January 15, 2018

Crisis: Shithole Country, MLK Jr, Antarctic Trouble, Empathy, Whitehouse Liars


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 15, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 15, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

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.

On the moment and since more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from January 15, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. You Don’t Need a Telescope to Find a ‘Shithole Country’
2. Martin Luther King’s Revolutionary Dream Deferred
3. Unstable East Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Spell Catastrophe
4. Why So Little Empathy and Compassion Within American Culture?
5. White House Denies Reality Yet Again
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. You Don’t Need a Telescope to Find a ‘Shithole Country’

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts with memories of Chris Hedges of his five years in El Salvador, and then proceeds as follows (and I like it that this article spells "shithole" correctly, and not as "sh_thole"):
But, far to the north, was a shithole country ruled by a former B-list movie actor who had starred in “Bedtime for Bonzo” and who was in the early stages of dementia. This shithole country, which saw the world in black and white, communist and capitalist, was determined to thwart the aspirations of the poor and the landless. It would not permit the profits of its companies, such as United Fruit, or the power of the pliant oligarch class that did its bidding in El Salvador, to be impeded. It had disdain for the aspirations of the poor, especially the poor of Latin American or Africa, the wretched of the earth, as writer Frantz Fanon called them, people who in the eyes of those who ruled the shithole country should toil in misery all their lives for the oligarchs and the big American companies allied with them. Let the poor, brown and black people go hungry, watch their children die of sickness or be murdered. Power and wealth, those who ruled this shithole country believed, was theirs by divine right. They, as the lords of shithole-dom, were endowed with special attributes. God blessed shithole countries.
Obviously, this is directed at Trump's disqualifying remarks - and indeed I think Hedges is quite right in saying that "Power and wealth, those who ruled this shithole country believed, was theirs by divine right. They, as the lords of shithole-dom, were endowed with special attributes."

The special attributes are that the leaders of the USA are white and rich (in vast majority), and do not have any real moral or ethical values, but only have personal interests to get richer and more powerful.

Here is more on the local leaders that the shithole leaders of the USA nominated to rule for them:
It elevated the imbecilic and the inept, men whose main attributes were brutality, mendacity and thievery. They were uniformly unpleasant creatures. Anastasio “Tachito” Somoza in Nicaragua. The Duvaliers in Haiti. Augusto Pinochet in Chile. Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala. These flies did the bidding of the shithole country. They would murder their own people without compunction and, for hefty bribes, would allow the corporations to exploit and pillage.
And here is more on the military that the shithole leaders of the USA effectively did give power:
The shithole country poured $1 million a day in aid and weapons into the land. They sent down their most ruthless killers, including Félix Rodríguez, the CIA agent and Bay of Pigs veteran who had overseen the hunt for Che Guevara in Bolivia, presided over his execution and proudly wore the wristwatch he had taken from the martyred revolutionary’s body. At night you could see the killers sent to El Salvador by the shithole country, usually with their Vietnamese wives, sitting around the pool at the Sheraton Hotel. They had perfected the dark arts of infiltrating, torturing, interrogating, disappearing and murdering through practice on the people of Vietnam during the war there.
And here is a sum-up what they achieved:
It was an orgy of militarism. By the time the shithole country was done, it had spent $4 billion to crush the uprising. And while it was orchestrating the bloodbath in El Salvador it provided $1 billion to the thugs and killers known as the Contras in Nicaragua, where 50,000 people were murdered. It also quietly assisted the killers of Guatemala, where 200,000 were slain. The poor peasants did not stand a chance.
I think that is quite correct, and this article is strongly recommended.

2. Martin Luther King’s Revolutionary Dream Deferred

This article is by Maj. Danny Sjursen on Truthdig. It is one of the articles that marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's death (in 2018). It starts as follows:

We are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness … [that] has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning … the sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism. … the plague of western civilization.
—Martin Luther King, Aug. 31, 1967

We kill the most beautiful among us—anyone, it seems, who reveals the nastier, brutish elements of American society and has the audacity to imagine, demand even, a better path: peace, unity and tolerance. Abraham Lincoln, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and so many others.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s tragic assassination, and though countless publications will brim with commemorations and retrospectives of this misunderstood icon, most will miss the mark. Long ago co-opted and sanitized by mainstream political figures, the King of memory bears little resemblance to the radical, complex man himself.

He’s remembered by Democrats and Republicans alike as the “good,” “peaceful” civil rights leader—a useful foil for the “bad” activists of the black power movement, the Stokely Carmichaels, Malcolm Xs and Huey Newtons of the world. In reality, the categories were never so neat, the commonalities staggering.

