Sunday, December 17, 2017

Crisis: US Poverty, Obama Destroyer, On Liars, Trump & Hitler, Trump´s CDC
Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 17, 2017

This is a Nederlog of Sunday
, December 17, 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 17, 2017
1. A Deep Vein of Poverty Runs Through the U.S.
2. How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth
3. I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump.
4. The Uncanny, Frightening Ways That Trump's America Mirrors
     Hitler's Germany

5. 'Making America Stupid Again': Outrage Over Forbidden 7 Words
     You Can't Say at Trump's CDC
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 Deep Vein of Poverty Runs Through the U.S.

This article is by Emma Niles on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In the United States, one of the world’s wealthiest nations, 41 million people are living in poverty. Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, wants to know why.

In a new feature published by The Guardian, Alston leads reporter Ed Pilkington through some of the most impoverished communities in the country: in Los Angeles, San Francisco, small towns in Alabama and West Virginia. The article and photo essay expose “the dark side of the American Dream.”

I should say first that I think professor Alston belongs to the hugely priviliged who are paid a lot of money by the - rather corrupt - United Nations to investigate a rather good economical and legal question - say: ¨How is it possible that in the USA a small minority is extremely rich and the large majority is non-rich, poorish or very poor?¨.

That is, I have ambiguous feelings about professor Alston (for he rememembers me of the very many utterly corrupt similar ¨leftish¨ professors I have known in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam) but - on the other hand - I agree his leading question is a good one.

Here is some by Ed Pilkington:
Pilkington notes that at the start of the fact-finding tour in Los Angeles, Republicans in Congress were voting for tax cuts that “will exacerbate wealth inequality that is already the most extreme in any industrialized nation.” He also notes that of the 41 million people living in poverty in the U.S., “nine million have zero cash income—they do not receive a cent in sustenance.”
Incidentally, ¨41 million¨ Americans living in poverty is considerably more than 10% of the whole American population

Here is some of what Alston wrote:

The proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world, and will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest 1% and the poorest 50% of Americans.  The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by the President and Speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.

Successive administrations, including the present one, have determinedly rejected the idea that economic and social rights are full-fledged human rights, despite their clear recognition not only in key treaties that the US has ratified (such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the US has long insisted other countries must respect.  But denial does not eliminate responsibility, nor does it negate obligations.  International human rights law recognizes a right to education, a right to healthcare, a right to social protection for those in need, and a right to an adequate standard of living.  In practice, the United States is alone among developed countries in insisting that while human rights are of fundamental importance, they do not include rights that guard against dying of hunger, dying from a lack of access to affordable healthcare, or

 growing up in a context of total deprivation.
And that is quite good, among other things because it shows how extra-ordinarily many moral and legal norms are being broken with total impunity by the rich and the very rich in the USA, and only to increase the riches they hold further.

There is considerably more but I quote only this bit from the ending of the article:

“There is no magic recipe for eliminating extreme poverty, and each level of government must make its own good faith decisions,” Alston writes. “But at the end of the day, particularly in a rich country like the USA, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power. With political will, it could readily be eliminated.”
Actually, I disagree in principle - so to speak - with Alston about ¨magic recipes¨, for I think it is quite likely that simply restricting everyone to earn more - in present monetary terms - than the least earn legally, by a factor of 20 to 1 (i) may very well abolish all poverty rapidly, while (ii) not hurting more than 3 in a 100 at all. [2]

Then again, while I think this is quite realistic, I agree in principle that it is very probable that these changes require in fact a socialist revolution, and that event is at present quite unlikely.

And in any case, this is a recommended artitcle.

2. How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth

This article is by Matt Bruenig and Ryan Cooper on Jacobin Magazin. It starts as follows:
The Obama presidency was a disaster for middle-class wealth in the United States. Between 2007 and 2016, the average wealth of the bottom 99 percent dropped by $4,500. Over the same period, the average wealth of the top 1 percent rose by $4.9 million.

This drop hit the housing wealth of African Americans particularly hard. Outside of home equity, black wealth recovered its 2007 level by 2016. But average black home equity was still $16,700 lower.

