January 17, 2018

Crisis: USA's Many Wars, "Alternative Facts", Net Neutrality, Shithole States, Trump


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 17, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, January 17, 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 17, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Pentagon Suggests Countering Devastating Cyberattacks With Nuclear

2. Alternative Facts': The 'Non-Word' of 2017
3. One Vote Needed for Resolution to Reinstate Net Neutrality, Democrats

4. I Live in a ‘Shithole Country.’ It’s Called the United States
5. Trump's Presidency Sinks Below Rock Bottom
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. Pentagon Suggests Countering Devastating Cyberattacks With Nuclear Arms

This article is by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
A newly drafted United States nuclear strategy that has been sent to President Trump for approval would permit the use of nuclear weapons to respond to a wide range of devastating but non-nuclear attacks on American infrastructure, including what current and former government officials described as the most crippling kind of cyberattacks.
I say.

And please note the background of this message: The USA already spends over half of its tax money on the Pentagon, while it also spends 8 to 10 times as much on war (or as it is known since a long time: "defense") as any other government.

Here is some more:
For decades, American presidents have threatened “first use” of nuclear weapons against enemies in only very narrow and limited circumstances, such as in response to the use of biological weapons against the United States. But the new document is the first to expand that to include attempts to destroy wide-reaching infrastructure, like a country’s power grid or communications, that would be most vulnerable to cyberweapons.
This seems true, although there have been quite a few near outbreaks of a nuclear war since the early 1960ies. Incidentally, if a weapon is something that is intended to hurt or harm or kill another living being, it seems to me that the term "cyberweapons" is a bit odd (though I also suppose that the term will stay).

Here is more:

The draft document, called the Nuclear Posture Review, was written at the Pentagon and is being reviewed by the White House. Its final release is expected in the coming weeks and represents a new look at the United States’ nuclear strategy. The draft was first published last week by HuffPost.

It called the strategic picture facing the United States quite bleak, citing not only Russian and Chinese nuclear advances but advances made by North Korea and, potentially, Iran.

I am sorry, but this sounds like pure propaganda - for as I said, "The USA already spends over half of its tax money on the Pentagon, while it also spends 8 to 10 times as much on war (or as it is known since a long time: "defense") as any other government." Besides, it is the richest
in the world, so I do think this is
propaganda: The USA has all the advantages to stay ahead, and is ahead to the best of my knowledge.

In fact, I believe there is more behind it:

“Almost everything about this radical new policy will blur the line between nuclear and conventional,” said Andrew C. Weber, an assistant defense secretary during the Obama administration who directed an interagency panel that oversaw the country’s nuclear arsenal.

If adopted, he added, the new policy “will make nuclear war a lot more likely.”

That is, Trump's government seems to be heading for war, and the war will be nuclear. If so, I think human civilization will be destroyed, but who cares with An Enormous Superhuman Genius like Trump at the head of the American forces?

And I am sorry, but this is how I see things, and this is a recommended article.

2. Alternative Facts': The 'Non-Word' of 2017

This article is by The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
German linguists have declared the phrase “alternative facts,” popularized by White House aide Kellyanne Conway, the non-word of 2017.

Conway used the phrase last year when asked why President Donald Trump’s then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer mischaracterized the size of the inauguration crowd.

A team of six language experts at Darmstadt University chose “alternative facts” from among 684 suggestions.

German news agency dpa quoted the head of the panel as saying Tuesday the phrase represents the growing practice of “replacing factual arguments with claims that cannot be proven.”

I say.

And I do so because the Dutch do also elect a "word of the year", but I don't think they select "a non-word" (although I am not sure, because I am not much interested), while "alternative facts", although I grant it are two words, in fact only states a plain contradiction, like "the round square".

Of course, in principle I should add here that my usage of "fact" - which is the common use, although perhaps a bit clarified - might be (and is) undercut by various kinds of epistemological criticisms, but (i) these epistemological criticisms are only from a small minority, and (ii) they also are philosophical or technical, while (iii) I am one of the somewhat select few who does have the philosophical and logical knowledge to appraise them rationally, and I simply disagree with these criticisms.

