream media as the deciders of what is true and what is false. It is utter crap, but it is popular in the USA.
April 5: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site again failed to upload and got stuck on Sunday. These horrors happen now for the 16th month.

I still have to add that where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Why Trump Lies

The first article today is by the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times:

This starts as follows and it continues yesterday's Guaranteed: You Have Never Read a Major Newspaper Editorial Quite Like This One About Donald Trump, which I owe to Don Hazen on AlterNet:

Donald Trump did not invent the lie and is not even its master. Lies have oozed out of the White House for more than two centuries and out of politicians’ mouths — out of all people’s mouths — likely as long as there has been human speech.

But amid all those lies, told to ourselves and to one another in order to amass power, woo lovers, hurt enemies and shield ourselves against the often glaring discomfort of reality, humanity has always had an abiding respect for truth.

In the United States, born and periodically reborn out of the repeated recognition and rejection of the age-old lie that some people are meant to take dominion over others, truth is as vital a part of the civic, social and intellectual culture as justice and liberty. Our civilization is premised on the conviction that such a thing as truth exists, that it is knowable, that it is verifiable, that it exists independently of authority or popularity and that at some point — and preferably sooner rather than later — it will prevail.

This is quoted directly from the Los Angeles Times. As I said yesterday: The Los Angeles Times may have returned to the tradition of fact-based reporting that seems to have been mostly practised till the 1980ies, but then slowly evaporated as computers and the internet arose, and the paper press lost most of its advertisements.

This part 2 (of several more parts) continues this return. I will follow the other parts as well (and am repressing here and now my experiences in the University of Amsterdam, where I was told in 1978 (!!) that "everybody knows that truth does not exist", and which was led according tot those - utterly insane - principles from 1978 till 1995 (and may be still)).

But yes, the Los Angeles Times is quite correct when they wrote in 2017 (!!) that

Our civilization is premised on the conviction that such a thing as truth exists, that it is knowable, that it is verifiable, that it exists independently of authority or popularity and that at some point — and preferably sooner rather than later — it will prevail.

And the University of Amsterdam was completely wrong from 1978-1995 when they, their board of directors, and the vast majority of its students and staff insisted, postmodernistically and totally dishonestly, that "everybody knows that truth does not exist". (More later.)

This is about Trump's position as regards to what is true (which is completely like what I and everybody else was taught in the University of Amsterdam between 1978 and 1995):

The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth.

His approach succeeds because of his preternaturally deft grasp of his audience. Though he is neither terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician, he has a remarkable instinct for discerning which conspiracy theories in which quasi-news source, or which of his own inner musings, will turn into ratings gold.
I think the first paragraph is quite true, indeed both for Trump and for the vast majority of those I experienced in the University of Amsterdam (where at least 95% fondly and proudly accepted the totally false thesis that "everybody knows that truth does not exist" - and this is a literal quote from 1978).

And I think that the second paragraph may well give too much to Trump's talents: He indeed is not "
terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician", but he also is very much helped by the stupidity and the ignorance of the majority of Americans.

I think that is undeniable, and I think it is also a virtual certainty that if education had been quite a bit better the last 40 years, Trump would not have had a chance of winning the presidency. (But alas!)

Then there is this on Trump and his talents (which, as I just said, narrowly correspond to the lack of rational talents of the majority of Americans):

But he is not merely amusing. He is dangerous. His choice of falsehoods and his method of spewing them — often in tweets, as if he spent his days and nights glued to his bedside radio and was periodically set off by some drivel uttered by a talk show host who repeated something he’d read on some fringe blog — are a clue to Trump’s thought processes and perhaps his lack of agency. He gives every indication that he is as much the gullible tool of liars as he is the liar in chief.

He has made himself the stooge, the mark, for every crazy blogger, political quack, racial theorist, foreign leader or nutcase peddling a story that he might repackage to his benefit as a tweet, an appointment, an executive order or a policy. He is a stranger to the concept of verification, the insistence on evidence and the standards of proof that apply in a courtroom or a medical lab — and that ought to prevail in the White House.

