Monday, December 11, 2017

Crisis: Political Protests, Insane Trump, On Reich, Republicans, Google's Censoring

Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 11, 2017

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, December 11, 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 11, 2017
1. Magical Thinking Is Keeping a Lid on Political Protests
2. Trump Appears Delusional—But Then So Is the Republican Party
3. Saving Private Enterprise: Director Jacob Kornbluth on His New
     Robert Reich Film

4. Republicans Really, Really Hate the Press
5. Google hiring 10,000 reviewers to censor YouTube content
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.  Magical Thinking Is Keeping a Lid on Political Protests

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The archplutocratic tax cut Washington politicians are working on this holiday season ought to be a call to arms for the United States’ populace. The nation’s economy is already so savagely unequal that the top 10th of its upper 1 percent owns as much wealth as its bottom 90 percent. Its corporations are raking in record profits. Half of its citizens have no savings. Half its population lives in or near poverty. Twenty-one percent of its children are growing up at less than the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level, and 41 million Americans—12.3 percent of the population—are “food insecure.”
Yes indeed: I agree with the facts stated here and indeed I also seem to share the same question with Paul Street: Why are so few Americans protesting against this great unfairness? If only because most Americans are plundered by the very few very rich?

Then again, I do not think that the answer is "magical thinking" (however defined): I think there are several answers but the two main ones are that a considerable majority of the Americans are both stupid and ignorant.

I am sorry, but that is the factual truth. And the problems with that answer seem to be these:

First, the majority of Americans probably disagrees. Second, the majority of Americans feels offended. And third, the majority of Americans can anonymously scold anyone they please and call them virtually anything: There are almost no sanctions whatsoever, and anonymity is mostly unbreakable for people without corporate riches or great political powers.

Also, I am willing to agree that my answers are those of a very intelligent M.A. in psychology - which again makes my answers less credible to those who did not study

I am sorry for that, but facts are
facts, also if the majority is moved by wishful thinking guided by ignorance and egoism, and covered by the careful individual anonymity of almost anyone.

Back to the article. Here is more by Paul Street:

It is against the backdrop of this shocking disparity and related want that one should try to comprehend the regressive and malignant sociopathology of a Republican tax “reform” that:

● Drastically slashes the corporate tax rate without closing loopholes and deductions that allow the nation’s already cash-flush corporations to register their profits overseas.

● Does nothing to switch corporations’ focus from maximizing short-term returns to investing in the creation of more jobs and higher wages.

● Encourages corporations to invest in automation without offering any assistance to displaced workers.

● All but eliminates the estate tax for the nation’s richest families.

● Adds $1.5 trillion to the nation’s debt over the next decade, setting the stage for major slashes to the nation’s three biggest social insurance programs—Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare (they will be cut back in the name of “scaling back” so-called entitlement programs to “reduce the deficit”).

Yes indeed - and this is just the beginning of a considerably longer list of points, that you can check out by going to the original.

And at this point I have a question: How do you think voting, writing on the internet, doing politics, being a responsible citizen would work out if the average IQ was over 130?

In actual fact, only 2% make that mark or are higher. All I suggest here - and I easily pass that test, as did my parents - are two points: First, I don't really know, were it only because 98% does not pass that test. Second, I do believe the differences would be quite large. (Also apart from the fact that I don't think IQs are good measures of real intelligence. All they are is the best test we have, although it is not very good.)

Here is more by Paul Street:

The GOP tax “reform” rewards the already rich and punishes the poor at a time, The Atlantic notes, “when post-tax corporate profits have hovered at a record-level high for the last seven years, and the 1 percent’s share of total income is higher than at any time in the second half of the 20th century.” The just-passed Senate bill, likely to be “reconciled” with the right-wing House version and signed by Donald Trump before Christmas, grants what New York magazine calls “a huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans.”

Quite so. And here is part of the facts that makes the passing of that bill totally undemocratic, an utter lie, and an excellent example of authoritarianism:

Adding authoritarian insult to plutocratic injury, the Senate tax bill was rammed through the upper chamber with brutal speed and barely a speck of public input. As John Cassidy notes in The New Yorker, “the process … [has] … been a travesty of the legislative process. … [T]here have been no public hearings, and the measure is being rushed through in a few weeks, with virtually no transparency.”