So in fact I both allow the criticism of the common usage of "fact", and I insist that few are rationally adequate to appraise them, and that those who can appraise them mostly agree they are not valid.

But I like it that the Germans do - also - make a selection of the latest bullshit words they met in their language, and I like this selection, although I do have two remarks. The first is that - evidently(!) - "alternative facts" is not "a non-word" but is a contradiction in terms, and the second is that the very phrase "alternative facts" does not amount to “replacing factual arguments with claims that cannot be proven” but to replacing factual arguments with claims that are contradictory - which happens to be quite close to Orwell in his "1984".

3. One Vote Needed for Resolution to Reinstate Net Neutrality, Democrats Say

This article is by Emily Wells on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

This week, congressional Democrats announced an update in the fight to save net neutrality after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal broadband industry regulations in December 2017. Fifty senators—49 Democrats and one Republican—have now endorsed a legislative measure to override the FCC decision. This means Democrats need one more Republican vote to pass a Senate resolution of disapproval, aimed at restoring net neutrality rules.

We need one more Republican senator who has the decency to stand up to the telecom and cable industries and protect the American people. Let’s find them.
I say, and one reason to do so is that I admit I am not quite clear about this.

If the Democrats are correct, I think that is fine, and I certainly strongly hope they will get the remaining one vote, but as I said: Today I am not clear about how the situation today is (and I neither am a Democrat nor do I trust their public sayings, and it is the same for the Republicans).

Here is more:
The December vote, led by Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, eliminated FCC rules that had banned internet providers from blocking or slowing down websites. Many Republicans believed the rules were too restrictive for businesses, while Democrats argued they provided much-needed protection for consumers. The current resolution from the Democrats aims to overturn the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality and prohibit it from passing these kinds of repeals in the future, The Washington Post reports.
This is true, to the best of my rather extensive knowledge - and note that what Ajit Pai effectively provided the ISPs with is a tool to censor the internet themselves, and to let the people only read what the ISPs approve they read - and you or I may never find this is so, precisely because we have been anonymously and in secret been designed as fit for censoring.

This is a recommended article, and I let you know later what the real facts are.

4. I Live in a ‘Shithole Country.’ It’s Called the United States

This article is by Josh Hoxie on AlterNet and originally on Fortune. It starts as follows:

It takes a level of pomposity inconceivable to most of us to describe another country as a “shithole.”

It’s unfortunately just one more of the obnoxious, racist, and altogether absurd statements we’ve come to expect from President Donald Trump.
I would not have spoken of "a level of pomposity" (?!) but of "a level of vulgarity", but otherwise I agree with Hoxie.

Here is a bit more, on the background:
In case you missed it, here’s what Trump reportedly said: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He was referencing Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, and apparently most of Africa. He went on to ask why more people from Norway (a nearly all white country) weren’t coming to the U.S.
Yes indeed. (Incidentally, the greatest mistake I made in my life was leaving Norway in 1977, where I had lived then for nearly three years, but this is personal and therefore bracketed.)

And here is why Josh Hoxie speaks of the USA as "a shithole country":

Trump and his defenders completely ignore the direct and disgraceful role America has played in making life worse in the countries he cited. Among many other things, we’ve backed right-wing death squads in El Salvador, supported cruel dictators in Haiti, and trapped poor countries the world over in debt through International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans with tight strings attached.

I’ll leave it to foreign relations scholars to parse the rest. What I’m concerned about is Trump’s complete lack of concern over the “shit-holiness” of the country he leads.

Yes, although I am rather convinced that Trump really thinks that the USA is a great country (that His Genius will make yet Greater).

In fact, it is the richest country, but it is precisely there where it is not great:

The U.S. is the wealthiest country on earth. Yet one in five children here will go to bed hungry tonight. Thirteen million American children live in poverty, the highest rate among the world’s wealthy countries.

