January 16, 2018

Crisis: Pope Frances, Chelsea Manning, Net Neutrality, Assault on Reason, Nuclear Arms


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 16, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, January 16, 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 16, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Pope Francis Fears the Possibility of Nuclear War
2. Sen. Ben Cardin Is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
3. Some Cities Aren’t Waiting Around for Trump to Gut Net
     Neutrality—They Are Building Their Own

4. The Assault on Reason
5. The Nuclear Worrier
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. Pope Francis Fears the Possibility of Nuclear War

This article is by Eric Ortiz on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Pope Francis does not like what he sees in the world. On Monday, the leader of the Catholic Church said he fears the possibility of nuclear war, Reuters reports.

“I think we are at the very limit,” Pope Francis told reporters aboard the papal plane. “I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things.”

Yes, indeed - and if you think Pope Francis is mistaken, then read item 5 below. I think Francis is quite right. He also said this, with which I again agree:

“[Nuclear weapons exist] in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race,” he told an audience that included representatives from the United States and Russia. “International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation and the parading of stockpiles of arms.

“Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity.”

I quite agree, and not because I am a Catholic, for I am not: I am and have been an atheist all my life, and indeed I am also a philosopher, without any belief in any religion. But the pope leads over a billion men and women, and he is right, at least about nuclear arms.

In fact - and I knew this, and this is one of my reasons to review this article - Francis is the first pope who takes this position:

American Magazine noted the significance:

[Pope Francis] is the first pope ever to condemn the possession of nuclear weapons since they were initially developed at the end of World War II and then used twice by the United States at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, causing the deaths of 210,000 people.

Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego (...) called the pope’s statement “new and, of course … very significant.” “It is going beyond the questions raised before about the ethic of nuclear deterrence not being warranted in the present day,” Bishop McElroy said. “It’s really going beyond that to the possession itself being morally wrong.”

And I think Frances is right - and for more see item 5. Finally, here is some background information:

Last January, days after Trump’s inauguration as president, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight, or apocalypse. The move from “three minutes to midnight” to “two and a half minutes to midnight”—where the clock stands now—was unprecedented.

Indeed. And this is a recommended article.

2. Sen. Ben Cardin Is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning

This article is by Norman Solomon on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ben Cardin, has become a big star in national media by routinely denouncing Russia as a dire threat to American democracy. The senior senator from Maryland personifies the highly dangerous opportunism that has set in among leading Democrats on the subject of Russia.

Chelsea Manning confirmed on Sunday that she is challenging Sen. Cardin’s re-election effort in the Democratic primary this June. Her campaign has real potential to raise key issues. One of them revolves around the kind of bellicose rhetoric that heightens the dangers of conflict between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.

In a typical foray into reckless hyperbole, Cardin told a public forum in November: “When you use cyber in an affirmative way to compromise our democratic, free election system, that’s an attack against America. It’s an act of war. It is an act of war.”

Yes indeed.

Cardin is the kind of totalitarian idiot who insists that saying that you disagree with him is sufficient for him to say you are committing war against him - and in case you doubt it, remove "cyber" in the above quote and replace it by "the press":

'When you use [the press] in an affirmative way to compromise our democratic, free election system, that’s an attack against America. It’s an act of war. It is an act of war.'

And Chelsea Manning I presume known. Here is some more on Cardin's opinions - and once again my reference is also to item 5 below:

In light of what is at stake for human survival—with the odds of nuclear war shifting ominously because of the agenda that he’s helping to push—Sen. Cardin can be understood as someone who avidly fits into patterns of nationalistic and militaristic madness. The sad fact is that he has plenty of company on Capitol Hill. Lemmings are bad enough, but conformists who would drag all of humanity over the cliff with them are far worse.

Yes indeed. And this is on Chelsea Manning's opinions on nuclear war (which I think are quite correct):

Right after being sentenced to prison in August 2013 for heroic whistleblowing that exposed many U.S. war crimes, Chelsea Manning released a statement that quoted Howard Zinn: “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” A nuclear war between the United States and Russia would do more than kill vast numbers of innocent people. Scientific research tells us that a nuclear holocaust would make the Earth “virtually uninhabitable.”

The extreme hostility toward Russia that makes such an outcome more likely must be rejected. Sen. Ben Cardin is one of the loudest and most prominent voices for such hostility. He should be challenged.

Quite so. And I hope Manning will win.

3. Some Cities Aren’t Waiting Around for Trump to Gut Net Neutrality—They Are Building Their Own

This article is by Valerie Vande Panne on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Fort Collins, Colorado is planning to build its own internet service utility, trumping the Federal Communications Commission’s move last month to extinguish net neutrality.

Fort Collins joins a growing list of cities opting in to their own internet, and opting out of big telecom, much to the disdain of giants like Comcast. All told, big telecom and anti-net neutrality agencies spent nearly a million dollars trying to defeat the Fort Collins move.

I think this may be quite important, but I do not know.

It is in fact all about: Who is to control the internet - the  very few persons who are the richest people in the world, or the persons who use internet, who nearly all have little power and little money.

