Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Crisis: GOP Tax Bill, Trump & Reality, Net Neutrality, On ¨Russia-gate¨, Trump, Hedges

Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 5, 2017
3. Extra: Chris Hedges: "Fascism in the Age of Trump"


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday
, December 5, 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 5, 2017
1. Rep. Keith Ellison: GOP Tax Bill Would Reorder Society & Create
     “Hereditary Aristocracy” for Rich

2. Donald Trump Is Waging War on Reality, and Reality Is Losing
3. Net Neutrality RIP
4. How Russia-gate Rationalizes Censorship
5. It’s Time To Change More Than Trump
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. Rep. Keith Ellison: GOP Tax Bill Would Reorder Society & Create
“Hereditary Aristocracy” for Rich

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
On Saturday morning, Senate Republicans passed a nearly 500-page tax bill that will have dramatic impacts not only the U.S. tax code, but also healthcare, domestic spending and even oil and gas drilling. The plan would cut taxes by nearly $1.5 trillion. Major corporations and the richest Americans, including President Trump and his own family, would reap the most dramatic benefits. Overall, the bill is expected to add $1.4 trillion to federal budget deficits over the next decade. The bill passed the Senate 51 to 49, with every Democrat voting against the bill and all Republicans voting for it except for Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. We speak with Minnesota Democratic Congressmember Keith Ellison. He’s the first Muslim member of Congress. Ellison is also the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Incidentally, I usually quote the introductions on Democracy Now! because they are good introductions to the interviews that follow, as is this one.

Here is Amy Goodman:

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s program with President Trump’s tax bill. Just before 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, Republicans passed a nearly 500-page bill with dramatic impacts on not only the U.S. tax code, but also healthcare, domestic spending, even oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. The plan would cut taxes by nearly one-and-a-half trillion dollars. Major corporations and the richest Americans, including President Trump and his own family, would reap the most dramatic benefits. The legislation includes slashing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent and giving further tax cuts to wealthy business owners. The Senate version would also dramatically cut the estate tax, while a House version of the plan, passed last month, would eliminate the estate tax entirely.

Significantly, the Senate bill would also repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which experts say would cause the cost of health insurance to skyrocket, and lead to millions of people losing their health insurance. A little-known provision would even open one of the world’s last pristine wildernesses—the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—to oil and fracked gas drilling. According to a report in Public Citizen, more than half of all registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C., worked on the tax bill.

Quite so. And here is Keith Ellison:

REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, it’s really designed to reorder our representative democracy. What they will do with these massive tax breaks is they will buy each other up in more mergers, which will concentrate markets and make it much more difficult for small businesses and workers. They’ll also pay each other off and give each other more bonuses, which they will use to purchase political influence in Washington and state capitals all over the country.
So this is really, I think, more about reordering our society, creating a hereditary aristocracy in the United States and really taking our country and leading it down a path where we will one day see a very tiny group of very, very, very rich elite people in an ocean of desperate people just trying to hang on and make it every single day (...)

Again quite so. There is considerably more in this article. It is recommended.

2. Donald Trump Is Waging War on Reality, and Reality Is Losing

This article is by Andrew O´Hehir on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from near the beginning:
(..) [I]f we can generalize about Trump’s public utterances over the last couple of years, it might be by observing that almost nothing he says is true. Some of it is deliberate lies, some of it is fantasy or wishful thinking, and a lot of it is crackpot racist-uncle ranting, from the universe where it’s obvious that violent crime is way up (and caused by black people), Mexicans and Muslims are inherently dangerous and Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly have won the popular vote.

Maybe what the Voice of the People was saying was that reality was not acceptable in its current form — that is, as actually existing reality — and he was here to replace it with another one. There has been a lot of angry, eloquent rhetoric about how facts don’t seem to matter to Trump or his supporters or the Republican elected officials clinging to his coattails with their eyes closed.
Incidentally, ¨the Voice of the People¨ is Donald Trump (ironically). Here is one of O´Hehir´s conclusions, that is also in his title:
It does no good to keep on exclaiming that his accomplishments are nonexistent and his policies nonsensical, as if that were a discovery that might change anyone’s mind. Those are in fact the pillars of Donald Trump’s presidency. He is waging a war against reality; to this point, reality is losing.
No, I am sorry: Not quite. This is much like saying ¨Aids or cancer are winning as long as out theories about it are incorrect¨. They may be winning because they oppose our own human interests, but in actual fact they are independent facts that do not want anything.

Besides, while I agree
much more with O´Hehir than with Trump on what the facts are, I think both have theories (and so do I) while independent reality is simply there and is not a theory.