Much of this decline, we will argue, can be laid at the feet of President Obama. His housing policies led directly to millions of families losing their homes. What’s more, Obama had the power — money, legislative tools, and legal leverage — to sharply ameliorate the foreclosure crisis.

He chose not to use it.

Yes, I think I quite agree. Then again, I also quite agree, in fact since the end of 2009, that Obama was a fraud like Bill Clinton was:

Both were very much more interested in furthering their own incomes (the Clintons are now reported to have made between $100 million and $150 million from the bankers and their autobiographies, or so it seems) than in doing what they had promised to do to their voters, to whom both consistently lied, though indeed not by as much as Donald Trump.

Here is one of the many frauds committed on American hown owners:

An epic crime spree after the crisis offered another opportunity to assist beleaguered homeowners.

During the bubble years, originators and banks had routinely mangled the paperwork while issuing loans and packaging them into securities. When they went to foreclose, they often found they did not have the correct documentation. But rather than acknowledging their indiscretions, financial institutions paid large teams of entry-level employees to commit document fraud on an industrial scale — forging signatures, falsely notarizing documents, or falsely attesting to “personal knowledge” of large mortgage files, hundreds of times per day. This was the so-called “robosigning” scandal.

And that was just one of many. Here is the sum-up what Obama achieved for the American home owners:

Unsurprisingly, bending over backwards for the banks failed to stop the wave of foreclosures sweeping the nation. All told, some 9.3 million homeowners lost their homes. It was the greatest destruction of middle-class wealth since the Great Depression at least.

I guess that was between 10 and 15% of all owned homes, but this is a guess of mine. And this is a recommended article.

3. I study liars. I’ve never seen one like President Trump.

This article is by Bella DePaulo on The Washington Post. It starts as follows:

I spent the first two decades of my career as a social scientist studying liars and their lies. I thought I had developed a sense of what to expect from them. Then along came President Trump. His lies are both more frequent and more malicious than ordinary people’s.

I say. And I do so because this example of ¨academic science¨ was totally impossible between 1865 and 1965 (in Holland, when real science was respected): You did not study a single subject as much, and also you could not get professorates in single subjects.

All of that has changed a lot, all at the costs of real science, but then this itself is not a fault of professor DePaulo, who has the merit of using a decent definition of a lie, that also avoids propagandistic euphemisms like ¨fake news¨:

The inclusion of misleading statements and flip-flops is consistent with the definition of lying my colleagues and I gave to our participants: “A lie occurs any time you intentionally try to mislead someone.” In the case of Trump’s claims, though, it is possible to ascertain only whether they were false or misleading, and not what the president’s intentions were.

Well... yes and no. I think the definition of ¨lie¨ is decent, though not as good as my own (see here), in spite of the fact that I did not spend ¨two decades of my career¨ on studying lying, but I disagree in part - see below - with being not able to make out ¨what the president’s intentions were¨.

That is, if we presume that Donald Trump is mentally more or less sane. In that case e.g. his lies about the sizes of his audience at his presidential nomination and those of Obama at his first presidential nomination are quite conscious and quite intentional major lies.

Then again, I think - since nearly 2 years, and as a psychologist - that Trump is not mentally sane, and this considerably complicates the motives for his lying, and also how much he knows about his lies.

I leave it at this and turn to the following bit:

The college students in our research told an average of two lies a day, and the community members told one. A more recent study of the lies 1,000 U. S. adults told in the previous 24 hours found that people told an average of 1.65 lies per day; the authors noted that 60 percent of the participants said they told no lies at all, while the top 5 percent of liars told nearly half of all the falsehoods in the study.

In Trump’s first 298 days in office, however, he made 1,628 false or misleading claims or flip-flops, by The Post’s tally. That’s about six per day, far higher than the average rate in our studies. And of course, reporters have access to only a subset of Trump’s false statements — the ones he makes publicly — so unless he never stretches the truth in private, his actual rate of lying is almost certainly higher.

That rate has been accelerating. Starting in early October, The Post’s tracking showed that Trump told a remarkable nine lies a day, outpacing even the biggest liars in our research. 

