Monday, December 4, 2017

Crisis: Sexual Abuse, Lost Einsteins, On Prosperity, On Nuclear War, On Corporations

Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 4, 2017

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, December 4, 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 4, 2017
1. A Women’s Revolt That Targets Far More Than Sexual Abuse
2. Lost Einsteins: The Innovations We’re Missing
3. The True Path to Prosperity
4. Fate of the Earth Considered Again
5. AI Has Already Taken Over. It’s Called the Corporation.
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 Women’s Revolt That Targets Far More Than Sexual Abuse

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The press, trumpeting the lurid and salacious details of the sexual assault charges brought against powerful men, has missed the real story—the widespread popular revolt led by women, many of whom have stood up, despite vicious attacks and the dictates of legally binding nondisclosure agreements, to denounce the entitlement of the corporate and political elites. This women’s revolt is not solely about sexual abuse. It is about fighting a corporate power structure that institutionalizes and enables misogyny, racism and bigotry. It is about rejecting the belief that wealth and power give the elites the right to engage in economic, political, social and sexual sadism. It challenges the twisted ethic that those who are crushed and humiliated by the rich, the famous and the powerful have no rights and no voice. Let’s hope this is the beginning, not the end.
Yes indeed: I basically agree, and indeed especially with the thesis that "wealth and power give the elites the right to engage in economic, political, social and sexual sadism".

Quite so - and because I am a philosopher and a psychologist here is my own definition of sadism (in part), that was written in 2007:
Sadism: pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others or from causing others pain or misery.
When sadism is defined without necessary involvement of sexual pleasure, but in effect as the human-all-too-human joys derived from malice, it may be seen that sadism, thus defined, accounts for many human acts, especially against those whom the perpetrators dislike, consider as enemies, or believe to be inferior. Indeed, there is much more sadism in human beings than  most are willing to admit: Very many people derive much pleasure from being in positions of power and by hurting, denigrating, demeaning or displeasing others. It probably does not arouse most of them sexually, but they wouldn't do it if it did not please them.
For clearly most of the harm that human beings have done to human beings - millions upon millions killed, tortured, raped, exploited, starved, persecuted - was done on purpose, and willingly, and for the noblest sounding moral pretexts.

Accordingly, this 'human-all-too-human' desire to hurt, harm, demean, denigrate, abuse or exploit others is one of the normally unacknowledged forces of history, as is stupidity.

So for me the rich and powerful men who sexually assault or rape women are in the first place sadists, as defined above, who indulge in sadism because they think they can and want to, and who use this to get sexual satisfaction. [2]

And I should say one more thing about the above quotation: I hope I am mistaken, but I fear the present commotion about sexual exploitation, sexual assault and rape probably will be switched off by the mainstream media within a month or two. (Yes, I am a pessimist, but then I am so on the basis of fifty years of experiences, in which I have been terrorized for seven years while the mayor and the police of Amsterdam refused to do anything for me, included refusing to answer my letters - which also is still the case.)

Here is the next quotation:

The pathology of men who force women to watch them masturbate in the shower or who close their office doors so they can drop their pants or grope terrified and humiliated job applicants, interns or co-workers is emblematic of the narcissism and unbridled self-adulation that come with excessive power. These assaults are expressions of the widespread objectification of women mainlined by a pornified culture. Eroticism is not mutual in pornography or prostitution. The men get off by humiliating, degrading, insulting and physically violating women. The current revelations are not, in the end, even about sex.
Indeed: they are about power and about sadism that gets unlocked because of power. And I agree this is a pathology.

Here is the last bit that I quote, that shows (again) that Hedges seems to agree with me:
The powerful men engaging in sexual predation live in a rarified universe where they own everyone around themselves. They demand unquestioned obedience. They must be the center of attention. Their opinions alone count. Their feelings alone are important. They cannot discern right from wrong and lies from truth. They are modern slave masters. Those who work for them are forced to sing, dance and provide physical pleasure or get the whip. And they have the power, granted to them by corporate and political institutions, to persecute and discredit any who defy them. This pathology captures not only the bleak inner core of Trump but also many of his political rivals, including Bill Clinton.
Yes, I mostly agree, although I also think that most of these sexual sadists can "discern right from wrong and lies from truth". But their moral judgements are set aside by their sexual and sadistic needs and by the enormous power they have.