Then again, O´Hehir does also have a point, which is brought out by the following quote:
[Edsall] cites a famous quotation from Hannah Arendt’s “Origins of Totalitarianism” that seems to describe our current situation with eerie precision:

One could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.

Yes, but this presupposes - correctly I think - that (i) the Nazis were lying quite a lot and could censor whatever and whomever they pleased while in power, while also (ii) people who reason as Hannah Arendt said are simply being quite stupid.

The article ends as follows:

A public that no longer believes in anything, Hannah Arendt said in 1974, “is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.” We aren’t quite there yet, but the damage wrought by Donald Trump’s presidency — and by the long road that brought us here — runs deep. To paraphrase an important song of my youth, he’s the future: No future.
Again, not quite (and I am a philosopher and a psychologist):

First, what is ¨a public¨? I think this is quite difficult to define - who hears or reads this? what do they know? how intelligent or informed are they? what about those who did not hear or read this piece of news? how certain is the evidence? etc. etc. - and indeed I will not define it here. What I will point out is that ¨a public¨ normally consists of many people, all of whom have somewhat different and sometimes quite opposing ideas about the reality they are part of.

Second, a - conscious - human being who does not believe anything is simply insane. (It may be a mark of schizophrenia, and I know because I have had a schizophrenic girlfriend who said - while she was quite mad - that she did not believe anything.)

It is insane because it is a contradiction: You certainly believe in the rules of language and the meanings of words if you say ¨I don´t believe anything¨. Accordingly, either you are lying or, if you are not, if you really believe this, you are not sane (because you are
contradicting yourself). [2]

Third and finally, there is no ¨public
that no longer believes in anything¨ of any considerable size, simply because most persons are not mad. They may be afraid to say what they think; they may not know what to think about many questions; they may be severely censored for saying what they think; they may be lied to by their media etc. but to say that - literally - they ¨no longer believe in anything¨ will be false of the very great majority of ¨the public¨ (however stupid or ignorant considerable parts of ¨the public¨ may be).

3. Net Neutrality RIP

This article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Without network neutrality—the ability of individual citizens to get and share the information they want with a modicum of privacy and anonymity—the American Revolution wouldn’t have happened. Maybe that’s why the Trump administration wants to kill net neutrality now.

Of course ¨network neutrality" is used metaphorically when speaking about the American Revolution, but Hartmann is right with his intended real meaning: ¨the ability of individual citizens to get and share the information they want with a modicum of privacy and anonymity¨, and I think he is also right in saying that the denial of this ability, indeed making the ability totally disappear, is one of the goals of ¨the Trump administration¨, and indeed of many more (the big internet corporations, many of the richest people there are, the Republicans etc. etc.)

Here is more:

Today [the] role [of the “free and independent press”] is filled in large part by the internet. Instead of running around in the dead of night nailing flyers to trees, people now post their political missives to blogs and Twitter feeds, and those very posts, in overwhelming numbers, led former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to put net neutrality into law via Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Arguably, they also led to lots of political upheaval over the past few years, ranging from the Bernie Sanders phenomenon to the election (and impeachment investigations) of Donald Trump.

Yes. And this is the consequence of denying my and your ¨ability of individual citizens to get and share the information they want with a modicum of privacy and anonymity¨:

Consider how differently the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution might have gone down if the East India Company owned the right to regulate and censor all pamphlets before or immediately after they were put up. Or if the EI Company were able to track with great precision who posted a notice, when and where.  

That’s what the big internet service providers want to do with you and me.

In brief, the American Revolution would not have happened if the English could have censored both the press and most American citizens, but censorship is  - I agree - the end of many ¨big internet service providers¨, because censorship (you will read and see only what your providers think is fit for you to read and see) makes it possible to push through their own ends.

Here is more:

China locks down the internet to control politics, but here politicians are largely corporate-owned, so these big ISPs simply paid (er…”donated”) to put their guy in charge of the FCC. Soon, they’ll be able to block any protest activity you may be considering, particularly if it’ll hurt their profitability.

Quite so. Then there is this:

Not only that, in order to lock down the internet and wring every single penny that can be wrung out of your identity and data, your ISP will, in all probability, radically ramp up their “oversight” (aka spying) of/on you so they can determine what you might want to buy, who and where you are, and what you might be able to afford.  

