May 5, 2018

Crisis: On Truth, ¨New Democrats¨, Global War, On Amazon, On The British Press Liars


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 5, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, May 5, 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from May 5, 2018
1. Is There Such a Thing as Truth?
2. The Ghosts of ‘New Democrats’ Are Haunting Us
3. Senators Have a New Plan to Expand Indefinite Detention and Endless
     Global War

4. Amazon Paid No Federal Income Taxes.
5. Reality Check – the Tories DID NOT win the local elections.
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. Is There Such a Thing as Truth?

This article is by Errol Morris on The Boston Review. This starts as follows:
It has now been over fifty years since the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), a book considered by many to be one of the seminal works of the twentieth century. I do not regard it as such. Although it has spawned thousands of worshipful articles and books, it remains for me, at best, like Pet Rocks—a fad. When I first wrote this, I received instant criticism from my editor and others: fads are short-lived, while enthusiasm for Kuhn’s book has persisted for half a century.
A cult, then: misplaced admiration for a particular person or thing. Or maybe it is the Emperor’s New Clothes, a case of community madness, an almost inexplicable desire to believe in something nonsensical because others are doing so. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions itself feasts on the offal of innuendo and vagueness. It is, at best, an inchoate, unholy mixture of the work of others— Ludwig Wittgenstein, Charles Darwin, Rudolf Carnap, Norwood Russell Hanson, Alexandre Koyré, Jerome Bruner, and more. At worst, it is an assault on truth and progress.
Yes indeed, I quite agree. In fact, I wrote several times about Errol Morris, namely in 2011 and 2014, and my motivation then is the same as my motivation now: truth, Kuhn, and philosophy.

But I must move a bit slowly, and recount a bit.

First, the article´s title. It is a good title, and Morris´s and my answer is the same: Of course there is truth, indeed truth of the correspondence kind: If you and I are standing on the grass in a park, and either of use points down and says ¨That is grass¨, then whoever says so speaks the truth.

Second, I am two years younger than Morris, and had somewhat similar experiences as Morris had, in that I got acquainted in the early Seventies with several students of philosophy (which at that time I studied for myself since I was not yet allowed to study at university, because I had left my high school before graduating, because it was too stupid for me) and these were all much impressed by Kuhn´s thesis.

And I was not, mostly because I had in 1970 freed myself from Marxism, while having strong interests in mathematical logic and philosophy of science, and for me Kuhn was basically both very vague and destructive of (almost) all science and all truth. Besides, in the early 1970s I read very much by Bertrand Russell, and was mostly, though not completely, a Russellian.

Then again, I never met Kuhn; Kuhn never threw an ashtray at me (as he did at Morris), and for me Kuhn was mostly a representative of academic philosophy, that I knew by early twenties to be mostly academic posturings for academic careers, and having soon dismissed Kuhn (and also Feyerabend), I think also both for good intellectual reasons, I looked at him mostly as a typical philosophical academic: Dishonest, pedantic, rather out of contact with the society they were part of (in the sense that very few non-philosophers know much or anything about what happens in philosophy departments), and simply not interesting because he was fundamentally both mistaken and unclear.

But this is background. Here is a bit more by Morris, still from the beginning of the article:

In my book, The Ashtray, I discuss many aspects of Kuhn’s work—indeterminacy of reference, incommensurability, scientific change triggered by anomalies, Darwinian evolution as a model for the development of science, the relativism of truth, the social construction of reality, his philosophical idealism, and more. In each of these aspects, I have found it to be wanting and, more often than not, false, contradictory, or even devoid of content.
I completely agree, and in fact wrote about Morris and his The Ashtray in 2011. There is a good introduction to Morris and Kuhn in my 2011 ¨Three philosophical interviews: Kuhn, Searle, Gardner¨ and Morris and Kuhn are also mention in my Recommended Reading: Marks of pseudoscience, fraud and bullshit, also from 2011.

And here is the last bit I quote from this long article, and it is about truth:
And yet, we read about endless varieties of truth. Coherence theories of truth. Pragmatic, relative truths. Truths for me, truths for you. Dog truths, cat truths. Whatever. I find these discussions extremely distasteful and unsatisfying. To say that a philosophical system is “coherent” tells me nothing about whether it is true. Truth is not hermetic. I cannot hide out in a system and assert its truth. For me, truth is about the relation between language and the world. A correspondence idea of truth. Coherence theories of truth are of little or no interest to me. Here is the reason: they are about coherence, not truth.
Yes, I basically agree. And there is a lot more in the present article by Errol Morris, namely a long and fairly good interview with Hilary Putnam (one of the few good academic philosophers of the 20th century) and a brief interview with Noam Chomsky.