There is considerably more in this article and it is strongly recommended.

2. Lost Einsteins: The Innovations We’re Missing

This article is by David Leonhardt on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Much of human progress depends on innovation. It depends on people coming up with a breakthrough idea to improve life. Think about penicillin or cancer treatments, electricity or the silicon chip.

For this reason, societies have a big interest in making sure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to become scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs. It’s not only a matter of fairness. Denying opportunities to talented people can end up hurting everyone.

Yes indeed. I have always agreed with this, but I should add that the "University" of Amsterdam, where I did study in the 70ies and 80ies quite disagreed: Very many students then said to me and to each other that everbody was equivalent to Einstein and Von Neumann, for the simple reason that

"intelligence is not native: it is a choice".

In fact, the last time I was called "a fascist" was in 1989, when I discussed with a doctoral student in psychology with an estimated IQ of 115 (the average IQ in the "University" in the 1980ies [3]) who strongly insisted that she and everybody else was equivalent in intelligence to Einstein (whom I did mention), and who called me "a fascist" when I completely refused to believe her: She insisted that she rather danced than that she did physics or mathematics, but "since everybody is equivalent" she could have been an Einstein just as well. (!!)

Then there is this in the article:

Not surprisingly, children who excelled in math were far more likely to become inventors. But being a math standout wasn’t enough. Only the top students who also came from high-income families had a decent chance to become an inventor.

This fact may be the starkest: Low-income students who are among the very best math students — those who score in the top 5 percent of all third graders — are no more likely to become inventors than below-average math students from affluent families:

Lost Einsteins 

Low-income children who excel at math rarely become patent holders. They are less likely to hold patents than high-income students who do substantially worse in school.

Precisely - but I know this is very probably so since the early 1980ies, when I bought and read a quite good book by Joan Tough in 1977: "The Development of Meaning". In fact, here is a partial summary of Table 6 on p. 192 of her book, that details the development of IQs in children from an advantaged group (with educated well-paid parents) and of children in an disadvantaged group.

I give a small part of that table, and the tests are three standard IQ tests, while the numbers in brackets are the numbers of children that were tested):

"Table 6. Mean IQ of groups of children at three ages

                                    Stanford Binet           WISC                  WISC
Groups and subgroups          at age 3           at age 5 1/2          at age 7 1/2

All advantaged                     126.3 (32)          122.1 (30)            121.3 (30)
All disadvantaged                  124.1 (32)          116.3 (15)            112.4 (30)

That is: If your parents are educated and well paid, your IQ will go down 5 points on average between age 3 and age 7 1/2; if your parents are not educated and not well paid, your IQ wil fall by 12 points
between age 3 and age 7 1/2.

Back to Leonhardt's article:

Women, African-Americans, Latinos, Southerners, and low- and middle-income children are far less likely to grow up to become patent holders and inventors. Our society appears to be missing out on most
potential inventors from these groups. And these groups together make up most of the American population.

Yes indeed - as was already known to Joan Tough in 1977. And incidentally: The great majority of children does not have well educated and well paid parents.

And the children of disadvantaged parents loose nearly 15 points in four years, which means that they loose a lot: Nearly all people with IQs of 100 or higher have an IQ below 145.

3. The True Path to Prosperity

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

It’s often thought that Democrats care about fairness and not economic growth, while Republicans care about growth even at the cost of some fairness.

Rubbish. Growth and fairness aren’t opposites. In reality, Democrats are the party of economic growth and fairness. Republicans are the party of neither.