This intense profit motive, to extract the last penny from every one of us, in both fees and by selling our browsing/posting/email history, has all but wiped out the possibility of anonymity.
No, I disagree with both paragraphs:

What is said in the first paragraph is true already to the best of my knowledge, especially on - the very sick - Facebook (which has more than 2 billion users): They bought their members by promising selective advertising (!!), and they reward themselves with finding out everything about you.

As to the second paragraph: I am a firm opponent of anonymity-on-line, for the simple reason that it allows - literally! - billions of people to say whatever they want about virtually anyone, including threats to murder them, without anyone being able to personally attack these anonymous persons by saying ¨so-and-so¨ (real name, real address) says (for example) that ¨I am a fascist terrorist who ought to be killed¨. [3] (All you can say now is
"TheBullshitter" - or whatever his or her alias is - said so, and I disagree.)

I agree that there also are grounds for anonymity on line, but these grounds mostly are in fact that one is not living in a real state of law. I agree that is so, but I have been targeted by anonymous fascists and anonymous terrorists, and I do not think they should be able to say whatever they please without the least personal responsibility.

By the billions of totally anonymous persons - for you and me, though not for the secret services and Facebook - and this makes anonymity quite different from what it was before the internet.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
Independence and privacy – the anonymity necessary to be able to participate in politics – are essential parts of the DNA of the United States. To destroy them on the internet, now that it has replaced the mail and the town square for communications of all sorts, will mean that there will be little or no protest in the future. 

I disagree with ¨the anonymity necessary to be able to participate in politics¨: In fact this means: The anonymity that allows you to be completely personally irresponsible.

4. How Russia-gate Rationalizes Censorship

This article is by Joe Luria on Consortiumnews. It has a subtitle:

Special Report: The Russia-gate hysteria has spread beyond simply a strategy for neutralizing Donald Trump or even removing him from office into an excuse for stifling U.S. dissent that challenges the New Cold War, reports Joe Lauria.

It seems as if Joe Luria is a fairly important American journalist, although he has no lemma in Wikipedia. In any case: I mostly agree with him on ¨Russia-gate¨ in the sense that I have not seen any good evidence that it is true, and he also probably is right about Huffpost, with whom he has considerable disagreements (since it was left by Adriana Huffington, and indeed got a whole lot worse), but I will skip much of his opinions about himself and about Huffpost.

I agree with the following bit:

I am non-partisan as I oppose both major parties for failing to represent millions of Americans’ interests. I follow facts where they lead. In this case, the facts led to an understanding that the Jan. 6 FBI/NSA/CIA intelligence “assessment” on alleged Russian election interference, prepared by what then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called “hand-picked” analysts, was based substantially on unvetted opposition research and speculation, not serious intelligence work.

The assessment even made the point that the analysts were not asserting that the alleged Russian interference was a fact.
Yes, that seems mostly true, as does this:
Under deadline pressure on Jan. 6, Scott Shane of The New York Times instinctively wrote what many readers of the report must have been thinking: “What is missing from the public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. … Instead, the message from the agencies essentially amounts to ‘trust us.’”
Yes indeed. (And why anyone would trust media that refuse to give good evidence is mostly beyond me, that is, apart from stupidity or ignorance.)

This is also true:
Yet, after the Jan. 6 report was published, leading Democrats asserted falsely that the “assessment” represented the consensus judgment of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies – not just the views of “hand-picked” analysts from three – and much of the U.S. mainstream media began treating the allegations of Russian “hacking” as flat fact, not as an uncertain conclusion denied by both the Russian government and WikiLeaks, which insists that it did not get the two batches of Democratic emails from Russia.
There is this on ¨[c]areerist journalists¨:

Careerist journalists readily acquiesce in this suppression of news to maintain their jobs, their status and their lifestyles. Meanwhile, a growing body of poorly paid freelancers compete for the few remaining decent-paying gigs for which they must report from the viewpoint of the mainstream news organizations and their wealthy owners.

To operate in this media structure, most journalists know to excise out the historical context of America’s wars of domination. They know to uncritically accept American officials’ bromides about spreading democracy, while hiding the real war aims.

I suppose so, for the most part. There is also this, which is quite important:

It is important to realize that the First Amendment does not apply to private companies, including the media. It is not illegal for them to practice censorship.

Yes indeed. The article ends as follows (after a lot that I skipped):

Without convincing evidence, I remain a Russia-gate skeptic. I am not defending Russia. Russia can defend itself. However, amid the growing censorship and this dangerous new McCarthyism, I am trying to defend America — from itself.

Well... I simply say that I have not seen any good evidence (for more than a year now) that ¨Russia-gate¨ is true.