That is: It is passed by both the House and the Senate for basically two reasons: It is not or hardly read by most who voted on it (for or against), and apart from that the great majority of those voting on it, both Democrats and Republicans, walk on the leash of those who pay them the most (i.e. not the voters but the bankers).

Here is Paul Street's main question:

So why don’t we see millions of Americans in the streets protesting the brazenly oligarchic tax heist being perpetrated in the name of “fairness,” “simplicity” and even “democracy”? I can’t answer that question in full here.

I also can't answer it in full, but I am rather certain that my partial answer that it has a great lot to do with the stupidity and the ignorance of the majority of the American adults (voters or no voters).

Next, I skip a lot and arrive at this bit:

There are some people who think the Democratic Party can be reformed from within by changing the personnel. I say good luck to that. (....)
Unfortunately, to put it in one phrase, the Democrats are unable to defend the United States of America from the most vicious, ignorant, corporate-indentured, militaristic, anti-union, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-posterity [Republican Party] in history.

I agree, and the reason is that from Bill Clinton onwards being a Democratic president and being a Democrat has moved from representing the voters to representing one's extremely rich buyers once one has been voted in: In the present USA, democracy (at the hightest points of government) = corruption. And that corruption also pays well.

The article ends as follows:

Welcome to the de facto banana republic that is, as Noam Chomsky said, America’s “really existing capitalist democracy—RECD, pronounced as ‘wrecked.’ ”

Revolution, anyone?

I agree with Chomsky - but I also believe that the chances on a revolution are nil in the present circumstances. (After a major economic collapse it may be different.)

And this is a recommended article.

2. Trump Appears Delusional—But Then So Is the Republican Party

This article is by Conor Lynch on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:
Donald Trump’s tenuous relationship with the truth has always been somewhat of a mystery, and it has often been difficult to tell whether the president is truly delusional or simply the biggest con man on the planet.

Since he announced his presidential candidacy more than two years ago, Trump has peddled conspiracy theories and falsehoods to the public like a false prophet selling hope, displaying an almost pathological disregard for the truth. As a result, many critics have assumed that he is a liar who deliberately and knowingly deceives the public. Others have contemplated whether he truly believes some of the nonsense that come out of his mouth, thus challenging the notion that he is consciously lying.
Well... yes and no.

The main reasons for me to say no is that (i) I am a psychologist (with more experiences of dealing with mad persons than most psychologists have [2]), that (ii) it has been glaringly evident to me that the very probable best psychological diagnosis of Trump is that he is a megalomaniac aka malignant narcissist, which is an obvious personality disorder, that also is very hard to cure; and that (iii) I have been saying now that Trump is an obviously mad person for nearly two years now, but (iv) journalists go on and on and on and on discussing Trump's failures, idiocies, lies and grandiosities without ever having read anything by psychiatrists and psychologists, or so it seems.

And indeed I do not mean that I do not seem to be read: I mean that the evidence of the psychologists and psychiatrists has been quite clear, and also quite comprehensible to average intellects without any real knowledge of psychology or psychiatry - but it hardly seems to be read or understood by the very many journalists who do offer their own guesses about what ails Trump (such as e.g. "kleptocracy").

For me that is meanwhile quite frightening. I do not mind that ordinary people know little of psychology or psychiatry, for indeed they do not have to, and they also normally can function quite well while knowing hardly anything of these subjects. [3]

But if even the journalists who are supposed to find the facts that can explain the facts that are in the news systematically and for two years miss reading anything by specialists who may risk their careers to speak the truth about Trump (for American psychiatrists are forbidden to diagnose anyone without his or her personal consent, also if it is a man whom they think is obviously not there in several important respects and who can blow up 7 billion persons by nuclear arms: forbidden by the APA. [4])

Here is more from this article:
Last week, however, the New York Times and the Washington Post  published separate articles that suggest the president actually believes in his own BS most of the time, and that he has come to live in his own warped version of reality (call it “Trumptopia”). The coinciding reports, published on the same day, both portray the president as an increasingly deranged man who decides what is true and what is false (i.e., “fake news”), regardless of the evidence.
Well, yes indeed .... but this was obvious - self-evident - for any psychologist and any psychiatrist who reads the (observational!) definition that leads to the diagnosis that one has a narcissistic personality disorder if one satisfies 5 or more from 9 criterions, while it is an obvious (observational!) truth that Trump satisfies all 9 criterions.

