Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Crisis: Facts & Fictions, Capitalism, Dan Rather, Nuclear War, GOP Tax Bill, Hedges

Sections                                                     crisis index

Some scientists say that the major building block of the universe is hydrogen because it is the most plentiful element, but my theory is that the universe is made out of stupidity because it is more plentiful than hydrogen, and since it is more plentiful why shouldn´t we talk about it?
     -- Frank Zappa [2]

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 6, 2017
3. Extra:
Propaganda Buries Facts & Manipulates Emotions

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday
, December 6, 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 6, 2017
1. Mueller’s Facts and Trump’s Make-Believe
2. Gangster Capitalism and Nostalgic Authoritarianism in Trump’s

3. Dan Rather: 'Wealth Can Never Be a Measure of Worth'
4. Lawmakers Are Scrambling to Prevent Trump from Launching a
     Nuclear War

5. The GOP Tax Bill Is Social Darwinism in Action
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. Mueller’s Facts and Trump’s Make-Believe

This article is by Roger Cohen on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

It’s the contempt that’s so contemptible: President Trump’s contempt for the Constitution to which he swore an oath, for the F.B.I. that’s allegedly in “Tatters” (sic), for the majority of Americans (including his base) who will be worse off from a fat tax cut for the richest, for the shared wonder inspired by our public lands, for America’s allies, for the science that explains why it’s getting warmer, for due process, for truth, for informed debate, for the press, for the values anchored by liberty that the United States has attempted to represent to the world.

That’s a lot of contempt for one man. But it comes naturally to Trump. He has not given a moment of reflection to the office he occupies, or how its responsibilities may differ from those of running a real estate company. If bullying worked then, if stiffing contractors and trashing the truth worked then, why should they not work now?

I don´t think it is the contempt of Donald Trump or for Donald Trump that is very important, for I think - as a psychologist and a philosopher - that he is both insane, in the psychiatric sense, and a neofascist, in my sense, but I more or less agree with the question in the second paragraph, because I agree Trump is mostly being a president as if he is ¨running a real estate company¨.

Here is Cohen´s answer to his own question:

Robert Mueller is why they may not work. Mueller, as the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, is interested in facts. On one side, the steady accumulation of facts and the flipping of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, who was busy following instructions and trying to make nice to Russia. On the other side, the increasingly frenzied and fantastical early-morning tweets of a president who wakes up every day to Moscow messing with his mind. Trump flails. He can’t believe this is happening.

I agree Mueller is interested in facts, but - as I said - I think Trump´s tweets are good evidence that he is both insane and getting more insane, as was predicted by psychologists and psychiatrists over a year ago.

Here is the last bit that I´ll quote from this article:

I was struck by this passage about Trump from Billy Bush, the former host of “Access Hollywood,” in The New York Times. “The man who once told me — ironically, in another off-camera conversation — after I called him out for inflating his ratings: ‘People will just believe you. You just tell them and they believe you,’ was, I thought, not a good choice to lead our country.”

“Just tell them and they believe you.” That’s Trump’s credo. In the same way he believes women appreciate his “Grab-’em-by-the-pussy” approach. The president believes what he wants to believe.

With the power he has he thinks he can shape an alternate reality and persuade enough Americans of its authenticity to perpetuate his power. He believes he can turn Americans from citizens into apprentices. Apprentices, in his experience, are pliable to his whim.

As I said above, I am a psychologist and I think he is insane. Also - having known really insane people, as Trump is, in my firm opinion - I do not have good ideas about what is going on in his mind. Besides, what is ¨an alternate reality¨ for Cohen and for me may very well be (for the most part) what Trump really believes, but indeed I don´t know that either.

There is considerably more in this article: I quoted only from the beginning.