5. It’s Time To Change More Than Trump

This article is by Robert Borosage on Common Dreams. It has a subtitle:
The Republican Party is cutting away at the very sinews of our economy, the comity of our politics, and the quality of our most basic public services. Trump may sound different, but he's just the barker outside their big top. The grisly deed is being done on the inside.
I agree on the Republican Party, but I mostly disagree about Trump: He is not ¨just the barker¨: He is the president of the USA, who has enormous powers because he is - very unfortunately, in my opinion - the president of the USA.

The article starts as follows:

Every day, the media feasts on Trump’s lurid antics. Don’t fall for it. He’s a distraction, the clown show. And while he’s barking outside the big top, the GOP is inside, cutting away at our economy and the very essentials of our public life.
Now, virtually unified Republican caucuses in both Houses are on the verge of passing truly grotesque tax legislation that will give more than 60 percent of its benefits to the richest 1 percent in the nation, while raising taxes on nearly all working families.
My comments here are the same as I started with, so I´ll rephrase them: I agree with the second paragraph, but what Borosage seems to forget (?!) is that Trump is the president and has enormous powers, which he also abuses indeed to help do the things said in the second paragraph.

There is also this:

GOP lawmakers are now ready to hand global corporations a $500 billion tax bonus for booking profits held in foreign tax havens. They claim to defend the middle class, yet are happy to protect the obscene “carried interest” tax deduction, which gives billionaire hedge fund managers a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

They’ve declared war on higher education, eliminating deductions for student loan interest, and adding taxes on to graduate students for tuition waivers. They’ll double-tax American families on what they already pay to state and city governments, while they allow corporations to deduct theirs.

I completely agree with that. Then there is this:

Trump’s ability to outrage around the clock distracts us from the real challenges we face. This isn’t a one-nut deal. Trump isn’t driving a populist revolt.

Right-wing populism is just the garb Trump donned to get elected. What’s left of his populism is his incoherent posturing on trade and his insistence on building “The Wall” along our southern border.

Trump’s race-baiting politics of division, too, are nothing new. They’re a Republican Party staple: Trump is just far more shameless in how he speaks.

The real threat we face in Washington, and in statehouses, is an increasingly extreme Republican Party that is ideologically committed and politically disciplined in its efforts to lay waste to the public sphere.

They’re cutting away at the very sinews of our economy, the comity of our politics, and the quality of our most basic public services.
This is mostly correct, although far more people know about Trump than know about what threatens them ¨in statehouses¨.

And this is the last bit that I quote:
Republicans (...) trumpet their historic opportunity to drive their agenda – privatization, deregulation, tax cuts, spending cuts, undermining public education, rolling back public health care, curbing public retirement security, and bolstering a military to police the world for global capital.

This is all quite correct, and this is a recommended article.

This is a video of a recent speech by Chris Hedges, that I admit I only saw in part, so far, because I only found it today (and I much rather like to read than hear, because I read a whole lot faster than people speak).

So all I say here is that I believe it is quite good, simply because most things I´ve read or seen by Hedges (quite a lot) was good, although I probably disagree with the thesis that Trump is a fascist: He is a neofascist (in my sense).


[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] How important your lack of sanity is when you assert the utter contradiction ¨I don´t  believe anything¨ will depend on a lot (that I am not treating here), but you should realize that (i) this contradiction makes all rational judgements impossible, by implication, and that (ii) it is rather unlikely that you have met mad persons who said so and who believed this quite seriously. I have (and am a psychologist).

Finally, I should also remark that you may be quite rational if you say ¨I don´t believe most things with certainty¨, but this is a quite different sort of judgement than ¨I don believe anything¨ (that includes denying that anything you see or hear is worthy of belief).

[3] I have been called - completely falsely - ¨a fascist¨ for 12 years in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam by many tens (possibly hundreds) of members of the student party ASVA (that had the effective power in the ¨university¨ then) who were mostly pretending to be communists (around 1980) and were also members of the Dutch Communist Party (around 1980),  and now are pretending to be neoconservatives. And I have been removed - completely falsely and quite illegally - as ¨a terrorist¨ from the faculty of philosophy of the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam for publicly criticizing the utter incompetents that taught philosophy there.

This was all quite unpleasant (I was falsely called a terrorist, whereas the faculty of philosophy and the Board of Directors terrorized me by excluding
me - quite illegally -  from the right to take my M.A. in philosophy).

And I could not do anything against it because I did not know those who screamed ¨fascist¨ or ¨terrorist¨ at me (for the most part) and besides I was much too ill - with ME/CFS - to go to court, for which I also had no money.
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