And this was said already two years ago by several qualified psychologists and psychiatrists. But about two years later, namely "[l]
ast week" two newspapers published articles "that suggest the president actually believes in his own BS most of the time".

I haven't read them (I have more to do), but I suspect that, once again, the journalists who wrote them either do not know any psychology or psychiatry, or do not believe any, or at least do not refer to any article written by psychologists or psychiatrists.
The Washington Post article is no less disturbing, and the reporters note that even “when presented with irrefutable evidence, Trump finds a way to question unflattering facts.” Whether it’s his defeat in the popular vote, Robert Mueller's probe into possible Russian campaign collusion or Obama’s birth certificate, Trump doesn’t let concrete facts get in the way of his alternative reality.
And once again: All of this - and considerably more - was said by psychologists and psychiatrists, long ago as well. But it seems not for the journalists of the Washington Post.

Precisely the same holds for this bit (and note the pretty sick "
almost certainly", given the fact that at least 1695 explicit lies by Trump have been listed and discussed - and the "seem to confirm", which is bullshit for the same reason):
These reports seem to confirm that Trump is often a true believer in the conspiracy theories and falsehoods that he spreads. This is not to say that the president isn’t a liar, which he almost certainly is, but that he has been a bullshit artist for so long that he has come to believe in much of his own bullshit.
And this is from the end:
Republicans have become exceptionally tolerant of bullshit, but Trump’s bullshit has come to be a problem. It is so brazen and transparent that it has revealed how little the party actually cares about the truth — just as Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric revealed the deep-seated racism within the Republican electorate.
I agree with the very beginning (and see below) but more or less the same is true of the Democrats, who likewise work for the bankers who pay them.

3. Saving Private Enterprise: Director Jacob Kornbluth on His New Robert Reich Film

This article is by Alex Demyanenko on AlterNet and originally on Capital and Main.

In fact, I am looking at this interview because Kornbluth (the interviewee) is a collaborator of Robert Reich, who is an intelligent man (which is something I do not think of many), who also knows a lot about economy, and who can express himself quite clearly (which again is something I do not think of many), but with whom I also have several deep disagreements, notably about capitalism (which Reich is for and I am against) and also about truthful reporting, for Reich propagates lies and prejudices about Europe, in which I lived all my 67 years, and which is a lot worse than he presents it.

This is from near the beginning:

Kornbluth:  (...) So basically, of those in the top 10 percent [economically], you see Republicans and Democrats disagree on just about everything — but the economy is essentially working for them. I don’t think Americans like to see themselves as a country where class is that much at the forefront, in the way they do in Europe, but when you see the economic division spilling over into these other areas like politics, and it’s really changing the way politics function on a meaningful level, I don’t think you can ignore it anymore.

I agree with Kornbluth that for the top 10% of the incomes the American capitalist system works in the sense that they get good money and probably are living fairly well, and certainly a lot better than most of the other 90%.

Then again, I also believe I disagree with him about class, for reasons that are set out in the last link, but I am not certain (and Kornbluth is much younger than I am and did not have an academic education).

Here is the question I am concerned with:

Your film and Reich’s book are called Saving Capitalism. Some have said Marx was wrong about communism but he was right about capitalism, that eventually it would devour itself and spin out of control because of greed, and that is what we are seeing now. So why should we save it?

Kornbluth: It’s a really important question. I mean, you’re talking to the son of very left-leaning parents. One thing that Reich has taught me, is to forget the “ism” for a moment and just look at rules of an economic system. Stop thinking that capitalism is going to save or hurt us, and stop thinking socialism is going to save us or hurt us and start thinking that we have one economic political system and let’s think about all the rules that go into it and examine them one by one, and ask, Who do those rules benefit and who do they hurt?

You see that the rules of our economic system are written by the people with the power to write them, and then over the last 40 or 50 years all of those rules have gone more towards the wealthy and the powerful and away from regular people. Well, it wasn’t always like that in America.

First this: I think that my own background is very probably considerably more "left-leaning" than Kornbluth's:

Both of my parents were - real - communists for 45 or more years; my father's father was a communist; my mother's parents were anarchists, and my father, mother and grandfather also were in the - real - resistance in WW II, which cost my grandfather's life and cost my father more than 3 years and 9 months of being locked up in four Nazi concentration camps. (And except for my brother, I do not know of anyone with such a leftist background.)

