from December 18, 2018
B. Extra Bit: On Marijuana
This is a
Nederlog of Tuesday,
This is a crisis
log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:
I have been
writing about the crisis since September
1, 2008 (in Dutch, but
since 2010 in English) 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.
moment and since more than three years
problems with the company that is
supposed to take care that my site is visible 
and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and
I shall continue.
2. Crisis Files
five crisis files
that are mostly well worth reading:
A. Selections from December 18, 2018:
1. Trump, the Quintessential American
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:
2. Google’s Secret China Project
“Effectively Ended” After Internal
3. “To the Ramparts”: Ralph Nader
4. Ralph Nader on Single Payer, Climate Devastation,
Why Mulvaney Is a “Massive
5. Why Trump’s Private Transactions are Terrifying
1. Trump, the Quintessential American
This article is by Chris
Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Donald Trump is part
of the peculiar breed Herman Melville described in his novel “The
Confidence-Man,” in which the main character uses protean personas,
flattery and lies to gain the confidence of his fellow passengers to
fleece them on a Mississippi River steamboat. “Confidence men,” as
Melville understood, are an inevitable product of the amorality of
capitalism and the insatiable lust for wealth, power and empire that
infects American society. Trump’s narcissism, his celebration of
ignorance—which he like all confidence men confuses with innocence—his
megalomania and his lack of empathy are pathologies nurtured by the
American landscape. They embody the American belief, one that Mark
Twain parodied in “Pudd’nhead Wilson,” F. Scott Fitzgerald excoriated
in “The Great Gatsby” and William Faulkner portrayed in the depraved
Snopes clan, that it does not matter in the crass commercialism of
American society how you obtain wealth and power. They are their own
Yes, this seems more or
less correct to me (though ¨megalomania¨ has now disappeared
Wikipedia, although it is proper English since the 1890ies, and
been replaced by ¨narcissism¨ which is a psychiatric term
of art - but
this is an aside).
Here is more:
American culture is
built on a willful duplicity, a vision we hold of ourselves that bears
little resemblance to reality. Malcolm
Bradbury wrote “that in America imposture is identity; that values
are not beliefs but the product of occasions; and that social identity
is virtually an arbitrary matter, depending not on character nor an
appearance but on the chance definition of one’s nature or colour.”
I think this is
also mostly correct, and indeed the same set of attitudes
also is Dutch, but it probably needs a bit of restatement:
Fundamentally, this is hypocrisy,
which may be briefly described as ¨Acting as if; pretending; playing a part¨ and somewhat more extensively as the
difference between the personal
character of humans, i.e. what they are and made of themselves, and
show to their family, friends or themselves in
private, and the public character of humans, i.e.
what they show of
themselves or of what they like to be seen as when performing some
whether this is work or connected to appearing in public.
And I make this point because, while I agree that all
are playing some social role and are basically pretending to be as they
are not, I also - as a psychologist - insist that this is playing a
part, and underneath it there is the personal character,
that is more
stable and is playing the parts.
Here is a bit about a 19th Century foregoer of Trump:
Barnum was the high
priest of the polytheistic, secular religion of Americans and the
creator of kitsch as an aesthetic, characteristics that define Trump.
Trump built his own temples to celebrity and to himself, among them the
Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City and Trump Towers in various
cities. Trump, like Barnum, understood that celebrities and their
relics function in American culture as totems and magical talismans.
He, as did Barnum, caters to the vulgarity of the mob, elevating the
salacious and the sleazy and claiming it is culture and art.
Yes, I think that is
correct. Here is some more on Barnum:
An autobiography by
Barnum, “Struggles and Triumphs,” which was published in 1869,
shamelessly details the sleights of hand and deceptions that made him
very, very wealthy. He understood, as he wrote in the autobiography,
that “the public appears disposed to be amused even while they are
conscious of being deceived.” This understanding underlies the
popularity of entertainments such as professional wrestling and reality
television shows, along with Fox News, all of which are premised on
indeed - and in fact this is also one of the reasons why I do
distinguish between intelligent and educated members of the public
and the rest, for the simple reason that I think that the
intelligent and educated members of the public, that is always in a
minority, is capable of
seeing through many more -
- cons than the stupid
of the public.
This is also one of the difficulties of
democracy: The fact
that the largest part of any sizable population does not
belong to the intelligent and educated part, and therefore is much
easier to propagandize
and to con.
Back to the article:
In our Barnumesque
culture, those who create the most convincing fantasies in the cycles
of nonstop entertainment are lionized. Those who puncture the fantasies
with the prosaic truth are condemned for spoiling the fun. These
pseudo-events and fabrications lift people up out of their daily lives
into an Oz-like world of fantasy. They destroy a civil discourse rooted
in verifiable fact, obliterating any hope of holding back the magical
thinking that lies at the core of all totalitarian societies.
