January 30, 2018

Crisis: The US War Machine, Multiverse Mania, ¨The Art of the Lie¨, The Worst, US Elections


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 30, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, January 30, 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 30, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Trump Is Making Great Use of America’s War Machine
2. 15 Years of Multiverse Mania
3. "The Art of the Lie": New Report Details Trump's Year Bereft of
     Integrity, Accountability

4. The Worst of the Worst
5. Stopping the Big Money Takeover of US Elections and Government
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. Trump Is Making Great Use of America’s War Machine

This article is by Sonali Kolhatkar on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The greatest impact of Donald Trump’s first year as president has been kept out of sight from most Americans. The wars the U.S. waged during Barack Obama’s tenure have sharply escalated under Trump. The result has been a predictable and massive spike in civilian deaths.

Boasting in an interview last year about an apparent retreat by Islamic State, Trump declared, “I totally changed rules of engagement. I totally changed our military.” He also touted the “big, big difference if you look at the military now” compared with what it was under the Obama administration. While Obama shares blame for escalating the use of drones, especially in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia, Trump’s military leadership appears to be a return to a more traditional form of war and a complete unfettering of attempts to minimize civilian casualties.

Yes indeed. Here is more:

This unfettering is evident in an almost 50 percent increase of airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during Trump’s first year in office, leading to a rise in civilian deaths by more than 200 percent compared with the year before. The watchdog group Airwars, which has tracked the U.S. war against Islamic State since 2014, remarked, “This unprecedented death toll coincided with the start of the Trump presidency, and suggested in part that policies aimed at protecting civilians had been scaled back under the new administration.”

And I think the above is true. Then there is this:

In addition to Syria and Iraq, U.S. military action in Afghanistan also has dramatically increased. As the Los Angeles Times reported in December:
“Operating under looser restrictions on air power that commanders hope will break a stalemate in the war, U.S. fighter planes this year dropped 3,554 explosives in Afghanistan through Oct. 31, the most since 2012.” In December, when the U.S. was expected to slow down for the winter, as it had in the past, it instead continued a steady pace of airstrikes aimed at the Taliban. According to The Washington Post, “For the first time in 16 years, the cold has not slowed the war in the air. U.S. and Afghan forces conducted 455 airstrikes in December, an average of 15 a day, compared with just 65 the year before.”

I think that is also true. The article ends as follows, after considerably more:

The American public’s lack of attention to Trump’s violent and dangerous foreign policy, which is far worse than that of his predecessor, is a big part of the problem of the ongoing wars. Our ignorance of the havoc Trump is wreaking overseas makes us more susceptible to the politicization of future retaliatory attacks. The monstrosities being carried out in our name, and with our tax dollars, are no less our responsibility when we ignore them. Trump’s foreign policy may indeed be the most dangerous game he is playing as president.

And I more or less agree, although I have two remarks:

First, it is not only ¨t
he American public’s lack of attention¨ to the many wars that the USA is conducting on other continents, for the many wars also tend to be both massively under- reported on the mainstream media, while if they are reported they tend to be reported in a propagandistic manner.

And second, an important factor that considerably diminished the interests of the average American in American wars conducted on other continents is that the draft was stopped by Nixon in 1972: The USA currently has an army of volunteers, that are not drafted, which - among other things - means that none of the children of those making or approving the war in the Senate or the House risk being drafted and killed.

I think both remarks are justified, but meanwhile this is a recommended article.

2. 15 Years of Multiverse Mania

This article is by Peter Woit on his site. It is here in part because I am a philosopher of science, and in part because I think both science and the qualities of the universities have fallen a lot over the last 40 or 50 years (which I can still all recall quite well).

In fact, this was a repeat from January 19, 2018, when I also did a review of an article on Woit´s site, for the same reason.