Next, what is capitalism? Kornbluth doesn't say, and I am also not aware that Reich ever clearly defined capitalism. From what Kornbluth says in the last paragraph, I infer that he - at least, for I don't know about Reich - seems to believe it is mostly a political and a legal system (in which the few rich write most of the rules that keep the many non-rich not rich, and that maintain the inequalities in money and power) rather than an economic one.

I don't say no, and here is my own definition of capitalism, but I also insist that the system he - more or less - defines is not primarily economical but legal, indeed because he says "the rules of our economic system are written by the people with the power to write them", which stresses power and the law much more than the economy that results from this.

Again I don't say no, but it also remains rather vague, as indeed does the decision that capitalism is worth saving. (I'd say not, given that I am for freedom and equality, but again I don't really know what Reich and Kornbluth do think.)

Here is the last bit that I quote:

A recent poll said that more millennials believe in socialism than capitalism. And more believed in fascism than capitalism, too. What does that say? Are millennials just fed up, or maybe more idealistic, or are they just more na´ve?

Kornbluth: There’s a bunch of ways to read something like that. One way to say it is [that] a lot of people feel like the game is rigged, which is true, and they are sick of it. They don’t feel like their voices are heard. But there is a very important question which is, What is capitalism, specifically? If it’s simply the free exchange of private property, then every country in the world today is some version of a capitalist country, or on some sort of a capitalism/socialism spectrum. You sort of can decide what you want to call it.

This is also quite vague, so all I say is that I definitely think that "the millenials" (at most around 20 now, I'd say) are considerably more naive than I am (who is 67, academically qualified, and has been a very big reader since over 50 years).

But in the end I am mostly dissatisfied with this interview, indeed because I still don't know why Reich wants to save capitalism, as I also still don't know what Reich does understand by the term "capitalism".

4. Republicans Really, Really Hate the Press

This article is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones. It starts with a graph that I do not reproduce but summarize as follows:

  • between 65 and 75% of Democrats (since 2005) "trust the press", while
  • between 30 and 15% of Republicans (since 2005) "trust the press"

There is some more there, but one difficulty I have with this Gallup Poll is that I have been reading "the press" since 60 years or so, and have found, quite consistently also, and by reading great amounts of "the press" (and certainly since 2013), that there definitely are two kinds of "the press", namely the fairly well-known and widely spread mainstream media, that these days mostly spread propaganda, and the less well-known but still rather well-read non-mainstream media, that are considerably more reliable than the mainstream, and that also are financially speaking quite different.

But I see nothing of that quite obvious distinction in "the press": it totally disappears. Then again, let us for the moment accept the conclusion that one major difference between Democrats and Republicans is trust in "the press", for Democrats have between 2 and 5 times as much trust as Republicans.

Then there is this:

(..)[A]mong Democrats, nothing much happened in 2016, and then trust skyrocketed in 2017. It’s now at its highest point in two decades. What this seems to suggest is two things. First, the horrible overcoverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016 never became an issue among ordinary voters. It’s a big deal to us political junkies, but not to anyone else. Second, the fact that the press is aggressively covering Donald Trump’s gaffes and the Trump-Russia connection—and that Trump is attacking them back—has made Democrats far more trusting of the press.

Perhaps, although I personally would not that "the press" (?!) (bolding added) "is aggressively covering Donald Trump’s gaffes" etc., but this may be a matter of interpretation.

This is the bit that made me select the present article for review:
Americans are routinely ignorant of basic constitutional rights, and surveys frequently show lots of them favoring restrictions on press freedom, religious freedom, gun ownership, fair trials, and so forth. Still, nearly half of Trump voters think the government should “be able to stop a news media outlet from publishing a story that government officials say is biased or inaccurate.” This is not a national security thing, it’s a flat-out belief that Trump should be able to block the press from saying anything he doesn’t approve of. We don’t have trend data on this, but I have to believe that it’s quite a bit higher than in the past. This goes pretty far beyond the usual American constitutional ignorance.
Yes indeed and I completely agree: A considerable number of American voters now think that "Trump should be able to block the press from saying anything he doesn’t approve of". That is, they are effectively in favor of dictatorship, complete rightist authoritarianism, and the denial of all freedoms of expression to anyone they disagree with.