Yes, but this ought to be
combined with the fact that up to 25 years ago only relatively few
could publish on paper, whereas nowadays publishing on
paper has turned
into a minority affair, and most publishing is on the internet -
there now are between 2 and 4 million other publishers, on the
so-called ¨social media¨.
This is a very great difference and should be dealt with, but
far never seen any article that addresses the difference
relatively few publishers on paper, until - say - 1993, and the
enormous amounts of publishers on the internet.
Anyway... back to the article and to Trump:
get-rich-quick schemes and seminars, including his books, were a con.
His casinos were a con. His paid speeches on behalf of self-help gurus
such as Tony Robbins were a con. Tales of his sexual prowess, spread by
himself masquerading over the phone as a Trump spokesperson, were a
con. His building projects were a con. Trump even had, Johnston writes,
“imaginary employees.” Trump and his kleptocrats and grifters are today
triumphant, and neither democratic norms or simply human decency will
inhibit their pathological lust for more.
Yes, I mostly agree. Here is the
last bit that I quote, from the ending of the article:
We can no longer
tell the difference between illusion and reality; indeed when a version
of reality is not verified on our electronic screens and by our reality
manipulators it does not exist. The skillful creation of illusion and
the manipulation of our emotional response, actions that profit the
elites to our financial and political detriment, have seeped into
religion, education, journalism, politics and culture.
Well... yes and no, which
is to say that I do believe that the intelligent and well
minorities are still capable of seeing through many cons and
propaganda, but that I
agree that since 1993 these are in the small minority on the internet,
which indeed is the
basis of an enormous problem if -
as I agree is the case - most of the
can be conned and propagandized
into believing all manner of falsities.
And this is a recommended article.
2. Google’s Secret China Project “Effectively
Ended” After Internal Confrontation
This article is by Ryan Gallagher on the Intercept. It starts as
Google has been forced to
shut down a data analysis system it was using to develop a censored
search engine for China after members of the company’s privacy team
raised internal complaints that it had been kept secret from them, The
Intercept has learned.
The internal rift over the
system has had massive ramifications, effectively ending work on the
censored search engine, known as Dragonfly, according to two sources
familiar with the plans. The incident represents a major blow to top
Google executives, including CEO Sundar Pichai, who have over the last
two years made the China project one of their main priorities.
I say! I do so because
I did not know this and it seems - to me, at least - a
advance beyond what I did know, which was that Google is helping
totalitarian government of China to impose its totalitarianism on
everyone who is using a computer in China.
To be precise: I think
the Chinese are themselves capable of helping the totalitarian
China to impose its totalitarianism on every Chinese, but I agree that
this is much better than having Google do it for them,
Here is some on the
background of this story:
The dispute began in
mid-August, when the The Intercept revealed
that Google employees working on Dragonfly had been using a
Beijing-based website to help develop blacklists for the censored
search engine, which was designed to block out broad categories of
information related to democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest,
in accordance with strict rules on censorship in China that are
enforced by the country’s authoritarian Communist Party government.
Yes indeed. Here is more
engineers used the sample queries from 265.com, for instance, to review
lists of websites Chinese people would see if they typed the same word
or phrase into Google. They then used a tool
they called “BeaconTower” to check whether any
websites in the Google search results would be blocked by China’s internet
censorship system, known as the Great
Firewall. Through this process, the
engineers compiled a list of thousands of banned websites, which they
integrated into the Dragonfly search platform so that it would purge
links to websites prohibited in China, such as those of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and British
news broadcaster BBC.
Yes indeed - and this means
also that Google intended to help the Chinese communist party and
Jinping by making it impossible for the
Chinese population to read
sites published outside China with some
news that the Chinese communist
party does not want ordinary Chinese to read or see.
Here is the ending of
Last week, Pichai, Google’s
CEO, appeared before Congress, where he faced
questions on Dragonfly. Pichai stated that “right now” there were
no plans to launch the search engine, though refused to rule it out in
the future. Google had originally aimed
to launch Dragonfly between January and April 2019. Leaks about the
plan and the extraordinary backlash that ensued both internally
appear to have forced company executives to shelve it at least in the
short term, two sources familiar with the project said.
Google did not
respond to requests for comment.