Perhaps there is a little - justified - exaggeration in the beginning of this quotation,
but it is quite correct in saying that Trump "
is a stranger to the concept of verification, the insistence on evidence and the standards of proof that apply in a courtroom or a medical lab" or indeed more widely among rational scientists.

Finally, there is this:

Our civilization is defined in part by the disciplines — science, law, journalism — that have developed systematic methods to arrive at the truth. Citizenship brings with it the obligation to engage in a similar process. Good citizens test assumptions, question leaders, argue details, research claims.

Investigate. Read. Write. Listen. Speak. Think. Be wary of those who disparage the investigators, the readers, the writers, the listeners, the speakers and the thinkers. Be suspicious of those who confuse reality with reality TV, and those who repeat falsehoods while insisting, against all evidence, that they are true. To defend freedom, demand fact.

I agree for the most part, but since I am a philosopher and a scientist, my own criterions for who has the last - provisional - say on what the real facts are, are
not lawyers or judges, and not journalists: it are only real scientists, simply because
only these studied both the real facts, the real assumptions and the real mathematical methods that determine what is probably true as a matter of fact.

But this is a quite good, quite rational and therefore quite sensible piece of journalism, which is strongly recommended that you read all of.

2. Lawmakers Move To Stop Warrantless Cellphone Searches at the U.S. Border

The second article is by Cora Currier on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Four members of Congress have introduced legislation that would require border agents to get a warrant to search through someone’s cellphone or laptop, bringing privacy rights at ports of entry closer to those that courts have recognized for the rest of the country.

The bill makes it illegal to access the contents of a device belonging to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident without probable cause and a warrant, and specifies that border agents can’t hold people for more than four hours to try to get them to unlock their phone or give up their data.
I like the bill, which is sponsored by two Republicans and by two Democrats, but I am a bit in the dark legally, for - it seems to me, but I am not an American and know some but not much of American law - I'd say this has been the law ever since the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution (<-Wikipedia) became law, which happened in the 18th Century.

Here is the law that is now being proposed:
The bill states that accessing without a warrant electronic equipment, the contents of an online account, or information about someone’s online life is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Border agents are not allowed to deny someone entry for refusing to provide a password or unlock their information, a protection the bill clarifies. It does include an exception for emergency situations.
I agree with all of that, although - quite possibly naively, as I just said - it seems to me these regulations were and are the law since the 18th Century.

And there also is a serious shortcoming, that goes back to American laws and also - it would seem to me - the fairly crazy idea that being born or made American makes you into someone who is more exceptional (and good, and moral, and desirable) than anyone who lacks American citizenship:
The bill does not add any protections for travelers to the United States who are not citizens or permanent residents. Late last year, the CBP began asking travelers from certain countries for their social media handles, and the Trump administration has indicated it will take this much farther. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the administration’s plans for “extreme vetting” of visa applicants would include asking them to turn over their cellphones so U.S. authorities could look at their contacts, and to provide social media account names and passwords. The changes would apply even to travelers coming on short trips and from Europe and other countries covered by the visa waiver program.
As I have said before, these are simply the standard techniques of the police state.

3. Full Interview: Noam Chomsky on Trump's First 75 Days & Much More

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

This starts with the following introduction:

Full 70-minute interview with Noam Chomsky on Democracy Now! today talking about Donald Trump’s first 75 days in the White House and much more.

Actually, the interview that is linked above and extracted and reviewed below is just one of seven interviews with Noam Chomsky that Democracy Now! published yesterday. I say!

I can't review all seven articles in Nederlog, and in fact I only review the first interview
today, but I can link the other six, and you find them at the end of the extract of the present interview.

