Sunday, December 3, 2017

Crisis: Tax Heist, Corporate Coup, The Poor and Ill, Psychology, On Reich, Opioids

Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 3, 2017
3. Extra: The US Opioid Crisis

This is a Nederlog of Sunday
, December 3, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from December 3, 2017
1. A Historic Tax Heist
2. America’s War on America
3. Disastrous Republican Tax Plan Is Only the First Step
4. 5 Key Psychological Traits of Trump Supporters
5. Robert Reich: How Clinton and Obama Failed to Defend the
     Middle Class
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. A Historic Tax Heist

This article is by The Editorial Board of The New York Times. It starts as follows:
With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost.
The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people
stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.

Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.
Yes indeed: I think this is all quite correct. And I do agree that
"the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost."
That is, the few rich are stealing billions from everybody else, and got that far by buying most politicians.

Next, there is this:
Because the Senate was rewriting its bill till the last minute, only the dealmakers themselves knew what the chamber voted on.
As I have said before, this means that for me this cannot be a law in a democracy: The great majority of the votes in the Senate and in Congress were by people who do not know the text of the bills they endorse or oppose.

That is possible only in either an authoritarian system or in a dictatorship. And indeed, since this is passed into law, I conclude (as I also did before) that this is a law but this is not a law in a democracy: It is a deeply authoritariam and in fact, in my terms, a neofascistic law.

And by "neofascism" I mean this (and this a definition by a logical philosopher, that is far better than any definition I have read by journalists of either "fascism" or "neofascism"):

Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
I think both Trump and the Republican Senators are neofascists, in the given sense: Check out the points!

Finally, I quote this bit:
The votes for the bill by Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona were particularly disheartening.
Well... how much did they get from the very rich for voting for the neofascistic tax bill? In fact, I don't think we'll ever know, but my own view was from the beginning that it was an attempt by the Senators to get richer, and not to please or displease voters: They are in, and from then on they can do and say and lie as they please.

This is a recommended article.

2. America’s War on America

This article is by Eric Ortiz (the managing editor of Truthdig). This is from near the beginning:
The new U.S. tax plan is a scam—a corporate coup—that benefits a few rich and powerful Americans that make the most and want to pay the least. They are the owners of our country, the plutocrats and oligarchs that run this nation and tell politicians what to do, such as increase the military budget from $793.7 billion in 2017 to $824.6 billion in 2018. We, the 99 percent, are not in the club. Anyone who wants a fair and just society becomes an enemy of the state.
Yes indeed - and this does go a bit further than the previous NYT article, and is quite correct in doing so: The votes in the Senate and in Congress are mostly bought, and they are all bought by the rich, also in the Democratic Party (though possibly not on this tax bill).

Then there is this:
The story of income inequality in the United States is as old as the republic itself. But the latest tax-cut measure takes capitalist greed to a new level of inhumanity. The bill has the potential to destroy life for millions of working families, women, children, the sick, old and poor.
Yes indeed, except that (i) the capitalist greed is now back where it was in the 1920ies and that (ii) - see neofascism above - the one criterion the Republican use is profit: If you don't make considerable profits yourself, you are not fit to live in Trump's neofascistic USA, and you're better of dead, indeed in part because your job will soon be done by articial intelligence.

Then there is this - and I am a big fan of George Carlin. I also regard him as an important and very courageous social philosopher:
As George Carlin said “The owners know the truth. It’s called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.”
You are strongly recommended to see the video (3 min 14 sec). Here is one quote from it:
(George Carlin on the rich): "They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well informed well educated people capable of critical thinking."
Precisely: What the very rich want is ignorant and stupid people.

Back to the article. Here is the last bit that I quote:
Both the Republican and Democratic parties are complicit and responsible for our unequal present and uncertain future. Neither has a path toward freedom and equality for all. The liberal vs. conservative paradigm is a dirty trick, meant to divide the American people and maintain the illusion of democracy while neoliberal oligarchs and corporatists have looted the public for the past 30 years without conscience or consequence.
Unfortunately, this is partially confused, simply because it seems to identify democracy vs. non-democracy with liberal vs. conservative: The first opposition is about laws and politics, while the second opposition is about ideas, and these are true or false regardless of whether the state is democratically governed or not.