The only way to grow the economy is by investing in the education, healthcare, and infrastructure that average Americans need in order to be more productive. Growth doesn’t “trickle down.” It rises up.

I agree with the last paragraph but not with the first two: I think the Democrats are less bad than the Republicans, but they also work for the rich, in the first place, who have bought many of them, including Hillary Clinton.

Here is more:

Republicans say their tax overhaul will promote growth by increasing the profits of American corporations and investors. This is trickle-down nonsense.

Every major study (including Congress’s own Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation) finds that its benefits would go mainly to big corporations and the wealthy.

Share prices may rise for a time. They’re already at record highs in anticipation of the tax cut. But higher share prices don’t trickle down, either. The richest 1 percent owns almost 38 percent of the stock market. Eighty percent of Americans together own just 8 percent of all shares of stock.

Quite so. And here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Corporations expand and invest only when customers are eager to buy what they produce. And most of these customers are middle-income and below, who spend just about all they earn. The rich spend only a small fraction. 

Profits are now at record levels but corporations aren’t investing them. They’re using them instead to pump up share prices and executive pay.

After the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, economic growth stalled and then dissolved in recession. After the 2004 corporate tax holiday for bringing foreign profits home, corporations didn’t invest or expand. The Reagan tax cut of 1981 didn’t cause wages to rise; they flattened.

What’s the real formula for growth? Better access to education, healthcare, and transportation, all of which make workers more productive.

Yes indeed. (But while I do think that the Democrats are less bad than the Republicans, they are also bought by the rich.)

4. Fate of the Earth Considered Again

This article is by George Zillac on AlterNet. This is from near the beginning. It got triggered by the remark that some rich Americans are - once again, I add - buying fancy nuclear shelters that will allow them to survive even a major nuclear war:

The need for this recall was especially brought to mind by a report about fancy nuclear shelters being bought by some of the well off; one that would even let six live in it up to a year with no outside help.

In fact, I first heard about these ideas more than fifty years ago. And indeed I very probably heard it also before 1964 (mostly - I guess - because my parents were much opposed to nuclear arms), which also was the year that one of the best movies I ever saw was first published: Dr. Strangelove, which I strongly recommend you try to see.

Here is Zillac's description of what kind of world the few rich survivors (if any) will find after a major nuclear war:

Let’s start with granting the dubious premise that a few underground shelters in the H-Bomb blast zone might actually work and their occupants emerge unscathed. What would they encounter when they come out? Well, the first thing they would notice is there are no people. The second thing, there are no standing structures. At night, no lights. An incredible silence grips the scene. No birds, no car horns, no sirens, no train whistles, etc. because these things all take life to make happen; and where there is no life we might as well be on Mars.
You might think people would move right in when the war is over. But where are those people going to come from? Where they come from has been wiped out too. Besides, even if there are a few here and there they are not going to live long in your area. All the resources needed for life, like food and uncontaminated water, would be wiped out. Even if, by some miracle, a few of those things were found, the hypothetical “they” still wouldn’t be arriving because of radioactivity lasting for months, even years, contaminating not only where cities used to be, but also all the farmland for hundreds of miles downwind, and in an all-out war everyone will be downwind of somewhere attacked, so no crops even if there were a few farmers left. Survivors couldn’t hunt animals in the woods because fallout would have killed them all, same with farm animals.
I agree. Here is one of Zillac's conclusions:
How can we prevent these things from happening? It is literally insane to have a system where an unchecked President can order up the end of the world! What were the authors of those laws thinking? We should get rid of that system now, before it is irretrievably too late.
Yes, I agree - and also the situation has changed rather a lot since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There is considerably more that I skip, in which Stanislav Petrov is mentioned, who probably did save the world in 1983 by disobeying his orders, because he thought, quite correctly, that a reported nuclear attack by the USA on the USSR was false. (He was not rewarded and in fact was reprimanded: See the last link, which is quite interesting.)