Here is the start of the interview:
AMY GOODMAN: (..) To help make sense of where the country stands 75 days into the Trump administration, we’re joined by one of the world’s best-known dissidents, the linguist and activist Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than 50 years. He is the author of more than a hundred books. His latest book comes out today. It’s titled Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
And this is Chomsky's answer to the question "where the country stands 75 days into the Trump administration":
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I think it was captured pretty well by a Los Angeles Times editorial, which simply called it a "train wreck." But it’s very consistent, very systematic. Anything that can be of assistance to ordinary people, working people, middle-class people, people on the street—any such program has to be decimated. Anything that adds to wealth and power or that increases the use of force, that we carry forward.
Yes, indeed. I'll start with some background.

The
"train wreck" is from the item in the Los Angeles Times's "Our Dishonest President" that was reviewed here yesterday (and the present Nederlog started with reviewing part II of the same interesting series).

The program that Chomsky unfolds, and that he correctly calls "
very consistent, very systematic", is what I defined as neofascism. (And this is a clear and good definition, which is much better than anything else I have seen that attempts to define the same modern phenomenon.)

Third and last for the moment: I think it was a mistake to say that Trump is "unpredictable": He is, indeed, in so far as the selection of the topics for his Tweets
are concerned, but he also has been
"very consistent, very systematic" in unfolding his neofascist laws, orders and regulations.

Next, Chomsky describes healthcare, which I leave to your interests, and which he then summarizes as follows:

But it just doesn’t matter what people think. When Obama put through his own program, I think support for the public option was almost two-thirds, but it was simply dismantled. When this is—occasionally, this is discussed in the press, New York Times, others. And they mention it. They say it’s a possibility, but it’s called politically impossible, which is correct, which means you can’t pass it through the pharmaceutical corporations and financial institutions. That’s politically possible in what’s called democracy.
Yes indeed, although this is - justifiedly - cynical: Democracy has been mostly killed, which is why the voices of the majority simply "aren't heard anymore" (they are, but that is the pretense, and indeed they are not reported); and therefore what is now deemed "politically impossible" is to bypass "the pharmaceutical corporations and financial institutions" who are the real holders of power in healthcare, very much rather than the people whose health they are supposed to care about, but don't: They only care for their own profits.

Then there is this on the very many incompetencies that mark the present Democratic Party (that has been mostly appropriated by the rich who work for the rich, like Hillary Clinton):
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, you can understand why the Democratic Party managers want to try to find some blame for the fact—for the way they utterly mishandled the election and blew a perfect opportunity to win, handed it over to the opposition. But that’s hardly a justification for allowing the Trump policies to slide by quietly, many of them not only harmful to the population, but extremely destructive, like the climate change policies (...)
And here is Chomsky on what he considers - I think correctly - the major threats of the present, and also on how these issues are dealt with in the mainstream media:
In 1953, right after the U.S. and Russia tested hydrogen bombs, thermonuclear weapons, it went to two minutes to midnight. That’s the closest it’s been to total disaster. Right now, as soon as Trump came in, it was moved to two-and-a-half minutes to midnight, both because of the nuclear threat, recognized to be serious, and the threat of environmental catastrophe, which was not considered in the earlier years, now is.

Now, those are, overwhelmingly, the most crucial issues that face us. Everything else fades into insignificance in comparison to them. Those are literally questions of survival. And two-and-a-half minutes to midnight means extraordinary danger. These should be the major focus of attention. And it’s kind of astonishing to see the way they’re ignored. Throughout the whole electoral campaign, practically no mention of them.
Yes indeed, and the main reason is that the mainstream media have been bought by the rich, and speak with their voices, in their kinds of dishonesty:

There is hardly any mention of climate change, for the Republicans would not like this; and there also is hardly any mention of nuclear dangers, for this would just disquiet the people whose lives are at issue.