2. Gangster Capitalism and Nostalgic Authoritarianism in Trump’s America

This article is by Henry Giroux on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Just one year into the Donald Trump presidency, not only have the failures of American democracy become clear, but many of the darkest elements of its history have been catapulted to the center of power. A dystopian ideology, a kind of nostalgic yearning for older authoritarian relations of power, now shapes and legitimates a mode of governance that generates obscene levels of inequality, expands the ranks of corrupt legislators, places white supremacists and zealous ideologues in positions of power, threatens to jail its opponents, and sanctions an expanding network of state violence both at home and abroad.
I should start this review by saying that this is the first article by Henry Giroux that I review; that I review it because it appears on Truthdig; and that I like Truthdig but admit that I don´t like Giroux much, not because I know much of him, but because his ¨academic studies¨ - ¨public pedagogy, cultural studies, youth studies, higher education, media studies, and critical theory¨ - are not real academic studies in my eyes, and because he seems to me to be much like the ¨social democrats¨ I met as professors in lecturers in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, who nearly all excelled in lying and posturing in the 1980ies (and who now - I grant - probably are fashionable neoconservatives, unlike Giroux).

Anyway - that is mostly personal. I more or less agree with the above, except that it contains too many long words for journalism.

Here is some more:
Trump has accelerated a culture of cruelty, a machinery of terminal exclusion and social abandonment that wages a war on undocumented immigrants, poor minorities of color and young people. He uses the power of the presidency to peddle misinformation, erode any sense of shared citizenship, ridicule critical media and celebrate right-wing “disimagination machines” such as Fox News and Breitbart News. Under his “brand of reality TV politics,” lying has become normalized, truthfulness is viewed as a liability, ignorance is propagated at the highest levels of government and the corporate controlled media, and fear-soaked cyclones of distraction and destruction immunize the American public to the cost of human suffering and misery.
More or less the same applies as I said above4, although I may agree on ignorance and indeed on stupidity with Giroux (and see note [2]).

Then again, to illustrate the differences between Giroux and me:

First, I have been called ¨a fascist¨ in the University of Amsterdam for the first time over 40 years ago now, very probably by a sadofascist herself who said so because I had replied to her ¨Do you know Marx?¨ with ¨Yes, but I like Charles Sanders Peirce better as a philosopher¨ (she was almost certainly a member of the Dutch Communist Party, as were most of the leading members of the student party the ASVA, that had the control over the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam between 1971 and 1995, and that was utterly corrupt), and her reasoning went as follows (as she explained to me in 1977):
¨Peirce was an American; Americans are fascists (because of Vietnam); therefore you¨ - that is me - ¨sympathize with fascists, which only fascists do¨.
What I did not tell her (and never told the ASVA, the members of which called me ¨a fascist¨ very many times, mostly because I had started a student party that was against them, and that was pro real science) was that (i) my grandfather was a - real - communist since 1937, and was arrested by the SS in 1941, and condemned to concentration camp imprisonment, where he was murdered (ii) my father was a - real - communist since 1935, and he was arrested by the SS in 1941, and condemned to concentration camp imprisonment, and survived more than 3 years and 9 months as a ¨political terrorist¨ (and he survived thanks to his - real - communist friends there); and (iii) I had had a - real - communist education, and had been a member of the Dutch Communust Party from 1968 till 1970, when I left it because (1) I thought Marx was mistaken in his labour theory of value; Marx was mistaken about the transformation problem; and Marx was mistaken about dialectical and historical materialism, and besides (2) the communists had an utterly corrupt alderman in Amsterdam. (For considerably more see here). [3]

Then again, I always liked and admired my parents - and my mother also was a - real - communist since the 1940ies, and also was in the - real - resistance, but had the luck never to be arrested by the Nazis.

In fact, knowing so well what real communists are:

Noone I met in the University of Amsterdam was a real communist (compared with my parents and grandparents): all were indulging in romanticism and folklore because that was then quite fashionable and made studying a whole lot easier.

Second, I knew since August of 1978 (also nearly 40 years ago) that the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam had adopted the following principle (which was and is a contradictory lie):
¨Everybody knows that truth does not exist¨
which was the reason I started the student party that opposed the ASVA.

This told me within two years that about 5% of the people who were students, lecturers or professors in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam agreed with me; 95% (!! in a university!!) agreed that ¨
Everybody knows that truth does not exist¨, honestly or not, and mostly for political reasons. (And this continueed till 1995, when - after 25 years - the Dutch parliament took away the control of the students of the Dutch universities. [4])

Third, I was talking here mostly about the years 1977-1982, after which I stopped studying for some years because I was and am ill (with ME/CFS), but when I started studying again in the academic year 1987/1988 I found that the ASVA still had the power in the ¨U¨vA; that they still called me ¨a fascist¨ or ¨a dirty fascist¨ because I was not a Marxist, and indeed after I gave an invited speech to the students, lecturers and professors in May 1988, I was soon - quite illegally - removed from the faculty of philosophy, very briefly before taking my M.A. there, because I had dared to criticize my - totally incompetent, very parasitical - ¨teachers¨ of philosophy. And immediately after the speech in May 1988 I was called - screamed by many tens of students - ¨a dirty fascist¨ and ¨a terrorist, a terrorist, a terrorist¨.