I think this is also
correct, that is, I agree with Gallagher that the leadership of
still hopes to make many more billions by being the
agents of the
Chinese communist party. But this is at least a small advance, and this
is a strongly recommended article.
the Ramparts”: Ralph Nader
is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following
A new book by longtime consumer advocate,
corporate critic and former presidential hopeful Ralph Nader links the
criminality of the Trump administration to the unchecked power of
previous U.S. presidents, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and
Barack Obama. In “To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for
the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn’t Too Late to Reverse Course,”
Nader argues that the U.S. federal government is fundamentally corrupt,
warmongering and owned by corporations—but he also issues a call for
members of the public to hold their representatives and senators
accountable, including by building local Congress watchdog groups
across the country and utilizing “citizens summons” to force members of
Congress to appear before residents of their districts.
Incidentally, I normally
copy the introductions to the interviews on Democracy Now! that I
review, for the simple reason that they are good and informative.
It is the same here, and I agree with Nader as summarized, although I
also see difficulties, namely those mentioned in section 1, in
particular here and here.
Here is some more:
NADER: (...) So,
we’ve got to network all of these structures of abuses of power, from
the White House to Wall Street, right down to states like North
Carolina or Wisconsin, where they are detonating the critical right of
voting in this country and reaping the dividends for their corporate
So, I think it’s time
really to get down to the nitty-gritty, which is, it’s all about
Congress to turn around the executive branch, judicial branch. It’s 535
people. We know their names. They put their shoes on like we do every
morning. And we know that they want something we can give them or deny.
It’s called votes. People say, “Well, it’s all about campaign money.”
They want campaign money to intimidate their opponents and to put ads
on TV—to get votes. We cut the campaign money off like the pass, like
the Khyber Pass. You cut it off—right?—by mobilizing Congress watchdog
groups in every congressional district.
I think this is correct (but
with the two difficulties mentioned above: here
and here). Here is more by
NADER: (...) There
are 725,000 people—men, women, children—in each congressional district.
A mere one-half of 1 percent of the adults—say, a little over a million
people—organized in 435 districts, with full-time offices, representing
left-right changes in our country—huge left-right support down where
people live, work and raise their family. They may call themselves
conservative or call themselves liberals, but they want the same
things. They want safe medicines. They want access to healthcare that’s
affordable. They want better schools. They want repaired public
services—sewage, drinking water, highways, bridges. They want clean
politics. That’s what the Democratic Party has for an opportunity now,
is to appeal to left-right collective action, which comes out of the
grassroots, and it’s unbeatable politically in Congress.
So I put this book out, on the ramparts, in order to show how to turn
it around. You turn it around by focusing individually on your two
senators and representatives.
I think this is also
correct (but again
the two difficulties mentioned above: here and here).
Here is the last bit
that I quote from this article:
NADER: (...) But,
you see, Congress has got to have these hearings. They’ve got to make
this a high-visibility issue. And that’s what we’ve been lacking for
years now. Congress has been a dead zone. It’s been wasting $5 billion,
which is its budget, and increasing congressional secrecy, restrictive
rules on progressive members, and putting more and more power in the
hands of the top leaders, stripping even the formerly committee chairs
of the ability to decide for themselves what kind of hearings.
Yes - and I also pointed out
some of the difficulties with this plan, that I do agree with,
may be summarized by saying that the many corruptions of Congress
been proceeding since 1980 at least, and so far have not been stopped
and hardly been hindered. But this is a recommended article. And
is some more by Nader in my next review:
Nader on Single Payer, Climate Devastation, Impeachment & Why
Mulvaney Is a “Massive Outlaw”
is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following
As President Trump
threatens to shut down the federal government over border wall funding,
there have been some shake-ups in the White House. Interior Secretary
Ryan Zinke will resign as he faces at least 17 federal investigations
into suspected ethics violations. A former fossil fuel industry
lobbyist, David Bernhardt, will become the interim interior secretary.
Meanwhile, Trump has tapped Mick Mulvaney to become acting chief of
staff to replace Gen. John Kelly. Mulvaney already holds two posts in
the administration: White House budget director and acting director of
the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And in Texas, a federal court
has declared the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate
unconstitutional, setting up a likely challenge at the Supreme Court.
We are joined by longtime consumer advocate and former presidential
candidate Ralph Nader. He is author of the new book “To the Ramparts:
How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It
Isn’t Too Late to Reverse Course.”