As to the mainstream media being bought by the rich, there is this on their political policies as compared with popular attitudes:
Popular attitudes, we know a lot about from extensive polling. And the results are pretty startling. Turns out that about 70 percent of voters, which is maybe half the electorate—about 70 percent of voters are literally disenfranchised, the lower 70 percent on the income scale, meaning that their own representatives pay no attention to their—to their attitudes and preferences. If you move up the income scale, you get a little more correlation, more—a little more influence. The very top, which is probably a fraction of 1 percent, if you could get the data, it’s where policy is set. Now, the Trump administration is kind of a caricature of this. It’s always pretty much true. But here they’re—it’s as if they’re kind of purposely trying to flaunt the fact that this country is run by Goldman Sachs and billionaires, and nobody else counts.
Yes indeed - and in fact they are mostly right, for the present USA is being "run by Goldman Sachs and billionaires", though I agree that "Goldman Sachs and billionaires"
are (at least now) mistaken in also flaunting the fact that "
nobody else counts".

They are mistaken about the last fact, not because they are mistaken that, in their eyes,
"nobody" but the rich "counts", but because they do not - yet - have the power
to say so without being objected to.

And there is this on how easily the U.S. population is frightened, on which Chomsky is quite correct:
NOAM CHOMSKY: And this is a very frightened country. For years, this has been probably the most frightened country in the world. It’s also the safest country in the world. It’s very easy to terrify people.
I completely agree, and once again publish what is very easy to do when your population is easily frightened:



Note what seems to be a real and very depressing truth in that quotation: "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders." That is, not everyone, but the majority - which is sufficient for the small minority that leads these
majorities to grasp all the
power they can and to do what they like, including starting wars.

Next, Chomsky discusses two quite important publications from the 1970ies, namely
the Powell Memorandum (<-Wikipedia) and The Crisis of Democracy (<-Wikipedia):
You take these two publications side by side. They differ rhetorically. The Powell Memorandum is literally a tantrum. The Crisis of Democracy is big words, moderate, you know, intellectuals and so on. But the message is not that very different. It’s saying we—that democracy is simply a threat. The population has to be restored to passivity, then everything will be fine. In fact, Huntington, the American rapporteur, says, kind of nostalgically, that Truman had been able to run the country with the cooperation of a few corporate executives and Wall Street lawyers. That was the good old days, when democracy was functioning. You didn’t have all these demands and so on. And remember, this is the liberal end of the spectrum. Then you get the Powell Memorandum, which is the harsher end and rhetorically, literally, kind of like a tantrum.
In fact, since 1980 democracy in the USA has been mostly killed, and no one but the 1% got increased salaries since 1980, but then indeed the incomes of the very few rich got very much higher than they were.

Also - two themes Chomsky doesn't mention in this context - the mainstream media have been sold to the rich and mostly reproduce government propaganda, while absolutely everyone absolutely anywhere is constantly surveilled in secret by the secret services.

Here is one conclusion Chomsky draws about a good part of the American population (that when not rich did not make any real increase in salary since 1980, and that did
almost completely lose any voice in American politics):
And the roots of it are what are called diseases of despair. People don’t have hope for the future—and for pretty good reasons, if you look at the facts of the matter. Real male wages today are pretty much at the level of the '60s. In 2007, at the time when there was a good deal of euphoria about the economy, how wonderful it's doing, great moderation and so on, economists praising Alan Greenspan as the greatest figure since Moses or something—"Saint Alan," he was called—right at the peak of euphoria, right before the crash, real wages for American workers were lower than they were in 1979, when the neoliberal experiments were just beginning.
Precisely - which also shows how successful the neoliberal attempts to cloud and hide the truth were, which again was possible through the rich buying up the mainstream media.

And at this point, after this extract, there are six more interviews with Chomsky on Democracy Now! I can't extract them all in Nederlog, not even in part, so here are
their titles with links:
I think they are all quite interesting and worthwile to read, although I grant that persons who followed Nederlog the last four years or so probably have a fairly good idea what Noam Chomsky thinks.

In any case, all of this is quite interesting, and all of it is recommended.

4. Mainstream Media as Arbiters of Truth

The fourth article is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

The mainstream U.S. media is never more unctuous and unprofessional as when it asserts that it alone must be the arbiter of what is true and what is not, regardless of what the evidence shows or doesn’t show.