Well... I am a psychologist, and I should say that (i) this whole study of lying looks rather suspicious to me, if only because one never gets at the actual intentions and motives of people, and also because I think they lie considerably less than I think, while also (ii) the two kinds of lies - lies told by unknown private persons, mostly to their own families, friends of colleagues, compare to lies told by a well-known public person, all to the public and not to their own family, friends or colleagues, are simply rather incomparable.

But DePaulo compares them. I think the numbers she gives are rather reliable, but as I said, the contexts of these two kinds of lies differ rather a lot.

Then again, the last quoted paragraph was predicted by the psychologists and psychiatrists who diagnosed Trump as a grandiose narcissist c.q. a megalomaniac, but I only mention it here, because I don´t even know whether ¨the social scientist¨ DePaulo is in fact a psychologist. [3]

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

Trump told 6.6 times as many self-serving lies as kind ones. That’s a much higher ratio than we found for our study participants, who told about double the number of self-centered lies compared with kind ones. 

The most stunning way Trump’s lies differed from our participants’, though, was in their cruelty. An astonishing 50 percent of Trump’s lies were hurtful or disparaging.

Well... yes, but then again I have now mentioned that (1) the contexts of the lies of Trump (to the public, in political contexts, and not to personally known people) and the lies that DePaulo studied (in the 90ies, among all of 140 ordinary persons, who mostly must have lied to people they knew well), are quite different, and the fact that (2)
there are now many psychologists and psychiatrists who insist that Trump´s lies are not so much due to his personal dishonesty as to his personal madness, but neither of these rather important facts are as much as mentioned by DePaulo.

In brief, while I agree that Trump is a great liar, I don´t think this research is much worth: at least the major differences in context and the fact that many psychologists and psychiatrists have said Trump is mad should have been mentioned and treated.

4. The Uncanny, Frightening Ways That Trump's America Mirrors Hitler's Germany

This article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet. This is from near the beginning:

Shortly after World War II, Mayer, an American journalist and college instructor, went to Germany and befriended a small group of 10 “ordinary Germans” who had lived and worked through the war, and interviewed them in depth.  

Mayer’s burning question was, “How does something like Nazi Germany happen?”  

What he learned was every bit as shocking as President Obama drawing the same parallels. He wrote, presciently, “Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany - not by attack from without or by subversion from within, but with a whoop and a holler. It was what most Germans wanted - or, under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they liked it.

“I came home a little bit afraid for my country, afraid of what it might want, and get, and like, under combined pressure of reality and illusion. I felt – and feel – that it was not German Man that I met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under certain conditions. He might be here under certain conditions.
Ahem. I do not say that Mayer´s investigations were without point, and indeed this is the first time I heard from them, but I do insist that both the democratic elections of Adolf Hitler and the major difficulties of the Germans in the 1920ies should have - and also did have - as one of its consequences that Nazism is ¨what most Germans wanted¨ (although in 1933 not in a majority) and that they also liked it (in so far as they were not socialists or communists, at least) in the 1930ies.

Also, I am willing to agree with Mayer - and with Christopher Browning, against Goldhagen - that Nazism was not so much German phenomenon, as a human phenomenon: Men may turn to the left and the extreme left as well as turn to the right and the extreme right (and most who do, do not very well understand their own motives).

Here is one of the things Mayer found, about the German Nazis and their collaborators:
One, a college professor, told him:

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security....

“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes.
In fact, I do not believe this college professor, simply because there were major changes right from the beginning of Hitler´s rule. Two such major changes were the public burnings of books (which had not happened for a long time in Europe) and the locking up in concentration camps of the communist and the socialist opponents of the Nazis, also simply because they were opponents.

There were more major changes in public behaviors, and therefore I simply can´t believe this college professor. That is, I am willing to believe he was frightened and therefore silent, but I am not willing to believe that the changes went ¨
insensibly¨ or were ¨not even intentional¨.

Here is some more, that also is a bit more credible:

“Pastor Niemoller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing: and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something – but then it was too late.” …

“You see, one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next.

Pastor Niemoller was a somewhat interesting man, indeed in good part because he explained after WW II why he had not protested until it became too late (and indeed in part also because he started as a sympathizer of Hitler).

I mostly believe him (though I disagree with the gradualness he insists so much upon: it was less gradual than he says it is, I think, and it has more to do with the fact that initially Niemoller was not involved personally, as a non-communist, non-socialist and non-Jew).