But this is a recommended article.

3. Disastrous Republican Tax Plan Is Only the First Step

This article is by Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet. (I shortened the title.) This is from near the beginning:

If all the Republicans were doing was lining the pockets of the already rich, that would be bad enough—pick your adjective. But that’s not the endgame. Before the Senate voted, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a past presidential candidate, said the Republicans must make additional cuts to Social Security and Medicare, both federal programs for those over age 65 as well as people with disabilities and parentless children (..)

Why doesn't Rubio simply say: "I want these worthless people who don't make any profit to be dead as soon as possible?" For that is what it comes down to.

More specifically, Rubio seems to want to kill 57 million Americans:

[The Trump Taxes are]  projected to impose $400 billion in cuts to senior healthcare in the next decade The PayGo trigger will “undermine the delivery of care to the 57 million seniors and disabled Americans who depend on the program,” wrote Max Richtman, head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

You doubt this? Well... it is nearly 10 times as much as the six million Jews that were killed by the Nazis, and indeed he also doesn't want them murdered or locked up. He just wants their money:

“At a moment when 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day, members of the Senate have stolen the retirement health benefits that Americans have earned over a lifetime to provide an unneeded windfall to the top 1 percent," Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said. "They seem determined to create a retirement crisis that will take decades to reverse."

And that well may cause many millions to suicide for lack of money and lack of medical care. (And see below.)

4. 5 Key Psychological Traits of Trump Supporters

This article is by Bobby Azarian ("a cognitive neuroscientist") on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

The lightning-fast ascent and political invincibility of Donald Trump has left many experts baffled and wondering, “How did we get here?” Any accurate and sufficient answer to that question must not only focus on Trump himself, but also on his uniquely loyal supporters. Given their extreme devotion and unwavering admiration for their highly unpredictable and often inflammatory leader, some have turned to the field of psychology for scientific explanations based on precise quantitative data and established theoretical frameworks.

I am sorry, but I am a psychologist and a philosopher of science and I totally deny that "the field of psychology [produes] scientific explanations based on precise quantitative data and established theoretical frameworks".

Physics does. Chemistry does. Biology does. Psychology emphatically does not, and if you want to read a good argument try this, by Paul Lutus: Psychology and Neuroscience.

In fact, I am also considerably less optimistic about "cognitive neuroscience" than Paul Lutus, if only for the simple reason that it is just starting, and many of those have been educated as psychologists (which is not a proper scientific education).

Here is more by Azarian:

Although analyses and studies by psychologists and neuroscientists have provided many thought-provoking explanations for his enduring support, the accounts of different experts often vary greatly, sometimes overlapping and other times conflicting. However insightful these critiques may be, it is apparent that more research and examination is needed to hone in on the exact psychological and social factors underlying this peculiar human behavior.

To put this is in non-academic English:

At present psychologists and neuroscientists are contradicting each other in very many ways and on very many things, but believe me, as an academic scientist: "more research and examination is needed". (O Lord!)

Then there is this by Academic Psychologist Pettigrew - and I only copy Pettigrew titles and leave out his texts (...)

In a recent review paper published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology, Psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew argues that five major psychological phenomena can help explain this exceptional political event.
1.     Authoritarian Personality Syndrome
2.     Social dominance orientation 
3.     Prejudice (...)
4.     Intergroup contact
5.     Relative deprivation

The texts I omitted are again written in academese "English". One of the tricks used is to redefine everything as abbreviations, like "Social Dominance Orientation" (?!) is mentioned once and then turned to "SDO".

Finally, here is the end which illustrates more academese "English"

For example, an analysis conducted by FiveThirtyEight estimated that the median annual income of Trump supporters was $72,000.

If such data is accurate, the portrayal of most Trump supporters as “working class” citizens rebelling against Republican elites may be more myth than fact.

What I mean is this: "If such data is accurate" (why would he mention it if he thinks it is not accurate, to start with?!), but let us suppose so, for he does say "If". But OK, then the median income of Trump supporters is $72,000. It is an assumptiom, started with "If" but it has some evidence.