Back to the article, that ends as follows:

1) There must be no first strike permitted by law, regardless of what some leaders fear at the time.
2) No use of nuclear weapons at all, except by Congressional authorization.
3) By international treaty, only military targets could ever be targeted, and only those that pose a genuine nuclear threat to other nuclear military installations.
4) Existing Open Skies and other preventative measures should continue to be enforced and strengthened for the survival of humankind. This is not a trivial issue. Our future depends on it. Whether we even have a future depends on it.

I basically agree, but I may be even more pessimistic than Zillac is, mostly because I have been demonstrating against nuclear arms since before 1964, and all that has happened in fact (on the level of governments) was a continuous increase in ever more powerful nuclear arms.

5. AI Has Already Taken Over. It’s Called the Corporation.

This article is by Jeremy Lent on Common Dreams. It has a subtitle:
Futurists warning about the threats of AI are looking in the wrong place. Humanity is already facing an existential threat from an artificial intelligence we created hundreds of years ago. It’s called the Corporation.
In fact, this is a quite good article about corporations, but it should have avoided mentioning AI. I will say something about AI because it is mentioned in the title and in the beginnining of this article, but only because it is raised briefly by Lent:

I am a philosopher and a psychologist, and my argument against AI is the same as it was 30 years ago (when I did have a personal computer, in 1987, running DOS and without any internet connection, that wasn't there yet):

As long as there is no computer that more or less fully can do what very simple animals like insects do - including their bodies, their sexuality, their interactions, their feeding, their digestion, their neural networks etc. etc.: when I said "fully" I did mean fully - I will not believe that machines are really intelligent, even though I quite agree they calculate very much faster than I can and they have much better memories than I have.

And besides, human intelligence is to this day hardly explained, as is the human brain: There is far more we don't know about either than we do know. So I will leave AI wholly out, and indeed the real concern of this quite good article are the corporations.

Here is the first bit I quote about corporations:

Corporations “enthroned”

When corporations were first formed back in the seventeenth century, their inventors—just like modern software engineers—acted with what they believed were good intentions. The first corporate charters were simply designed to limit an investor’s liability to the amount of their investment, thus encouraging them to finance risky expeditions to India and Southeast Asia. However, an unintended consequence soon emerged, known as moral hazard: with the potential upside greater than the downside, reckless behavior ensued (...)
I don't believe that corporations were created by "good intentions": They were created to limit or to deny most personal responsibility for actions that were intended to enrich persons.

First, here is Milton Friedman (in 1962, and the bolding was added):
 "Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundation of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible. This is a fundamentally subversive doctrine. If businessmen do have a social responsibility other than making maximum profits for stockholders, how are they to know what it is? Can self-selected private individuals decide what the social interest is?"
That is, according to the neoliberal/neofascist Friedman (i) corporations have no other end "than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible" and (ii) neither corporations nor any businessman that is making profits by them has any social responsibility whatsoever: they are just there to make as much money as possible.

Second, here is the best essayist I know, who wrote the best short essay about corporations that I know, and who did so around 1820 (!!). This is William Hazlitt, and his essay "On Corporate Bodies" starts as follows:

On Corporate Bodies

Corporate bodies have no soul.

Corporate bodies are more corrupt and profligate than individuals, because they have more power to do mischief, and are less amenable to disgrace or punishment. They feel neither shame, remorse, gratitude, nor goodwill. The principle of private or natural conscience is extinguished in each individual (we have no moral sense in the breasts of others), and nothing is considered but how the united efforts of the whole (released from idle scruples) may be best directed to the obtaining of political advantages and privileges to be shared as common spoil. Each member reaps the benefit, and lays the blame, if there is any, upon the rest. The esprit de corps becomes the ruling passion of every corporate body, compared with which the motives of delicacy or decorum towards others are looked upon as being both impertinent and improper.