The present article starts as follows:
Today is the 15th anniversary of the event that kicked off the Multiverse Mania that continues to this day, recently taking the form of a concerted attack on conventional notions of science. 2018 has seen an acceleration of this attack, with the latest example appearing this weekend.
I say! Well... here is another repeat from January 19, 2018:

In fact, I am neither a physicist nor a mathematician, though I did take considerable trouble to educate myself in them, which also made me read, among quite a few other books and papers, all back in the 1970ies and 1980ies, Richard Feynman's "Lectures on Physics", which I did like a lot.

This doesn't make me a physicist at all, but it does support what I said about the declines of both science and the universities, for I remember Feynman in 1984 (or before) stating what seems to me quite the same argument as Peter Woit gives, that amounted in 1984 (or before) to Feynman's claims that string theory is untestable.

In fact, I think being (un)testable is more correct than speaking of verifications and falsifications (I think, and I am a philosopher of science). And in any case, I agreed with Feynman in 1984 (or before): if you neither can verify nor falsify something, all you have - at that point, at least - is
not science, but speculations about dreams. (It may become science when it can be tested.)

And since it is this year almost 35 years further, I would have been rather astounded to find the same situation still prevails over string theory and fundamental physics, were it not for the additional fact that I have been maintaining since the late 1970ies that the qualities of science, the universities, and also pre-university education have fallen a whole lot since then. [2]

And that (end of repeat) is the main reason I am interested in this degeneration of  real and fundamental science, for that is what it is.

In fact, Peter Woit has similar feelings:
Back in 2003-4 I never would have believed that the subject would end up in the state it finds itself in now. With the LHC results removing the last remaining hope for observational evidence relevant to string theory unification, what we’ve been seeing the last few years has been a concerted campaign to avoid admitting failure by the destructive tactic of trying to change the usual conception of testable science. Two examples of this from last week were discussed here, and today there’s a third effort along the same lines, Quantum Multiverses, by Hartle. Unlike the others, this one includes material on the interpretation of quantum mechanics one may or may not agree with, but of no relevance to the fundamental problem of not having a predictive theory that can be tested.
Precisely, at least for the part where Woit says that in fact there has been (bolding added)
¨the destructive tactic of trying to change the usual conception of testable science.¨
My reason - which I think is also Woit´s reason - is that supposed science that is not testable (that is, it can neither be verified nor be falsified) is not science but is - possibly heavily formalized, as is basic physics - simply fantasy.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
In a section on “A FAQ for discussion” we find arguments that include
  • The cosmological multiverse is falsifiable, because maybe you’ll falsify quantum mechanics.
  • The cosmological multiverse is testable: “by experiment if a very large spacetime volume could be prepared with an initial quantum state from which galaxies, stars, life etc would emerge over billions of years.” Not surprisingly, no indication is given of how we will produce such a state or any theory that would describe what would happen if we did.
  • The theory of evolution is just like the theory of the cosmological multiverse.

Both the absurdity and the danger of this last argument are all too clear.

In fact, so are the first and second arguments. I think that Peter Woit is quite right, and while I lack a sufficient grasp of modern physics, my own explanations for why this attempted replacement of fantasy for testable theories is still popular - 34 years or more after I became first aware of it - are that, firstly, the qualities of the universities have fallen a lot over the last 40 or 50 years (which I can still all recall), and secondly there also are now prizes of millions of dollars for some brilliant idea of a physicist.

I think both have been important, but I lack the knowledge to pronounce on which is the most important. And this is a recommended article.

3. "The Art of the Lie": New Report Details Trump's Year Bereft of Integrity, Accountability

This article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Entitled "The Art of the Lie," a new report offers damning assessment of President Donald Trump's first year in office, cataloguing what it describes as his presidency's massive miscarriage of government integrity and accountability.

Released Monday, a day before Trump delivers his State of the Union address, by a pair of watchdog organizations, the report (pdf) breaks up the failures into 20 categories, starting with "Trump Lies, False and Misleading Claims, Untruths," and ending with "Deregulatory Task Forces Operating in Secret."

"Some of Trump's wrongful actions have been high-profile; others are more subtle. But President Trump's record must be preserved and documented. That is the purpose of this report," Common Cause president Karen Hobert Flynn and Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer write in the introduction to the report.