Well, "If" so, the "may" is academese baloney. And if the "may" is not academese baloney, then the assumption that Trump supporters earn $ 72,000 is not correct. (Simple logic.)

I think - as a psychologist and a philosopher of science - this article is academese baloney.

5. Robert Reich: How Clinton and Obama Failed to Defend the Middle Class

This article is by David Sirota on AlterNet and originally on International Business Times. It starts as follows:
How did Donald Trump win the presidency? In a new podcast interview with International Business Times, former Clinton adminstration Labor Secretary Robert Reich says the Republican was able to take advantage of voters' frustration with both parties' failure to confront corporations' growing power over American life — and Reich faulted Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for failing to "deal with the structural problems" in the economy.

Reich spoke to IBT during the release of his new Netflix documentary "Saving Capitalism," which argues that an unprecedented flood of corporate campaign cash resulted in public policies that have distorted capitalism and harmed America's middle class.
This is a fairly long interview and I will just quote two bits from it. But before doing so, I should say that one of the things I disagree with Reich is about capitalism. It will take me much too far to explain most of my reasons for this - rather fundamental - disagreement, but I will give two:

One. Capitalism exists about 200 years now (since the 1820ies or so). There is nothing necessary about it, and it may well be replaced by other models, including the neo-feudalism that the Republicans support, in which the strongest players are no longer governments but international corporations (like Facebook, Google, Amazone, Apple and Microsoft).

Two. There is a very simple solution to save most of capitalism, that is i.a. based on private property: Keep everything else as it is, but do not allow any human beimng to make or earn more money than $300,000 a year (in present terms).

You may excel in anything you are capable of - mathematics, languages, sports, theater, philosophy, dancing, music, you name it - except that no one may amass more personal power and more money (and money = power in the present system) then what corresponds to $300,000 a year, which means that only 1% of the American population will be hit by such a measure: 99% of the Americans earns less.

Reich does not consider either point at all. Here is the first bit I quote (and Reich says considerably more):

You argue that capitalism needs to be saved, but what is your response to polls showing many Americans want an alternative to capitalism?

If we could come up with something that was much different, we might want to try that, but even the Chinese who call themselves a communist nation practice a form of capitalism in terms of private property and the free exchange of goods and services. I think the real question is what I meant by ‘saving capitalism’: saving capitalism from the moneyed interests that are now distorting our system of capitalism in ways that make it very difficult for most people to get ahead.

In the first place, the Chinese may be called "a communist nation", precisely as the Soviet Union was called "a socialist nation", but either term was just propaganda for and by the very few who rule(d) these societies.

And in the second place, Reich is not speaking about capitalism - that exists for 200 years and was much more inequal between 1820 and 1940 than it was between 1945 and 1980 (mostly thanks to John Maynard Keynes): He is speaking about laws and politics.

Here is the other bit that I quote from the much longer interview:

You argue that we are living in a an age in which money has an unprecedented influence on politics. But were things really better in past eras? 

I think we're back to that Gilded Age right now, but we did have a period beginning after the second World War, culminating in the late '40s, '50s, '60s where we were much more equal society.

This is correct - and as I said, this was mostly due to John Maynard Keynes (who was as pro capitalism as Reich is), but these were again legal and political changes.

Section 3. Extra:

Finally, here is an extra bit, namely a video by Abby Martin on the Opioid Crisis that takes 21 min 56 sec:
This is a very good interview with lawyer Mike Papantonio. Here is the text under the video:
A new phenomenon has emerged in the United States: 64,000 people died in 2016 of a drug overdose—with 80% from opioids—with levels of addiction nearly 500% higher over the last six years.

Behind this epidemic is a multi-billion dollar industry, that feeds drug manufacturing giants, distributers and more.

With the US government failing to address the crisis, one law firm has taken to a massive lawsuit. Head of that case is Mike Papantonio, who also won major lawsuits against big tobacco, chemical corporations and more. Abby Martin interviews him about this new suit, and why he is pushing for many executives to go to jail.
This is strongly recommended and also both quite amazing and quite horrible in its implications.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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