I strongly recommend you read "On Corporate Bodies" and move back to the article:
Corporations took full advantage of their new-found dominance, influencing state legislatures to issue charters in perpetuity giving them the right to do anything not explicitly prohibited by law. The tipping point in their path to domination came in 1886 when the Supreme Court designated corporations as “persons” entitled to the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment, which had been passed to give equal rights to former slaves enfranchised after the Civil War. Since then, corporate dominance has only been further enhanced by law, culminating in the notorious Citizen United case of 2010, which lifted restrictions on political spending by corporations in elections.
Yes (although I don't know whether "1886" is correct). Here is more:

Sociopaths with global reach

Corporations (..) have no intrinsic interest in human welfare. They are legal constructions: abstract entities designed with the ultimate goal of maximizing financial returns for their investors above all else. If corporations were in fact real persons, they would be sociopaths, completely lacking the ability for empathy that is a crucial element of normal human behavior. Unlike humans, however, corporations are theoretically immortal, cannot be put in prison, and the larger multinationals are not constrained by the laws of any individual country.

Legally speaking corporations are persons. I agree that if they are persons they are completely without morals, as indeed Milton Friedman insisted upon.

Here is more, that also plays a role in my definition of neofascism:

Corporations have been able to use their transnational powers to dictate their own terms to virtually any country in the world. As a result of decades of globalization, corporations can exploit the free movement of capital to build factories in nations with the weakest labor unions, or locate polluting plants in countries with lax environmental laws, basing their decisions solely on maximizing returns for their shareholders.

Precisely - and at present major corporations have both more money and more power than most states, and they achieved much of that since 1980 by deregulation. (The last link is also strongly recommended.)

Here is more on the authoritarianism and the lying that corporations indulge in as a matter of principle:

Corporations wield their vast powers to control the minds of consumers, enthralling them into a state of perpetual consumption. In the early twentieth century, Paul Bernays, a mastermind of corporate empowerment, boldly stated his game plan as “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses.” He declared ominously that “those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government that is the true ruling power of this country.”

That is, according to Bernays (and indeed Freud) the masses are a kind of subhumans, who cannot think rationally and should be manipulated, propagandized and lied to in their own interests, because men like Bernays - and many rich men - believe that they can think rationally, but the great mass of mankind can not.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, that describes the present situation for corporations:

In fact, the current U.S. cabinet represents the most complete takeover yet of the U.S. government by corporations, with nearly 70% of top administration jobs filled by corporate executives. In the words of Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, “In the Trump administration, auto industry lobbyists are setting transportation policy, Boeing has a top perch at the Department of Defense, Wall Street is in control of financial policy and regulatory agencies, and corporate defense lawyers staff the key positions in the Justice Department.”

I think Robert Weismann is quite right, and this is a strongly recommended article (but forget about AI: it is not relevant here).

And incidentally, if you read Dutch here is a fine article I wrote in 2008: "Over corporatisme".


[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 (!!).

[2] An important reason why I think the rich and powerful men who assault women (or indeed men, if they are queer) are first and foremost sadists is that they are rich enough to buy any prostitute they please.

[3] This was officially so: The "University" of Amsterdam said so itself, in 1984. I have talked with many students, many lecturers and many professors in 1980ies, but I think it is fair that at most 1 in 20 of each of these groups cared one bit about the average IQ, indeed also not when I pointed out that between 1865 and 1965 the average IQ in Dutch universities was around 125. In fact, the ignorant reply I mostly got was like that of professor Renate Bartsch when told it was 115: "Well, that is quite high, isn't it?"

Finally, because education got systematically worse in Holland ever since 1965, it is very probable that the present average IQ in Dutch universities is around 105: The big barrier that keeps many from studying nowadays is not intellectual but financial: I paid 125 guilders (around 50 euros)  in 1977 for the right to become a student; in 2008, a degree in medicine required euros 20,000.

And student grants have also been mostly terminated in Holland: You either must have rich parents to study, or else to loan money against considerable interest. (Incidentally, the rich also can afford what no one else can, if their children are quite intelligent: Get them into Cambridge, Harvard or Stanford.)
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