I leave both to your interests, and
this is a strongly recommended article.

2. The Ghosts of ‘New Democrats’ Are Haunting Us

This article is by Norman Solomon on Consortiumnews. This is from near its beginning:

After a dozen years of awful Republican presidencies, Bill Clinton and running mate Al Gore proved to be just the ticket for the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Clinton settled into the White House in early 1993 as the leader of pathbreaking New Democrats. Many media outlets hailed him as a visionary who had overcome left-leaning liberalism to set the party straight.

Although candidate Clinton had criticized Republican trickle-down economics and spoken about the need for public investment by the federal government, as president he proceeded along the lines of what Washington Post economics reporter Hobart Rowan described as a formula of “fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.” That formula provided a template that the next Democratic president, Barack Obama, deftly filled.

Both Clinton and Obama were youthful and articulate, breaths of fresh air after repugnant Republican predecessors in the White House. Yet our two most recent Democratic presidents were down with corporate power—not as far down as the GOP, but nevertheless in the thrall of Wall Street and the big banks.

Yes indeed: I completely agree (and I also note, parenthetically, to be sure, that Bill Clinton had a personal aim he quite successfully fulfilled: he is a present a multi-millionaire who owns (it seems: again a partial secret) around $150 millions, together with his wife, it seems mostly thanks to payments for speeches - around $250,000 a speech - he held for rich bankers).

Here is more:

From the outset of the Clinton and Obama administrations, top appointees reflected and propelled the deference to oligarchic power. Robert Rubin went from being co-chair of Goldman Sachs (paid $17 million in 1992) to serving wealthy interests as director of Clinton’s National Economic Council, a post so powerful that it earned him the title of “economic czar.”
Ron Brown, corporate lawyer and lobbyist for American Express and Duvalier’s Haiti, would supervise a Clinton industrial policy at the Department of Commerce,” economic analyst Doug Henwood wrote after eight months of Clinton’s presidency. “Mickey Kantor, corporate lawyer, would negotiate trade deals. Warren Christopher, corporate lawyer, would oversee the New World Order. Hillary Rodham Clinton, corporate lawyer and board member at Walmart, the low-wage retailer that’s destroyed countless rural downtowns, would supervise health care.”

Again I say: Precisely so. (And Robert Rubin is one of the most horrible men I know of.)

Then there is this:

Heartbroken over the new welfare law, one of the lone holdouts against the corporate sensibilities in the Clinton Cabinet, Labor Secretary Robert Reich, exited as the first term ended. Meanwhile, Clinton doubled down on selecting an intensely corporate crew for the administration. “The firm—er, team—is still adding partners—er, members,” Time reported in December 1996, cataloging the array of investment bankers, stock-market-friendly lawyers and wealthy financiers who had reached key posts.

The newcomers “are don’t-rock-the-boat appointments, and they are exactly what Wall Street wants,” a senior economist at an investment banking firm told the magazine. During the last years of his presidency, Clinton’s economic team implemented reckless Wall Street deregulation, paving the way for the financial meltdown of 2007-2008.

Precisely. I like Robert Reich (without agreeung with him) but I think he was mistaken in taking a position under Clinton (judged after the fact, to be sure). One possible excuse is that he was good friends with both Clintons since his early twenties or late teens.

In any case, there is a lot more in this article, which is strongly recommended.

3. Senators Have a New Plan to Expand Indefinite Detention and Endless Global War

This article is by Christopher Andersen on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse with this Congress, a bipartisan pair of senators have teamed up to write the single most dangerous piece of unconstitutional legislation of this Congress. 

Last week, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced S. Res. 59, which is a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). An AUMF is roughly the modern equivalent of a declaration of war, and the Corker-Kaine AUMF gives President Trump and lots of future presidents the authority to take the country to war against an endless list of groups and individuals in an endless list of countries. 

The result will be true global war without end.

Yes, I think that is correct. Also, precisely this occurence has completely destroyed any trust I have in nearly all Democratic Senators. Nearly everyone seems to be there to push their personal interests and increase their personal incomes, while lying, and lying, and lying, and lying about their Good Intentions, indeed as the awful degenerate fraud Tim Kaine does.

Here is more on what Kaine is trying to create for the rich (and the bold parts are merely titles: I removed the texts that belong to it in this quote):

Here are just some of the harms packed into their proposed AUMF:

It immediately authorizes war against eight groups. (..)
The U.S. could declare war on a person. (..)
Congress abdicates its war-making powers. (..)