Those are some of my experiences and background, and these are quite different from the experiences of Henry Giroux.

Back to Giroux:
Trump’s serial lying is daunting in that it normalizes discourses, “actions, and policies exempt from moral evaluation [and] treated as beyond good and evil.” As Hannah Arendt argues in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” the erasure of truth, facts and standards of reference furthers the collapse of democratic institutions because it is “easier to accept patently absurd propositions than the old truths which have become pious banalities. Vulgarity with its cynical dismissal of respected standards and accepted theories carried with it the worst … and [is] easily mistaken for courage and a new style of life.”
Yes, Arendt saw that quite well, as indeed I did in 1978, for if there is no truth, it also cannot be true there was a Holocause nor that my father and grandfather had been truly locked up in concentration camps as ¨political terrorists¨ - but then again, 95% of all students, all lecturers and all professors disagreed with me that there is truth, between
1971 and 1995, at least. (For my party insisted there was truth and there was real science, but polled 5% of the votes.)

Here is the last bit I quote from Giroux:
Ours is an unprecedented corporate takeover of the U.S. government and the reemergence of elements of totalitarianism in new forms. At stake here is the power of an authoritarian ideology that fuels a hyperactive exploitative economic order, apocalyptic nationalism and feral appeals to racial cleansing that produce what Paul Street has called the nightmare of capitalism.
I agree with this - but as I implied: I am very skeptical about most academics, who tend to be much more interested in money and in power than in morals and in science, indeed whatever their verbal pretenses are, and I am also quite pessimistic because I have been protesting against totalitarianism and fascism since 1977 in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, and I have since then till now met almost no one in Holland who agrees with me that truth and science really exist.

There is quite a lot more in this article.

3. Dan Rather: 'Wealth Can Never Be a Measure of Worth'

This article is by Eric Ortiz on Truthdig. This is from near the beginning:

Veteran journalist Dan Rather shared his thoughts on class warfare in a powerful Facebook post Monday:

When the time comes, and I hope it comes soon, to bury this era of moral rot and the defiling of our communal, social, and democratic norms, the perfect epitaph for the gravestone of this age of unreason should be Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s already infamous quote:

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing… as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Grassley’s vision of America, quite frankly, is one I do not recognize. I thought the heart of this great nation was not limited to the ranks of the plutocrats who are whisked through life in chauffeured cars and private jets, whose often inherited riches are passed along to children, many of whom no sacrifice or service is asked. I do not begrudge wealth, but it must come with a humility that money never is completely free of luck. And more importantly, wealth can never be a measure of worth.

I agree with Dan Rather, although I should add that (i) I do ¨begrudge¨ the wealth of billionaires and millionaires, that (ii) almost all suddenly acquired wealth was - historically - acquired dishonestly (by cheating or by violence) and (iii) I think an economy in which money = power, which is what capitalism is about, is a thoroughly immoral economy.

Here is some more:

The tax bill is all part of a morally bankrupt Republican plan. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., explained in an email to his supporters on Tuesday:

Let me be very clear about what is happening here. It is an extraordinarily cynical “two-step” process. First, Republicans are looting the Treasury. They are stealing trillions of dollars from the American people in order to give huge tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations. Second, as their tax breaks increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion, they will come back and, in the name of “deficit reduction,” propose major cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, nutrition, affordable housing and other programs desperately needed by the shrinking middle class.

… Once they pass this bill, they will claim we need to deal with the deficit by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
I completely agree - and as I said above: Nearly all suddenly acquired wealth is acquired dishonestly or by violence, and ¨Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, nutrition, affordable housing¨ will disappear or grow much less, because the Republicans have introduced and accepted a very dishonest tax bill that almost only favors the rich and the very rich.