I say, which I do because I strongly agree with Flynn and Wertheimer, and I also like
the report (pdf), which I also recommend. Indeed, here is a part from the introduction of
the report :

We know of no president in the history of the country, other than Donald Trump, who has:

  • Told more than 2,100 lies, false and misleading statements and untruths in his first year in office, an average of nearly 5.9 per day;
  • Attacked the media as an “enemy of the American people,” placing Trump in direct conflict with founders John Adams and Thomas Jefferson;
  • Attacked his own law enforcement and intelligence agencies;
  • Attacked our strongest foreign allies while embracing our major foreign adversaries;
  • Sided with a major adversary over the consensus views of his own intelligence agencies;
  • Attacked the FBI as the “worst in history,” and accused an FBI agent of “treason” for the “crime” of making negative comments about him;
  • Asserted an “absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” a right Trump does not have;
  • Attacked the entire court system as “broken and unfair”;
  • Attacked judges repeatedly for decisions which he disagreed with;
  • Refused to divest his vast business holdings, leaving him with massive conflicts of interest and major Emolument Clause problems;
  • Falsely claimed that millions of individuals voted illegally in the presidential election to explain losing the popular election by nearly 2.9 million votes.

Quite so! Here is more from the article:

Describing the president as "a nonstop, habitual, and compulsive liar," the report cites a Washington Post analysis that found Trump made an average of 5.9 false or misleading claims a day during his first year at the White House. With his year-long display of disregard for the truth, the report says, Trump "has undermined the right of citizens to know what their government is doing and to work from a common base of information. He has subverted our nation's credibility and effectiveness on the world stage."

Further, his "insistence on repeatedly telling lies and his inability to distinguish between truth and fiction has endangered our constitutional system of government," it adds.

I fully agree. Here is more:

Another example of failures in term of his administration's integrity and accountability are his web of conflicts of interests. "Because Trump remains the financial beneficiary of his business operations, his conflicts of interest as president are pervasive," the report notes. Problematic conflicts of interests extend also to Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom have White House positions. Like Donald, "Kushner and Ivanka Trump have also failed to fully divest from their respective business interests," the report states.

Quite so. Here is again more:

Such problems are manifested in the president's cabinet as well. In fact, it is "rife with ethics problems and conflicts of interests," the report says. It notes, for example, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's potential conflicts of interests from his continued role as president of Steven T. Mnuchin, Inc, which manages some of his investments. The public is in the dark because his investments have not been disclosed, the publication notes.

Another problem with the cabinet heads is that they "are methodically deconstructing the agencies" they run.

EPA head Scott Pruitt is a prime example, though Betsy DeVos seems to be on similar mission of government destruction, the report argues. Under her direction, "the Department of Education [has been] cutting back staff and offering buyouts."
Again I quite agree - and if you don´t, you should read more in the non-mainstream media.
Here is more:

Among the other noted problems: Trump's undermining an accurate 2020 Census by hobbling the count with underfunding, proposing adding a question about citizenship, and suggestions that he may appoint racial gerrymandering supporter Thomas Brunell to a senior position at the Census Bureau.

There have also been Trump's attacks on the rule of law, such as his false assertion that he has "absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department."

And there have, of course, been his egregious attacks on the press.

Yes indeed. And incidentally: If Trump had the ¨absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department¨ he would be a dictator who is beyond the control of the law.

This is from the end of the article:

"In his first year in office, President Trump has been an historic failure when it comes to ensuring the integrity and accountability of our government," Wertheimer said in a press statement.

"President Trump has been unlike any previous president in his incessant, irresponsible attacks on the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, intelligence agencies, the media, members of Congress and judges, and private citizens, among others."

The president, he continued, "appears to be the biggest spreader of false, misleading and untrue information we have seen in national office.

I think that is quite correct and this is a strongly recommended article (as is the report (pdf)).

4. The Worst of the Worst

This article is by Michael Tomasky on The New York Review of Books. In fact, it is a review of Michael Wolff´s ¨Fire and Fury¨ and David Frum´s ¨Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic¨.