Here is an argument that the latter might break the power and the money of the former:

Telecom spent an “unprecedented amount of money,” Mitchell says, “but the voters were not scared by the cable and telephone companies. The reason that’s important for the rest of the country is that local government needs to be more aggressive in creating local internet choice.”

Early this year, the Fort Collins City Council voted 7-0 to move forward with a broadband plan, in light of a strong message voters sent when they approved ballot measure 2B in support of a municipal internet utility by nearly 60%. Citizens had previously opted the town out of a 2005 law (promoted by telecom companies), prohibiting municipalities from building their own broadband networks. However, the law gives citizens the right to opt out, and that’s exactly what Fort Collins and nearly 100 other municipalities in Colorado have done.

In fact, here is the same idea from my personal Dutch point of view, and it is relevant that Fort Collins has close to 150,000 inhabitants, while Amsterdam, Holland, has around 750,000:

There seem to be only two ISPs left in Amsterdam and Holland, and if this is false, there are only two large ISPs left.

Both are completely private firms; both are capitalists; both will be hardly open to influence from their users (you are simply not answered: as I was not, for seven years), and both have far too much implicit powers over virtually all the information they provide to any of their users to be trusted: they can switch off everyone, and besides they also can know everyone's thoughts, values, incomes, and private mails.

And while I dislike the City of Amsterdam (after having been terrorized for two periods of three years against which absolutely no one of the City of Amsterdam gave the least protection, and one was a completely insane and violent person, while the others were two soft and hard drugs dealers who were protected up to my murder and quite possibly further by - then, not now - mayor of Amsterdam Ed van Thijn, who founded the political deal that made soft & hard drugs providers in Holland turn over at least 300 billion dollars over the last 30 years, all quite illegaly, with hardly any Dutchman mounting any protest agains this extra-ordinarily illegal profit making), it still is much more open to control than the leaders of a private ISP.

So I would be strongly for an internet that was owned by the City of Amsterdam, and not by some private ISPs, for this gives the users at least some possibility for "democratic control".

Then again, Amsterdam is in Holland and Fort Collins in the USA. Here is more about the latter:

Fort Collins’s $150 million plan should see broadband citywide completed within three to four years.

Nationwide, there are 95 municipal broadband networks similar to the Fort Collins plan that might encompass surrounding areas, such as in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“The thing about Fort Collins that is exciting is the organizing,” Mitchell says, stressing they only raised “about $15,000 and took down professional PR people to build a municipal network. To me that suggests there is hope anywhere—where people want to organize around this issue, they have a good chance of success.”

I say. At least this gives some hope, and this is also a recommended article.

4. The Assault on Reason

This article is by Zia Haider Rahman on The New York Review of Books. This is from near the beginning, after a brief exposition to physics and mathematics:
These are the gold standards of human intellectual progress. Society, however, has to deal with wildly contested facts. We live in a post-truth world, by some accounts, in which facts are willfully bent to serve political ends. If the forty-fifth president is to be believed, Christmas has apparently been restored to the White House. Never mind the contradictory videos of the forty-fourth president and his family celebrating the holiday.
In fact, I quite agree that science, mathematics, and logic are "the gold standards of human intellectual progress", and I also quite agree that there are facts, that differ from non-facts, in
the sense that these facts are either normally well-verified by scientific procedures or else are part of a widely accepted commonsensical real world.

None of these two opinions are certain, but both belong to the worldview that is the foundation of the real sciences, and are shared - to a considerable extent - by most real scientists, indeed quite independently of their ethical, political or religious convictions.

Indeed, if you want some more of this, try reading these rather brief but quite clear items in my Philosophical Dictionary: Natural Realism, Natural Philosophy, Natural Logic and Naturalism.

And one considerable problem is that to acquire a more or less scientific point of view, one must both be at least rather intelligent and have spent some 4 to 6 years in training this intelligence in a scientific way, which in fact is given to at most 10 to 15% of all the people that are alive (and probably considerably fewer [2]).

Here is some more on facts and on reason (or rationality):
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts, as United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was fond of saying. None of us is in a position, however, to verify all the facts presented to us. Somewhere, we each draw a line and say on this I will defer to so-and-so or such-and-such. We have only so many hours in the day. Besides, we acknowledge that some matters lie outside our expertise or even our capacity to comprehend.
But it is not merely facts that are under assault in the polarized politics of the US, the UK, and other nations twisting in the winds of what some call populism. There is also a troubling assault on reason.

Most of us grasp rudimentary principles of reasoning. We apply such principles in our daily lives, usually without reflection. Yes, the cognitive scientists tell us that human beings are irrational, and, if we’re not slaves to our passions, then at a minimum we’re led by an unruly twinning of reason and emotion. Nevertheless, whenever we stop ourselves and look at something shrewdly, we are capable of seeing basic errors of reasoning.
I agree, and indeed I am not one who merely understands the "rudimentary principles of reasoning", for - apart from my two academic studies of philosophy and psychology - I spent a
lot of time on mathematics, logic, probability and physics, and more than most people who did not study these subjects academically.