This was the introduction
from this article. Here is more:
GOODMAN: Ralph Nader,
welcome back to Democracy Now! Let’s start where we ended,
with that long list of just what’s happened this week, and that is this
Texas federal judge—yes, nominated by President George W. Bush but
confirmed by a Democratic Senate—this judge calling the ACA, calling Obamacare, unconstitutional, and what
NADER: I think it’s going
to be overturned. It’s almost unanimously condemned by legal experts
from all sides. It’s considered intellectually bad opinion by
conservative legal scholars and denounced even more vociferously by
progressive legal scholars. And it doesn’t have an injunction in the
country, so there’s going to be no changes, unless, on rehearing, the
judge really goes off the rails, but then I think he would be
overreaching in terms of his own jurisdiction. So, we’ll wait for the
circuit court of appeals.
I hope Nader is
correct. In fact, here is one reason why he may be correct:
NADER: (..) I mean, if
Obamacare, which is full of loopholes, excessive complexity—still 29
million people without health insurance, tens of millions underinsured.
The corporations run away with record profits—drug companies, hospital
chains, insurance companies, huge executive compensation. So, if they
overturn judicially—which is not likely—Obamacare, even The Wall
Street Journal has said that this will open up the path to single
payer, full Medicare for all, everybody in, nobody out, much more
efficient, and, above all, gives you your free choice of doctor and
Again I hope Nader is
correct. And here is Nader on Trump:
NADER: (..) So, I think
President Trump is digging himself an even bigger hole by putting
Mulvaney there. The combination of Mulvaney, John Bolton and Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo is a lethal one even for Trump’s political
survival. He’s trying to get sycophants around him, which is usually a
late stage in the collapse of a regime.
I can only say again
that I hope he is correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this
article, and it is about the impeachment of Trump:
GOODMAN: And your thoughts
NADER: Well, impeachment
is going to await the report of the Mueller investigation. If he comes
out with documentation in terms of high crimes and misdemeanor
potential, the House of Representatives has a constitutional obligation
to initiate impeachment hearings. I mean, it’s just basically
investigating the high crimes and misdemeanors of President Trump and
other high officials.
We shouldn’t make a big deal
out of it. I mean, our Founding Fathers let presidents, between
elections, be unaccountable except for one measure, and that is the
I agree and this is a
5. Why Trump’s Private
Transactions are Terrifying
is by Robert Reich on his site. This is from near its beginning:
After two years of Trump we
may have overlooked the essence of his insanity: His brain sees only
private interests transacting. It doesn’t comprehend the public interest.
Private transactions can’t
be wrong or immoral because, by definition, they require that every
party to them be satisfied. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a deal.
Viewed this way, everything
else falls into place.
For example, absent a
public interest, there can’t be conflicts of interest.
Well... yes and no.
First, I agree that Trump
insane, but second, I disagree that ¨the essence of his insanity¨ is that he ¨doesn´t comprehend the public
Here are my reasons. Trump is
essentially because he satisfies nine out of nine of
the behaviorally defined characteristics that are used (by
psychologists and psychiatrists) to establish whether someone is a
(which is a pathology i.e. a mental ¨illness¨). (In fact,
satisfying five out of nine of these criterions is enough.)
I am a psychologist and
agree with this, but this is not what Reich, who is neither
a psychologist nor a psychiatrist, understands by Trump´s
The reason that not
knowing or not caring for the public interest is not a sign
insanity is mostly that it seems as if the majority of the members
the GOP, and it also seems the majority of the rich, agree (e.g.
Thatcher: ¨There is no society¨) that public interests either do not
exist or should not exist.
And while I disagree
with most members of the GOP and the rich I do not think (as a
psychologist) that most of them are insane (while Trump is),
probably would agree to the thesis that most of them are egoistic.
There also is another
disagreement between myself and Reich: I definitely do not
think that ¨[p]rivate
transactions can’t be wrong or immoral because, by definition, they
require that every party to them be satisfied¨.
My reason is very
simple: Almost every ¨agreement¨ for
work and for pay that the non-rich
and the poor make with the rich (or their representatives) is not one
in which ¨every
them [is] satisfied¨
these agreements are between the rich and those who have to
work for their incomes and their food and their housing - and usually
the positions are in fact extremely unequal. (I myself have had
jobs, but absolutely never had any satisfactory working
contract, which I could never get because I always was poor, and had
be ¨satisfied¨ with such agreements as the vast majority of the poor
had accepted, again because their choice was between starvation and
Back to Reich and
“Saudi Arabia, I get along
with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million,
$50 million,” Trump told a crowd at an Alabama rally in August 2015.
“Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
Ethics smethics. Without a
public interest, no deals can be ethical violations. All are just
So someone donated $1
million to Trump’s inaugural committee and subsequently received a $5
billion loan from the Energy Department. What’s the problem? Both
parties got what they wanted. (Federal prosecutors are now
Again yes and no,
mostly because I disagree with Reich about his thesis that ¨[w]ithout a public interest, no deals can be
ethical violations.¨ I do,
because a deal is an agreement between two people, and virtually
agreement between any two people involves much
more than just
these two people.