It starts as follows, and because this is a long review I will only quote from the beginning of the article, and I will say nothing about Frum´s book in this review:

On January 10, The Washington Post reported that Donald J. Trump passed a milestone that none of his predecessors is known to have attained: just short of the anniversary of his first year in office, he told his two thousandth lie. It had happened sometime the day before, when the president was meeting with legislators to discuss immigration and tossed out a few of his old standbys—about how quickly the border wall could be built, about “the worst of the worst” gaining entry to the United States through a visa lottery, and about his wall’s ability to curtail the drug trade.

The path from the first lie to the two thousandth (and now beyond), a veritable Via Dolorosa of civic corruption, has been impossible for even the most resolute citizen to avoid. Trump is in our faces, and our brains, constantly. Yet the barrage is so unceasing that we can’t remember what he did and said last week, or sometimes even yesterday. Do you remember, for example, that first major lie? It was a doozy: the one about how his inaugural crowds were larger than Barack Obama’s, larger than anyone’s, the largest ever, despite the ample photographic evidence that rendered the claim laughable.
Yes indeed. And in fact I do remember Trump´s ¨first major lie¨ as president, although I did not classify it as such a year ago, indeed in part because I had heard many earlier lies by Trump, though indeed not as president but as candidate.

In fact, one reason I do remember this is that I am a psychologist, and it seemed to me then as it seems now: Of course all presidents lie - but with somebody who lies in a case like this, where there are very clear photographs that very clearly shows he is lying, there also must be something wrong besides.

Indeed I think there is, and I agree with over 70,000 other psychologists and psychiatrists: I think what is wrong with Donald Trump is that he is not sane. Incidentally: You may disagree with anything I say, but to become a psychologist I have studied six years (the required time, in Holland, before 1995 or so) and if you are not a psychologist, you simply lack those years and that study.

Here is more:
Here we are, a year later. From my reading and television viewing, the general assessment of most pundits seems to be that it’s been worse than we could have imagined (except on the Fox News Channel, where everything in Trump world is coming up roses and the gravest threat to democracy is still someone named Clinton). But honestly, who couldn’t have imagined any of this?
In fact, that depends. I do not believe anybody could have imagined that Trump would spout over 2000 evident lies in his first year as president, but I think there were good warnings, notably this from the end of 2016:

November 29, 2016

Dear President Obama,

We are writing to express our grave concern regarding the mental stability of our President-Elect. Professional standards do not permit us to venture a diagnosis for a public figure whom we have not evaluated personally. [M3] Nevertheless, his widely reported symptoms of mental instability -- including grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality -- lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office. We strongly recommend that, in preparation for assuming these responsibilities, he receive a full medical and neuropsychiatric evaluation by an impartial team of investigators. [M4]

There is no known answer of Obama to this letter but if you read all of it - see my: Crisis: Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill? of December 25, 2016 - you will find that the letter was signed by two professors of psychiatry and one of psychology, that it comes with fair evidence from the DSM, and that it predicts some the things Trump did get widely known for in 2017. (Incidentally, this video interview by the psychologist Dr. Lynne Meyer:
is also quite interesting, still.)

Then there is this by Tomasenky:
To be fair to the press, the reporting on the Trump administration has been thorough and often unflinching, willing to call a lie a lie (witness the Post’s list) and even resolved, as we saw recently, to print the word “shithole” in news stories and headlines and say it on air.
I am sorry, but I disagree.

First, one should make the distinction between the mainstream media and the non- mainstream media, and it simply is a fact that most of the mainstream media, indeed with the (partial) exceptions of The Washington Post and The New York Times, have not been ¨
thorough and often unflinching¨ in their reporting of the presidential lies.

Second, while I do not think ¨the press¨ should print all vulgarities anyone may utter, I certanly also think that if the president lies, he should be said to be lying, and those who don´t and say nothing or use euphemisms instead, are in fact lying to the public, and also if the president of the USA uses vulgarities, these vulgarities should be literally reported, and again those who say nothing or report in terms of euphemisms lie to the public.