Here is more by Niemoller:

“The world you live in – your nation, your people – is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays.

“But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed.

“Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God.”

Again, I don´t quite know how correct this is. I was´t born yet then, but I do recall seeing films by Leni Riefenstahl, for example, whose films - which are also rather evident pro-Nazi propaganda - show extremely many quite obedient and quite happy followers of Hitler, e.g. in 1936 and 1937 (before the start of WW II).

Next, here is more on one of Trump´s favorite lies (as well):

Nazi leaders and propagandists of the 1930s used the phrase Lügenpresse (“lying press”) at every opportunity to describe the media of their day; today Trump and his supporters are both undermining our faith in our press, and preparing us for a crackdown on press outlets like this one.  

And once net neutrality is done away with, they merely have to work with their friends in the multibillion-dollar ISP corporations who, like with the 2006 AT&T scandal and others, are more than happy to help “intelligence” agencies and the administration out.
Even Mike Godwin, the inventor of Godwin’s Law (basically, that “whoever first mentions Hitler automatically loses the argument”), is now writing in the Washington Post that, “If you’re thoughtful about it and show some real awareness of history, go ahead and refer to Hitler or Nazis when you talk about Trump.”

Yes indeed, although I should add that I am sorry, but I still can´t take Mike Godwin quite serious: He seems not (even) to be a Jew, and got his fame by originating what is now called ¨Godwin´s Law" which is not ¨basically¨ what is stated above but is this:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

He simply was the first to say so, on the just budding internet.

And this is from the ending, which in fact seems better than the foregoing rather doubtful discussion of and by early German Nazis:

As Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels famously said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Big lies are in full form now in America, from seemingly trivial things like crowd sizes to country- and world-changing lies about taxes and Iran.  

At the same time, we’re facing the classic fascist technique of discrediting the press and suppressing voices of dissent with draconian threats of jail time or surveillance for simply participating in protests or even visiting a protest website.  

This reckoning was brought on us by a small group of authoritarian/ libertarian billionaires and their minions, with the help of a compliant Supreme Court that has declared, without the authority of the Constitution, that corporations are persons and that money used to buy politicians and legislation is First Amendment-protected “free speech.”

Yes indeed: I agree to the above, and this is, after all, a recommended article.

5. 'Making America Stupid Again': Outrage Over Forbidden 7 Words You Can't Say at Trump's CDC

This article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Comedian George Carlin famously invented the seven words you cannot say on television, but it appears that it took Donald Trump becoming president to learn what seven words scientists and advisors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are no longer allowed to say or write in their official capacities.

Government watchdogs, women's health advocates, lawmakers, and scientists are up in arms on Saturday after it was reported that President Donald Trump's CDC has created and distributed a list of seven "forbidden" words, including: "transgender," "science-based," "diversity," and "fetus."
In fact, these forbidden words are ¨shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits¨ - and I mention them in part because also the non-mainstream media still refer to them in terms like these ¨s..t, ¨f..k¨, ¨c..t¨ - that is, if they are mentioned at all in writing (which in fact seems pretty sick to me).

Then again, the article seems quite correct in noting that Trump´s neofascists have now created a list of - once again - ¨
seven "forbidden" words¨, which are this time not forbidden because they name sexual activities and parts in English and not in Latin, but because these terms are scientific terms, that are now excluded in CDC use, or so it seems.

Here is Ted Lieu (from the Democrats):
The @realDonaldTrump Administration is MAKING AMERICA STUPID AGAIN. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention banned from using "science-based" and "evidence-based" terms. Are we now going to use Voodoo & leeches to treat diseases?
— Ted Lieu
Finally, here is Kaylie Hanson Long, writing for NARAL Pro-Choice America:
"Forbidding scientists and researchers from using medically accurate terminology in order to push an extreme, ideological agenda is more 'dystopia' than 'United States of America,'" Long said in a statement. "This latest move from the Trump administration amounts to yet another backdoor tactic to curtail Americans' basic rights and freedoms, including the right to access abortion, and will put lives in real danger."
Yes indeed, 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] All of this is with considerably more details discussed here.

[3] All of this was explained many times before, and one of the first times here.
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