Let me stop right there: It is a completely false and also quite crazy thesis that the "mainstream U.S. media" are capable or competent to decide "what is true and what is not".

For the "mainstream U.S. media", even if they were really democratic, which they are not, and even if they always wrote the truth, which in fact they do not often do, are not the ones who decide "what is true and what is not", for journalists and editors just are not qualified to do so, and if they think they are, they are mistaking their own capacity to write "the dinner" with the dinner: All they produce is words, not facts.

And what the real facts are is not decided by journalists or editors, but by the real people who lived through these facts (and whose words are believed or not by journalists), or else by people who have scientific qualifications to pronounce with some rational confidence on what the real facts (probably) are.

That is something no journalist and no editor is capable of doing, though each journalist
and each editor is capable of asking real people what they think really happened in their lives, and
each journalist and each editor is capable of asking real scientists what they think are the facts of the matter.

Here is Parry's exposition of someone who completely disagrees with everything I just said, and who insists that he is capable of deciding what the facts are:

For instance, New York Times columnist Charles W. Blow declared on Monday that the public can [no](?) longer debate whether Russia leaked to WikiLeaks the emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta despite the failure of the U.S. government or private researchers to present evidence that establishes that claim as fact.

Blow acknowledged that “We are still not conclusively able to connect the dots on the question of whether there was any coordination or collusion between members of Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians … but those dots do continue to multiply at an alarming rate.”

But Blow also asserted that “It is absolutely clear that the Russians did interfere in our election. This is not a debatable issue. This is not fake news. This is not a witch hunt. This happened.”

Blow chastised people who still wanted evidence of this now non-debatable issue, seeing them at fault “because this fact [of the Russian meddling] keeps getting obscured in the subterfuge of deflection, misdirection and ideological finger-pointing about what has yet to be proven.”

So, if you insist on asking for proof of the core allegation in Russia-gate, you are guilty of “subterfuge…, misdirection and ideological finger-pointing.”

While in fact these accusations of "subterfuge…, misdirection and ideological finger-pointing" are simply projections of what Blow does himself: He has no
evidence, and so he insists his opinions are facts, and that whoever denies or
doubts this is a Putin-lover. (This is very easy to do: all you need is impertinence.)

And then you get the following utterly sick - neofascistic - lies:

And, that campaign indeed has been replete with McCarthyism. You even have The Washington Post promoting a blacklist of 200 Internet news sites (including Consortiumnews.com and other prominent independent-minded outlets) as guilty of “Russian propaganda” for reporting skeptically on some State Department claims about the New Cold War.

I have written about this and in fact it is my opinion that if quite a few of these blacklisted internet news sites - where I get most of my news about the USA - are blacklisted, this is a certain sign that from that moment onward the USA has turned into the NUSA, that is the Neofascistic United States of America.

This article ends as follows:

So, in light of the mainstream media’s dismal performance over the decades, what is one to make of the dictate now that we must accept that the Russians did leak the emails to WikiLeaks even if no one is showing us the evidence? It also appears that we are supposed to dismiss the contents of the emails as “fake news” (even though they are genuine) so that will buttress the narrative that Russia is undermining our democracy by disseminating “fake news.”

Perhaps getting people to accept this false narrative is crucial to giving credibility to the Times’ full-page ads professing the newspaper’s undying love of the truth and to The Washington Post’s new melodramatic slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

While there’s no doubt that truth is important to an informed electorate, there is something scary when the mainstream media, which has such a checkered history of misreporting the truth, asserts that it is the one that gets to decide what the truth is.

Yes indeed - and as I outlined above, in fact newspapers never decide what the truth is: They only report on what the people they interviewed think the truth is, while those who probably know the truth are the real people who lived through the experiencies they were interviewed about, or the people who have scientific competence and qualifications to make rational decisions about truth-claims, and these are real scientists.

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