One major problem is that these studies tend to be quite impossible for the vast majority, for lacks of time, of money, and/or of intelligence.

In any case, Rahman is right there is an attack on the basic principles of reasoning, on facts and on truth, and a good part of that attack is undertaken by the stupid and the ignorant, who have no intellectual talents to discuss these principles rationally, but who are in a vast majority, and who do not like to admit that there is anything they cannot fully understand, indeed without having to do any academic studying whatsoever. [3]

And besides, there is the danger of doublethinking, which is illustrated with a quotation from Orwell, that also concludes the article. This is from Orwell's "1984"
To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself—that was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word—doublethink—involved the use of doublethink.
I mostly agree, and I also register that doublethinking is rather easy for two kinds of people:

Those who have chosen to give up any and all intellectual and moral standards, and who only strive for power over others, abd those who never had any intellectual or moral standards, because they were not educated enough to acquire them.

Unfortunately, these are in the majority. This is a recommended article (in reviewing of which I skipped a lot).

5. The Nuclear Worrier

This article is by Thomas Powers on The New York Review of Books. It is about the latest book by Daniel Ellsberg, "The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner", and it starts as follows:

Daniel Ellsberg in his youth and Daniel Ellsberg in his age are the same man—a born worrier quick to spot trouble, take alarm, and issue warning. He is best known for worrying about the American war in Vietnam, which time in the war zone convinced him was a crime, and for doing what he could to bring it to an end. In that case he copied and illegally released a huge collection of secret documents about the war, first published in June 1971 by The New York Times, which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers.

But Vietnam was not the first or the biggest thing that worried Ellsberg after he went to work in his late twenties as an analyst for the RAND Corporation in 1959. His first and biggest worry was the American effort to defend itself with nuclear weapons. When Ellsberg finally got a look at the plans for such a war he realized immediately that the Strategic Air Command had built a military instrument that not only could but in his view probably would break the back of human civilization.

Yes indeed - and I also agree with Ellsberg that it is very probable that a nuclear war will "break the back of human civilization".

Here is more on Ellsberg and nuclear arms:

What separated Ellsberg from ordinary civilian worriers was his access to the actual war plans for doing it again. By the time he received his first clearances to know official secrets about types and numbers of weapons, the handful of first-generation bombs, assembled one by one by hand at Los Alamos, New Mexico, had been replaced by more and better devices. Fat Man, the fission bomb that destroyed Nagasaki, was blimplike in shape, weighed about 10,000 pounds, and exploded with the energy of 20,000 tons of TNT. By the late 1950s the first few fission bombs had been replaced by ever-expanding numbers (soon to be thousands) of thermonuclear fusion weapons, small enough to fit in the nose cone of a missile or under a jet fighter, and roughly a thousand times more powerful than Fat Man.

I also note that Fat Man is supposed to have killed at least 35,000 people and almost complete destroyed a circle of 2 kilometers in diameter, while by the late 1950ies (!!) the nuclear bombs that were in use by the U.S, army each could kill a thousand times as many people (that is: 35 million persons), at least in principle. (And this was in the late 1950ies!)

Here are the plans Ellsberg saw in the 1960ies:

The first SIOP in December 1960 planned an overwhelming knockout blow. Moscow alone was targeted with at least eighty nuclear weapons, and every Russian city with a population greater than 25,000 would be hit by at least one. China would get the same, for no particular reason. Ellsberg was surprised to discover that the planners had not been afraid to add up the probable number of dead. Over the first six months following the initial strike they estimated that about half the population of Russia and China would die of radiation effects alone—a total of about 380 million people. Three things about this plan convinced Ellsberg to do what he could to stop it: its magnitude, its all-or-nothing character, and the fact that General LeMay had reserved to himself the power to decide when to order the attack.

Some readers may draw up at this point and wonder whether these horrors were really true. The answer is that they were, as the reader may learn from the stout books by Kaplan, Herken, Rosenbaum, and Schlosser.
Yes indeed - and it bears repeating that few Americans (other than Ellsberg) seem to have thought then that merely considering murdering 380 million people was sick (and besides probably more would have been killed by radiation).

Here is the conclusion of this article:
This is not a young man’s argument, assured and confident. It is an old man’s warning, the fruit of long reflection and tinged with sorrow, as clear as he can make it: these weapons are too dangerous to have because they are too dangerous to use.

Yes indeed. And this is a strongly 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] Probably fewer, for many studies that are currently possible in the universities are not sciences in any decent sense, and of those which nominally are, such as sociology or psychology, most do not require a decent amount of mathematics.

[3] This was made incontrovertibly clear by me on Phoenix Rising (a site for people with M.E.): None of my ideas - most of which are the product of quite a few years of studying and thinking - is worth more than any of the ideas of the most ignorant anonymous idiot, and since there are more idiotic than bright people, the idiotic people have the democratic majority. (As soon as that was quite clear to me - after 4 months, in May of 2010 - I left Phoenix Rising, although I have now nearly 40 years of M.E.: I do not want to be censored and scolded by pure idiots without any decent scientific understanding, and I was, often and repeatedly.)

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