I sat this is out and out totalitarian - and I also should warn you that Wikipedia (that seems to be collapsing to the rich) has redefined totalitarianism so that it can't apply to persons, to voters, to political movements, or indeed to anything other than
a political system in which the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.
which makes a total lie of almost everyone (very many) that I have read on totalitarianism in the last fifty years, from Orwell onwards: These must all be liars or be deluded, that is, according to the lies furthered by anonymous Wikipedia.

Here is my definition of
totalitarian, and I say it is certainly much better than the creepy lies spread by Wikipedia: Orwell must be completely mistaken if the anonymous liars or idiots who wrote that utter baloney are correct.

5. Google hiring 10,000 reviewers to censor YouTube content

This article is by Zaida Green on the Off-Guardian, and originally on WSWS. It starts as follows:
Google is escalating its campaign of internet censorship, announcing that it will expand its workforce of human censors to over 10,000, the internet giant announced on December 4. The censors’ primary focus will be videos and other content on YouTube, its video-sharing platform, but will work across Google to censor content and train its automated systems, which remove videos at a rate four times faster than its human employees.
I agree with this although I do not know whether Google calls its own extensive censorship "censorship": I suspect they have some euphemism for it, but I don't know, while I do agree they are censoring.

Well... (i) I am a real liberal, and real liberals are against any and all censorship (for adults: for children there may be some differences); (ii) I am strongly against any censorship done by private individuals or private corporations, which is what Google is doing: censorship, if it happens at all, must be done by the government, for clear reasons and based on public criterions; while (iii) I am extremely against any censorship that is done by the neofascists of Google (and if the persons working there are not - I do not know - the company is, and you can compare my definition with the facts you know or assume).

Besides, anybody who censors my rights to know things sets himself or herself up as my master, who has a better morality and/or a better intellect than I have. In the case of Google I say: Utter and total bullshit.

Back to the article:
The hiring drive by Google is yet another advance in the campaign against any expression of political opposition. Other social media giants have implemented measures against “fake news”; Facebook has altered its algorithms to reduce the visibility of certain news stories, and Twitter has banned the Russian-funded media outlets RT and Sputnik from advertising on the platform. While railing against “extremist content,” “child exploitation” and “hoaxes” in the interest of “public safety,” the ultimate goal of this campaign is the suppression of left-wing, anti-war sentiment.
Yes indeed: I agree that "the suppression of left-wing, anti-war sentiment" is the real end of all this private - in my opinion: very illegal - censoring of things these censors, for unknown reasons, deny you to know, because they assume that you and me are to be treated as if we are small children that deserve censorship by anonymous assholes using unknown criterions to prevent me from even seeing what these anonymous assholes don't want me to know. It's sick.

This article ends as follows (after considerably more):

Google is not alone in its expansion of automated censorship. Last week, Facebook announced its newly implemented system to scan users’ posts and contact police and other first-responders, ostensibly to prevent suicide.

Last month, Google admitted to “demoting” content from RT and Sputnik news in its search engine and news service, confirming allegations by the World Socialist Web Site that the company engages in mass political censorship in the name of fighting “fake news.”

Yes, I agree. And this is a recommended article.


[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 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] Namely, because I've lived for several years with a serious schizophrenic nobody else (who was qualified) wanted to help. This did teach me a lot, and it cured her in the sense that she sharted without a possibility of studying in the university, without a house, hallucinating a lot, plus a lot more I shall not enter into here, while she ended up as a doctor of psychology, mostly thanks to my help.

[3] Incidentally, while I can - quite well - apply the observational criterions that lead to psychiatric diagnoses, I do not like psychiatry-since
-1980 at all: All the DSMs are fraudulent, not so much because of the diagnoses, but especially because psychiatrists had between 40 and 50 ways of coming to the decision that so-and-so was mad, since 1980 these diagnoses have exponentially grown, and now you can be mad in around 450 ways. Also, I fundamentallu disagree with "the medical model" of psychiatry, that is current, and agree somewhat with "the trauma model", that was used before 1980.

Finally, while according to DSM-psychiatry around 78% of the British are insane (in one out of 450 ways), I think that is utter nonsense. Most ordinary men are not mad and do not need any psychiatry or psychiatric pills.

If you want to read my - quite informed, well-written but not easy - criticism of current psychiatry, follow the last link.

[4] Incidentally: The APA - the American Psychiatric Association - is a private organization of which only psychiatrists can be members, and that writes i.a. the DSMs - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - completely in secret (which I think is a shame).
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