I have already - in the beginning of 2018 - seen several articles that commemorate the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968 (which I can still recall, as I was nearly 18 then).

And I picked Sjursen's article, because he is a white heterosexual former teacher at West Point, who thought for himself, and whose ideas I like, and because I agree with his estimate that "the King of [officialized - MM] memory bears little resemblance to the radical, complex man himself".

I can't review all of this article properly, but here is one good bit:

After 50 years, with the United States again locked in racial conflict, culture wars, gaping inequality and perpetual global war, now seems as good a time as any to take stock of the state of King’s “three evils”: racism, materialism and militarism.
Sure, there’s been the Brown v. Board ruling, Civil and Voting Rights Acts, even a black president. Nevertheless, each of these historic victories is being rolled back before our eyes. Schools are again as segregated as they’ve been in two generations. Conservative courts have dismantled key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Heck, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions—a man too racist to serve as a federal district judge in the 1980s—heads the Justice Department.
America resembles two armed camps, physically and intellectually isolated from each other. Five decades into an unwinnable and racially biased war on drugs, black men still fill the prisons in this nation—which has by far the highest rate of incarceration worldwide. In 2018 in the U.S., a black male is nine times as likely to serve time as a citizen of the next worst country: Cuba. We’ve got a long way to go.

All of this is quite true and also quite sad. Here is Maj. Sjursen on the present, or at least the present as seen by the majority of the ordinary men that form the majority of the U.S. population:

We inhabit a peculiar moment, when most Americans hardly look up from their smartphones long enough to realize they’re missing “Real Housewives.” The vacuous world of celebrity worship and material preoccupation does not lend itself to the impassioned activism King demanded. Unfettered, free-market capitalism—enabled by neoliberal Democrats like the Clintons—has gutted the American dream and rendered it an unattainable nightmare for many. The empirical evidence is staggering.

Income inequality in the (ostensibly) egalitarian United States has reached its worst levels since the Gilded Age. Wages for the working class have been stagnant for 40 years, while the superrich bask in an embarrassment of riches. The federal minimum wage is worth less in real dollars than it was 50 years ago.

Again I think this is quite right, and it also lays the responsibility were it should be: On the sick consumer world that most ordinary men now inhabit, voluntarily, and because they either lack the intelligence or the knowledge to do otherwise: they are too busy consuming (if they are not starving) and trying to win a few cents by selecting the cheapest advertisement they are offered by their - in my eyes: insane - Facebooks.

And Sjursen is right that the minimal wage (in real dollars) is worth less than 50 years (!!!) ago, and would have been correct had he added that it was so all of the last 50 years.

I skipped a lot, but the article ends as follows:

Read, study, unearth the real King, the radical King, and take up the torch of his fight—a dream deferred—against the three evils still alive and well in the United States: racism, materialism and militarism. The owners of this country are counting on your apathy. Prove them wrong.

I basically agree. (But I am not an optimist.)

3. Unstable East Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Spell Catastrophe

This article is by Tim Radford on Truthdig and originally on Climate News Network. It is here because I live in Amsterdam, Holland, which is a bit more than 2 meters below the current sea level. It starts as follows:

New research has confirmed one of the worst nightmares of climate science: the instability of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

This vast mass holds enough water to raise sea levels by 53 metres worldwide. And researchers have confirmed that one stretch of the southern polar coastline has melted many times in the past: by enough to raise sea levels by three to five metres.

A rise of just one metre would render at least 100 million coast dwellers homeless.

I say. Of course, it hasn't happened yet (if it had, I'd be dead), but one of the difficulties is that it may happen any time, and will happen the sooner as the worldwide temperatures keep rising:

“We are already seeing the effects of rising seas caused by melting ice sheets and ocean warming. There is enough ice in our study region alone to raise global sea level by as much as 15 feet (5m). This, in isolation, would be catastrophic to Florida.”

But real estate investors and citizens who put their money into Florida are not likely to get any long-term certainty: nor are the hundreds of millions of people who dwell in low-lying communities from Bangladesh to the Nile Delta, from the coral atolls of Kiribati in the Pacific to the polders of the Netherlands in Europe.

That is because a second study, in the journal Earth’s Future, led by scientists from New Jersey and Massachusetts, reports that estimates of future change are likely to stay uncertain until around 2060.

Precisely. And I am one of those who live in "the polders of the Netherlands in Europe". What can I say, about Holland and myself? I think Holland will probably (more than 50%) be destroyed, at least partially, but it will probably not happen during my life, because I will be 68 in a few months.