One shining light for poor American kids is that almost all of them have health insurance, thanks to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) put in place in 1997. That light is rather dim right now, however, as Congress waffles on funding the program, leaving millions of children’s lives in the balance.

Precisely. And here is more on what is in fact the extreme inequality that exists in the USA:

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, conducted a two-week tour of the U.S. in late 2017. He found some of the most extreme inequality anywhere in the world.

“The United States is one of the world’s richest and most powerful and technologically innovative countries,” Alston wrote in an op-ed for The Guardian, “but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.”

America also has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, the highest infant mortality rate among developed countries, and is the only industrialized country not to guarantee health care as a basic human right.

Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.

5. Trump's Presidency Sinks Below Rock Bottom

This article is by Christoph Scheuermann on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:

Stephen Miller is one of the people charged with convincing the world that everything is just fine, and nothing is out of the ordinary. The White House speechwriter went on CNN a week ago Sunday for a live interview to comment on "Fire and Fury," the new book about U.S. President Donald Trump by the journalist Michael Wolff. The tome presents the president as psychologically unstable, as dumb, senile and dangerously erratic. "The book is best understood as a work of very poorly written fiction," Miller said. "The author is a garbage author of a garbage book."

Miller is 32 years old, but with his thinning hair and polished visage, he looks like he could be in his early 50s. During the election campaign, he flew back and forth across the country with Trump. "The reality is that the president is a political genius," Miller said. The accusations leveled in the book, he went on, are grotesque, particularly the quotes attributed to Stephen Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, who Miller denounced as being "vindictive." During the course of the interview, he got so worked up that the anchor, Jake Tapper, finally put an end to it, with security guards ultimately leading Miller out of the studio.

I knew all this, and Stephen Miller seems a great, conscious and quite degenerate liar. This is from the Wikipedia on his lying (minus notes):

Miller has on multiple occasions made false or unsubstantiated claims regarding public policy and Donald Trump. On February 13, 2017, Stephen Colbert responded to Miller's statement that he would appear on "any show, anywhere, anytime, and repeat it, and say the president of the United States is correct, 100 percent" by inviting Miller to come on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, stating: "And listen, if you don't show up, I'm going to call you a liar. And if you do show up, I'm going to call you a liar to your face." 

And this is on the Very Stable Genius who Miller lies for:

"Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart," he tweeted on Sunday morning. He wrote that he went from being a "VERY successful" businessman to TV stardom and then to the presidency. "I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!"

Trump said so, and besides uttered around 2000 documented lies in the first year of his precidency.

I do not know how many Americans believe Trump is a genius, but I do know nobody I respect thinks so, while many of his close associates, who know him fairly to very well, insist that he is "an idiot", or a "dope":

Of course, that's not how a healthy person talks -- it is the voice of mania. And the patient, unfortunately, is the most powerful man in the world, a man who is resented even by his closest aids. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin called Triump an "idiot." Gary Cohn, Trump's chief economic adviser, said the president is "dumb as shit," and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster described Trump as a "dope." All of these quotes are from "Fire and Fury," and there could hardly be better corroboration of their veracity than Trump's outbursts on Twitter and elsewhere.
Who am I to disagree with these close associates of Trump (who did make these remarks)?

Here is the ending of this article:

Yet the real-life satire that Trump and his team are currently staging isn't just another incidence of lunacy. It is a deeply problematic political headache that raises fundamental questions.

How powerful can a superpower be when its leader is beset by increasing calls for his dismissal?
More important, however, is the question as to how Trump -- if he gets this upset because of a book -- might react in a real crisis. What might he do if North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un lays down the gauntlet? Can Trump really be trusted with control of America's nuclear arsenal?

I think the brief answer to the last question (which also is the only serious one) is quite simple: A man like Donald Trump can not be trusted with control of America's nuclear arsenal.


[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 (!!).

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