Here is the ending of
When private deals are
everything, the law is irrelevant. This also seems to fit with Trump’s
If he genuinely believes
the hush money he had Cohen pay was a “simple private transaction,”
Trump must not think the nation’s campaign finance laws apply to him.
But if they don’t, why would laws and constitutional provisions barring
collusion with foreign powers apply to him?
As we enter the third year
of his presidency, Trump’s utter blindness to the public interest is a
terrifying possibility. At least a scoundrel knows when he is doing bad
things. A megalomaniac who only sees the art of the deal, doesn’t.
Well, as I explained,
it simply is false that ¨[w]hen
private deals are everything, the law is irrelevant¨: Almost every private deal
two persons involves very much more interests and work than the
interests and work of just these two persons.
Also, again as I
explained, I do think Trump
is a megalomaniac aka narcissist, and is
mentally ill for that reason, but I do not think
disinterest (let´s say) in the public interest is itself a sign
is insane, for the simple reason that he shares his distinterest with
most (though not all) of America´s present-day conservatives.
B. Extra Bit: On Marijuana
The article in this
section does not neatly fit in the crisis mould. In fact, it is a
fairly long review of a recent book called ¨Grass roots: The Rise
Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America¨ by Emily Dufton.
I have not read the book, but I know a lot about
marijuana (in Holland,
which is different from most countries, for in Holland politics and
illegal dealings in drugs intersect since 30
at least), and the book seems sensible.
The article is by Peter Maguire and is on The New York Review of Books:
It starts as
One of the few
issues that many Americans can agree on in 2018 is, improbably,
marijuana legalization. Pot is now legal in thirty-three states and
Washington, D.C. In April, John Boehner, the former Republican Speaker
of the House, made the rounds of the morning TV talk
shows to announce that he now supported decriminalization. Boehner, a
former Big Tobacco lobbyist, had declared in 2015 that he was
“unalterably opposed” to making pot legal. Now, perhaps hoping to cash
in on the marijuana “green rush,” he sits on the advisory board of
Acreage Holdings, a New York City–based marijuana startup headed by
investment bankers. Acreage hopes to be to Big Pot what R.J. Reynolds,
Boehner’s other employer, is to Big Tobacco. Acreage’s CEO,
Kevin Murphy, optimistically predicts a “massive consolidation in this
business” that will earn his company billions by 2020.
Yes, and this is a
great difference with how marijuana has been treated in the USA
elsewhere) during the last 50+ years, for in the USA marijuana has
classified - without any scientific reason whatsoever - as
dangerous as heroin.
I do know for I am 68 and came first into contact with
Holland in 1967. Here is some more from the beginning of this
This is more or less
correct. Here is a bit more, on how marijuana got classified to be
dangerous as heroin:
Those who did not live
through the 1960s may find it difficult to appreciate just how
subversive this plant was once thought to be. Because the US government
viewed pot smoking as a rejection of postwar American values, it
considered the battle against marijuana an important front in the
culture wars. To the Nixon administration marijuana was not a legal or
economic issue—it was a moral one. The president considered
homosexuality, marijuana, and immorality “the enemies of strong
societies” and compared them to the “plagues and epidemics of former
Grass Roots and most
scholarly studies about pot have a large and excusable blind spot. Much
of the history of the American marijuana business is unknown simply
because of its criminal nature.
When Congress passed
the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970, it
“temporarily” classified marijuana—along with heroin, LSD,
ecstasy, and peyote—as a Schedule 1 drug with “no currently accepted
medical use and a high potential for abuse.” “We knew we couldn’t make
it illegal to be either against the war or black,” President Nixon’s
assistant for domestic affairs, John Ehrlichman, admitted in an
interview, “but by getting the public to associate the hippies with
marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily,
we could disrupt those communities.”
I think that is quite
There is a whole lot more in this article, which I will all
your interests, except for the ending:
government has not only lost the war on pot; it has also lost the War
on Drugs. Today, America is the most drug-addicted nation on earth. It
also has the world’s largest prison population and a racist two-tiered
judicial system. One would think that the architects of this war would
be in political purgatory. Instead they are now trying not only to
dictate the terms on which legalization will proceed, but also to cash
in on it. Since when do the defeated dictate the terms of their
My - brief - answer to the last
question is: Since politics and the law mostly got corrupted in the
USA. And this is a recommended article, with a whole lot more than
end of 2015 that
xs4all.nl 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.
claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie.
They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.
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
from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).
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 (!!).