But indeed I do not have a good estimate for the probability, and no decent estimate for when it will happen, it it does.

4. Why So Little Empathy and Compassion Within American Culture?

This article is by Gary Olson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas; the class which is the ruling material force in society is at the same time the ruling intellectual force.
— Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels

Setting aside the 3-4 percent of the U.S. population that can be classified as psychopaths (‘snakes in suits’ at the highest levels of government, business and the military) what can we say about an entire society that displays an ane[s] thetized conscience towards the suffering of others and towards the ecological commons itself?

We know that many hear the “cry of the people” but the moral sound waves are muted as they pass through powerful cultural baffles. I submit that neoliberal capitalist culture in the U.S. deadens feelings of social solidarity, pathologizes how we view ourselves and stunts our natural feelings of empathy and moral responsibility.

And I mostly agree with the thesis stated in the above third paragraph.

In fact, the reasons for agreeing that "neoliberal capitalist culture in the U.S. deadens feelings of social solidarity, pathologizes how we view ourselves and stunts our natural feelings of empathy and moral responsibility" may be best givem by Adam Curtis's "The Century of the Self" that outlines (in four parts, of which the best is part 1) how the majority of ordinary men have been changed from citizens until the late Twenties, into consumers in the nearly 100 years that passed since then, and have been made intentionally so by the propagandists that fund all the advertisements and propaganda, that these days probably makes up the most that ordinary men read: There is propaganda and there are advertisements virtually everywhere on can look, in every city.

Here is more on this fundamental change:

Massive belief systems tend to override our neurobiological, evolutionary heritage as our brain’s plasticity conforms to corporate capitalist ideology.  We come to view our “selves,” our identities, as based primarily on market values, especially “Only care about yourself and a few persons close to you.” One advances in society via rugged self-reliance and individuals are basically hypercompetitive, perpetual consumers.

There are also some things I don't quite agree to in the article, and it ends as follows:

Of course, I don’t mean to imply that the elite’s attempt at cultural hegemony is complete. If we lived in such a hermetically sealed system, impervious  to challenge, we couldn’t be engaging in this dialogue. But the circle is rapidly closing.

Well... one of the many problems I have with the fact that the secret services (from anywhere) now have virtually free access to almost anyone's computer, and can steal all information and all privacy from them, is that I have known for a very long time (50 years at least) that most ordinary men rarely think creatively or originally, while the truly intelligent (at most 2% of the population, estimated by their IQs [2]) can think creatively and originally, but they will almost certainly be prevented from doing so by the - unknown, anonymous, secret - workers for the secret services, and indeed may completely disappear (because they are arrested by secret orders from secret courts, that prevent any communication or knowledge - as happens these days in the USA).

As Zbigniew Brezinski put it in 1969 (see here - and the boldings are added):

The 'technotronic society' seems to be the exact opposite of the society of 'spontaneity' demanded by revolutionary students, who Mr Brezezinskin evidently regards as pathetic throw-backs, survivors of Romantic days, forlornly playing out anachronistic roles
'it will soon be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.

And therefore Gary Olson may well be quite correct.

5. White House Denies Reality Yet Again

This article is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones. It starts as follows:
In his recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, President Trump said “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.” It was certainly a peculiar thing to say. Today, instead of explaining it, the ever shameless Sarah Huckabee Sanders simply insisted that the Journal was lying:
Unsurprisingly, it turns out it’s Sanders who is lying:
I should add at this point that the two "(...)" markings indicate the places whence I removed two Tweets, simply because Tweets are most like self-advertising, while they also are very much disliked by me, because they very strongly support the stupid and the ignorant by limiting the amount of characters (!!!) one can tweet. (And I don't use it and never will.)

Apart from that, Kevin Drum is quite right, and here is the ending of his brief article:
Go ahead and play the audio. It’s short, and there’s not much question about what Trump said. I don’t doubt that Trump meant to say “I’d,” but he didn’t.

Any normal White House would have simply explained that Trump misspoke slightly and meant to say “I’d.” Case closed. But this White House is the first in history to routinely deny the documentary evidence of audio and video that we can all see and hear for ourselves. It helps them keep up their faux war with the media, and I guess that’s all that matters.

Yes indeed, and the reason this review is here is this bit:

But this White House is the first in history to routinely deny the documentary evidence of audio and video that we can all see and hear for ourselves.

I think that is quite correct, and very sick.


[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] I know that IQs are not a really good measure of intelligence, but it is the best we have. (And my parents and myself did/do have IQs above 130.)

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