Besides, I do get rather sick - as a Dutchman - reading ¨sh*t-hole¨ and ¨c**t¨ etc. in the American press when absolutely everyone over age 7 who reads this knows which words are meant and how to pronounce them.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
And so, free from that stricture of straight news reporting, Fire and Fury has performed a great public service: it has forced mainstream Washington to confront and discuss the core issue of this presidency, which is the president’s fitness for office.
Yes indeed, and I agree with this judgement. There is considerably more in the article, including a discussion of Frum´s book that I left wholly out in this review, and it all is recommended.

5. Stopping the Big Money Takeover of US Elections and Government

This article is by Jeff Clements on Truth-out and originally on Op-Ed. It starts as follows:

"A prescription for disaster."

That's how opponents described a 2017 Ohio ballot initiative in their television ads, claiming the law would increase the cost of prescription drugs, when in fact the law was intended to decrease drug prices. What the ads didn't say is that they were financed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an association of for-profit pharmaceutical companies that spent more than $58 million -- more than three-and-a-half times the spending of the proponents of the initiative -- to defeat the citizen initiative designed to lower the price of prescription drugs.  

The corporate-funded defeat of the Ohio initiative is part of a pattern. According to a report from Public Citizen, corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars in state ballot initiatives and usually win by spending 33 times more than the opposition, on average. This kind of domination of corporate money is not "free speech," as the Supreme Court maintains in decisions such as Citizen United v. FEC; it is corporate power run amok.

Whether the proposed Ohio prescription drug law is good or bad should be decided by the citizens of Ohio in a fair process. Global corporations who don't vote should not be allowed to spend unlimited money on deceptive advertising designed to confuse voters and obfuscate issues in order to boost their bottom-line.

Precisely! Here is more:

In 1978, for the first time in US history, the Supreme Court created a "free speech" right of corporations to spend money to influence the outcome of state ballot votes. While conservative William Rehnquist and liberal Thurgood Marshall alike dissented, a 5-4 majority in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti struck down a Massachusetts law seeking to keep corporate money out of citizen initiatives. Then in 2010, with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Court went much further, decreeing that corporations and unions have a free-speech right to spend unlimited money to influence the outcome of any elections.

As a result, corporations, a few big unions and even fewer super-wealthy people have spent over $40 billion since 2010 to gain unprecedented influence in federal and state elections and ballot initiatives. To restore citizens to the center of our government, we urgently need to amend the United States Constitution to require Congress and the state legislatures to regulate the role of money in elections and governance to ensure transparency, prevent corruption and protect against the buying of access to or influence over representatives.

Again: precisely! In fact, I do not know what use the majority of the present Supreme Court is for, other than the rich, and I also believe - with somewhat less certainty, because I do not know most relevant laws - that it would be better to nominate judges for the Supreme Court not for life but for ten years.

And in any case, 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] It takes far too long to outline my arguments, but see here. And this is just one bit, that dates back over 50 years now, for it became the Dutch reality in 1965, precisely 100 years after the renewal of the pre-university school system of 1865:

From 1865 till 1965, to enter a Dutch univerity required a HBS or a Gymnasium diploma, that stood for examinations in three to five foreign languages  (English,  French, German, Greek, Latin), mathematics, physics, chemistry, geography history etc. all to a total of 14 or 16 subjects, nearly all of which were examined in writing.

From 1965 onwards, to enter a Dutch univerity required a VWO diploma, that stood for examinations in one foreign language (more were allowed) and a few other examinations, but altogether one had to qualify in 5 or 6 subjects, of which
at most three or four were examined in writing.

That has been the standard since 1965. It should not be considered a miracle that around 2008 most who went for an engineer diploma (that now takes three instead of six years) had to take half a year of additional mathematics (within those three years) to crack them up to the required minimum skills.

Incidentally: hardly any Dutchman discussed these things, in the last 50 years. Apparently, the majority is much rather stupid and uneducated than intelligent and educated.

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