This is a recommended article.

4. Lawmakers Are Scrambling to Prevent Trump from Launching a Nuclear War

This article is by Lisa Fuller on AlterNet and originally on Foreign Policy in Focus. It starts as follows:

Former National Security Council Director Peter Feaver recently told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “even a single nuclear detonation” could “trigger an escalatory spiral that would lead to civilization-threatening outcomes.”

Two days later, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced a bill that could therefore save civilization. The entirety of the No First Use bill reads: “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.”

The risk of nuclear war is at an all-time high, according to Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and expert Scott Sagan. Smith’s bill could be one of the most effective ways to mitigate that risk. It would substantially reduce the likelihood that either the U.S. or North Korea would start a war, whether through a pre-meditated attack or as a result of miscalculation.

Well... I agree with the proposed bill and with Adam Smith, but I also think that wars are started by denying existing (international) laws, as indeed Trump constantly does, and as has happened many times in the past as well, and as indeed also was and is the case since 9/11: Sixteen years of wars, none of which was approved by Congress, although that is the law.

Then again, Lisa Fuller also sees this:

The problem isn’t only that nobody can stop Trump from realizing his long standing desire to use nuclear weapons. It’s also that Trump’s advisers may now be more likely to toss him the nuclear football than to pry it out of his hands.

Top administration officials — including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford — have all voiced support for using a preemptive strike to prevent North Korea from developing the capacity to strike the continental U.S., even while acknowledging the “horrific” ramifications.

Quite so. There is also this on an earlier bill:

Rep. Ted Lieu and Sen. Edward Markey had enough foresight in January to introduce other legislation intended to prevent Trump from launching a pre-emptive strike. Unfortunately, their bill had too many loopholes to be reliable — including an exception in the event of an “imminent threat.”

Unfortunately, the restriction becomes impotent if the Trump administration uses “elastic definitions of the phrase ‘imminent threat,’” as the Cato Institute’s John Glaser puts it. Given Trump’s propensity for stretching the truth, it’s safe to assume that he considers definitions to be elastic as a general rule.

Yes, I agree. And Trump can start a nuclear war within minutes if he wants to. And he is quite insane, in my psychologist´s opinion.

The article ends as follows:

As long as Trump is in office, therefore, the No First Use bill is our best hope of preventing war.

Our survival may depend on it.

Perhaps. As I said, I agree with the bill - but wars start very often by some illegal means, from one side or the other.

5. The GOP Tax Bill Is Social Darwinism in Action

This article is by Chauncy DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:
The Republican "tax reform" bill passed by the United States Senate during the late-night hours last Friday is evil. It has no redeeming social value. It takes money and resources from those who have the least in to further subsidize the rich and corporations. It will worsen those problems its proponents claim it will solve. It is a nightmare. Republicans and others who support this legislation have revealed once again that they lack any human decency or wisdom or sense of civic responsibility.
I agree with this, but it also is mostly an expression of values. Here is more:
This evil will kill people and increase human misery so the idle rich and other plutocrats can have even more money. This statement is no exaggeration. It is a plain fact: The Republican tax bill will raise taxes on the poor and working classes in order to give the very richest American hundreds of billions of dollars. This is a clear statement of social and political priorities: The amount of money gifted to the rich by Republicans is so large it could have paid for debt-free college and universal health care.
And I agree with this as well, and indeed this also seems factually correct. There is also this:
This evil is empowered by a party, a president and a right-wing movement that feels nothing but contempt for the very idea of democracy. The United States is in extreme peril. Moreover, the evil of the Republicans' "tax reform" bill is not a result of happenstance, accident or coincidence. It is an outgrowth of a much deeper malevolent ideology.
Well... to the best of my knowledge all of this started with Reagan and Thatcher, in 1980 and 1979. But I agree that now the rich seem to be much stronger than before.

Indeed, there is also this, that goes back to around 1800:
Republicans from the post-civil rights era to the age of Trump have increasingly been in thrall to "Social Darwinism" and the 19th-century English economist Thomas Malthus. In this paradigm, the real value of individual human beings (and societies) is determined by their economic productivity and financial value as decided by capitalism. This cruel vision treats human beings almost like animal livestock; "social betters" engineer certain outcomes to cull the herd so the most "valuable" and "productive" are nurtured and protected. All others are viewed as parasites who should be removed, exterminated or bred out of existence.
Yes indeed - and because I am a great fan of William Hazlitt, who is the best essayist I ever read, and who lived from 1778 till 1830, I like to remark that the best arguments I read against Malthus are Hazlitt´s.