This flips the constitutional order on its head since the Constitution says a majority of both houses must agree to go to war before military action is taken. By contrast, the Corker-Kaine AUMF requires two-thirds of both houses to try to stop a president from using the war power that the AUMF would give the president.  This provision to swap the Constitution’s requirement of a majority in both houses to declare war for a two-thirds majority of both houses to stop war breaches checks and balances and the separation of powers. It can’t possibly be constitutional.
Precisely: A totally insane idea. Strongly supported by the Democrats.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:
The Corker-Kaine AUMF is beyond dangerous.  It is unconstitutional. And it is set up to never end. The Senate has a duty to kill this legislation immediately and show all members of Congress and the executive that abdicating Congress’s duty to declare war stays with the people’s representatives and no one else.
Yes indeed. I completely agree, but fear that the present Senate is too corrupted by money from the rich to stop this proposal. (I strongly hope I am mistaken, but am a realist.) And this is a strongly recommended article.  

4. Amazon Paid No Federal Income Taxes.

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
After Amazon stocks soared last week—making founder Jeff Bezos, the world's richest man, $12 billion richer—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted that the company paid no federal income tax last year (..)

"He's right," PolitiFact declared. "We've taken a look at a series of exaggerated claims about Amazon in the past. But in this case, Sanders is on the money."

With no public tax return and no cooperation from Amazon, fact-checkers dug into the company's annual filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). They found, based on a February 2018 filing, "that not only would the company not be paying anything in 2017 federal income taxes, but it would be getting a $137 million tax refund."

Yes indeed, and I completely agree with Sanders (and add myself that Bezos is one of the worst bastards I know of, also judging the truly horrible worker policies of Amazon).

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

Our Revolution, the progressive political group that grew out of Sanders' 2016 presidential run, noted that "Amazon is on pace to be the first trillion dollar company—which makes it all the more despicable that it's extorting the city of Seattle over a modest tax to fund affordable housing in the city."

Sanders also weighed in on the company's recent decisions, tweeting: "This is what corporate power and oligarchy is all about."

Quite so. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Reality Check – the Tories DID NOT win the local elections.

This article is by Kit on the Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:
A brief look over the headlines this morning would have you believing that yesterday’s local elections all went very badly for Labour. The Times has two headlines on this. Firstly:

Labour fail to seize ground in biggest test since general election

And then, just to hammer the point home:

Corbyn never recovered from botched response to Salisbury spy poisoning


Whilst Katy Balls, political correspondent for the Spectator headlined her Guardian opinion piece with:

The Tories are no longer scared. They now know Corbyn isn’t the messiah

…which is one of the most spectacular straw men I have ever seen. I don’t personally recall anyone calling Corbyn “the Messiah”, or what effect this supposed divinity would (or indeed should) have on the Peterborough council elections.
Precisely so! I read every morning materials from 35 sites (to write my Nederlogs), and I admit there is only one British paper among these, and the is The Guardian.

And I was deceived by The Guardian, which - I add - has more or less totally collapsed, both as a more or less leftist newspaper, and as a more or less honest newspaper. Neither is the case since Katharine Viner took over from Alan Rusbridger in 2015, and it will probably also never return to being better.

Here is what really happened in the British elections - and none of this could be found in The Guardian:

The long and short of it is that the press all seem to be uniformly committed to pretending that this was a big Tory win.

The trouble is that the results don’t really show that to be the case. At all. As of 3pm on May 4th, these are the results:

  • Labour have won almost as many seats as all the other parties put together
  • They have control of almost as many councils as all the other parties put together
  • They have the greatest net gain of seats.
  • They’ve also won 4 of the 5 announced Mayoral elections, the Lib Dems won the 5th.
  • It’s the overall best result since 1971
  • I say! (But not according to The Guardian, even though these are the real facts.)

    Finally, there is this bit about Jeremy Corbyn (who I like, totally unlike the utterly despicable frauds Tony Blair and Gordon Brown):

    All of this happened whilst the press coverage of Corbyn, and Labour in general, has been nothing but relentlessly negative. In fact, the press coverage of Corbyn has ALWAYS been negative. The nicest language ever used about the man is to describe him as “principled but out of his depth”.

    Incompetence is what Corbyn’s supposed SYMPATHISERS label him with. His enemies? Well they call him a communist, or a Leninist, or a traitor, or a racist.

    I take it this is correct - which I do because in fact I miss most of the British press, which I again do because so much of it is uninteresting and - as shown in this article - often remarkably and totally dishonest. 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 (!!).
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