And he wrote this in 1808, but unfortunately his writing is so good that it is, for that reason, almost wholly unknown, indeed till this day, in spite of efforts of Tom Paulin, Graylin, and Michael Foote around 2000 to get him better known.

The best places on the internet that I know to read Hazlitt are my site and the, although I should immediately add that Google has made a major mess of much of his work.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The past is prologue, in an especially cruel sense. Republicans are deliberately advancing a backward-facing view of American society and human development. The next step in their war on the American people has already begun, with arguments that programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are somehow too expensive, and thus unsustainable, because of the destruction caused by their tax bill.  What is the ultimate goal? It may be no exaggeration to suggest they wish to eliminate the "useless eaters" in order to ensure the plutocrats and oligarchs of total power and endless wealth
Yes, I entirely agree: There are too many persons in the world to feed with the present economical system, and it seems that a considerable number of the richest have chosen to kill the poor by denying them the money to survive.

And in fact, that is also how capitalism worked in the middle of the 19th Century. This is a recommended article.

This is a fine interview by Abby Martin with Chris Hedges. It may be from before Nov 19, 2017, but dates on Youtube are usually missing and often wrong, and the interview is fine in any case. And indeed I did not see it until yesterday. It is strongly recommended and will take 31 m 41 s of your time.


[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] Of course, Zappa´s argument is invalid, but he is quite right that stupidity (and ignorance) are both quite important in human history and rarely talked about.

Also, one of the main reasons why I mention
stupidity and ignorance so much (and see my Welcome to the NUSA):

(i) stupidity and ignorance have been my very conscious enemies since more than 50 years, and (ii) they also are part of my fundamental code of ethics, that is as follows: "Don't be MAD: don't SIN", where "MAD" abbreviates "meanness, anger, dishonesty" and "SIN" abbreviates "stupidity, ignorance, negligence".

[3] As to myself and my father:

My father died in 1980 and fell ill with incurable prostate cancer in 1979. I never told him that the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam taught - everywhere that I know of, and I did three full studies in 1979 - that
¨Everybody knows that truth does not exist¨ (though my father very probably would have agreed with me: he definitely believed in truth).

He also was a quite prominent member in the Dutch CP (of which he was a member for 45 years), and he knew rather a lot of Marx and Engels because my father was supposed to take care of the education of communists in Amsterdam between 1951 and 1969.

Therefore I was very early exposed to quite a few books by Marx and Engels. I believed in them till 1968-1970, when I seriously studied them and found them mostly mistaken - and most of these findings were quite my own. (The links in the paragraph this note belongs to are to Wikipedia items, and while I grant that Ian Steedman - in 1977, in ¨Marx after Sraffa¨ argued better than I did, I had found his points completely by myself, in 1969 and 1970. And Steedman was an academic economist, while I was 19/20 in 1969/1970.)

And as I implied: There was no one who ever studied in the University of Amsterdam (where the great majority at least had ¨a lot of sympathy for Marx¨) who had as communist and as revolutionary a background as I had (I am absolutely certain), and there also was no one in the University of Amsterdam who knew as much of Marx and Engels as I did.

[4] Once again: The Dutch decided - completely uniquely in the whole world - to effectively give the Dutch universities to the students in 1971, by imposing a parliamentary structure on it, where there were elections every year for ¨the University parliament¨ and also for the many ¨faculty parliaments¨, that were much like resp. the national parliament and the city councils, and to give everyone who studied or worked in the university - students, lecturers, professors, toilet cleaners, secretaries, typists - one vote, according to the rule ¨1 (wo)man = 1 vote¨.

This gave the students by far the most power, simply because there were far more students than others, and in Amsterdam (and also in Nijmegen and Tilburg) this meant that the communists had the majority, especially from 1977-1984.

Again, after 1991 I learned that almost everyone that was a leading member of the ASVA in that period were members of the Dutch CP.
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