July 19, 2018

Crisis: Death of Truth, Trump´s Costs, Net Neutrality, On Propaganda, On Medicare


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 19, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, July 19, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 19, 2018:
1. The Death of Truth - Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump
2. The Human Cost of Getting Used to Trump
3. Confront Digital Oligarchs and Defend Net Neutrality
4. Climb Down From the Summit of Hostile Propaganda
5. Over 60 House Democrats to Launch Medicare for All Caucus
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. The Death of Truth - Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump

This article is by Chris Hayes on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

The president is a liar. He lies about matters of the utmost consequence (nuclear diplomacy) and about the most trivial (his golf game). He lies about things you can see with your own eyes. He lies about things he said just moments ago. He lies the way a woodpecker attacks a tree: compulsively, insistently, instinctively. He lies until your temples throb. He lies until you want to submerge your head in a bucket of ice and pray for release.

And yet millions of Americans either believe what he says or delight in his obvious deceptions. One of the country’s two major political coalitions is devoted to justifying and defending those lies to the point of absurdity. Republicans will argue all at once that the president is not tearing immigrant children from their parents, that he is doing it but it’s necessary to deter future immigrants, that the children aren’t really the children of those who are bringing them but rather coached to pretend they are by smugglers, and that Obama did the same thing and now Donald Trump has mercifully ended the practice. It feels very much as if something has ripped in the fabric of reality of America at this moment.

“The Death of Truth,” by the former Times book critic Michiko Kakutani, attempts to make some sense of our present epistemic crisis.
Well... I basically agree with Chris Hayes, but these paragraphs do require some comments:

I agree with the first paragraph. I would have put it differently, I suppose, but then I am neither an American nor do I watch American TV (or indeed TV since 1970). In any case, Trump is the grossest liar I have ever heard, and these indeed include the facts that
¨[h]e lies about things you can see with your own eyes. He lies about things he said just moments ago.¨

And in fact, I suppose at least in part because I am a psychologist, I have agreed since 2016 that the main reason that I absolutely never saw as gross a liar as Donald Trump is that he is not sane: he is a megalomaniac aka a narcissist, which is a serious personality disorder.

I suppose I should add that, since I am a psychologist, and also given the extra-ordinary many and often quite crazy lies Trump uttered since 2016, it will be very difficult to shift my position.

Next the second paragraph. I again basically agree - but then I immediately have a considerable intellectual problem: if the president of the USA is the grossest liar I have ever heard, and if he has been lying like a madman since 2016 (at least, and yes: he is getting worse and worse), then what should I think about the roughly 60 million Americans who voted for him?

Here is my answer (and yes, I have a very high IQ): I think a percentage - especially white people who are well paid - voted for Trump from something that may be called rational self-interest. But I also think that the majority of his voters are stupid or ignorant or conformist or wishful thinkers (and more probably all of that than one or two of these characteristics).

Finally the third paragraph. Michiko Kakutani is five years younger than I am and was for a long time the chief book critic on the New York Times. She studied English literature. And in fact my guess is that she will not make much ¨
sense of our present epistemic crisis¨ because she is not a philosopher (I am, and the only reason I got an M.A. in psychology is that I was - illegally but effectively - refused the right to take my M.A. examination in philosophy in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam because I was not a Marxist and because I was pro real science) and also because she speaks (bolding added) of ¨our present epistemic crisis¨:

My conflicts with the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam started in 1978 - fully forty years ago! - because I was told (together with many others) at the official opening of the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam (literally, but in Dutch) the stunning lie that
  • Everybody knows that truth does NOT exist
- which then effectively soon (after the arrival of postmodernism in the 1980ies) became the official ideology of the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam till 1995 at least.

And this means that Kakutani does appear to be walking behind the facts, indeed because the same or similar things have been said since postmodernism became very popular in the 1980ies, which is interestingly retold here:
Morningstar shines a bright light on postmodernism (and that dates back to 1993).

Back to Hayes´ article who writes

The title, “The Death of Truth,” implies truth was alive before, and that this era signals its demise. But anyone who lived through the George W. Bush years and the Iraq war (something Kakutani devotes a few pages to), or has spent any time reading American history, knows that official deception about the most important matters of life and death is by no means a new phenomenon.
Quite so - and indeed anyone who has been educated at the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam and has a rational mind knows this since 1978, or indeed since the arrival of postmodernism in the 1980ies in very many universities.

And this is also justified in the sense that postmodernism had wide consequences outside the universities.

Here is more Hayes:
The best moments come from unnerving historical nuggets and finds, like this great Arendt observation that “in an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true. … The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.”
I more or less agree with Arendt - ¨the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true¨ - but then I insist that is possible only because the vast majority of the ¨masses¨ are either stupid or ignorant or conformist or wishful thinkers.

Here is the last bit of this article that I quote, which is Hayes about Hayes and others:
Given my job, I am forced to ask myself every day: Is it possible to say anything truly profound or new about Donald Trump at this moment in time? He is describable, almost fully, in a few short words: a misogynist, a bigot, a narcissist, a con man and a demagogue. And his behavior, like the woodpecker, feels instinctual and feral: a deeply broken man who hammers away moment to moment trying to repair his own brokenness, and leaving nothing but a hole. What sense is there to be made of it all? Our collective ability to reason with one another, to recognize what is plainly in front of our faces, to reach consensus on the most obvious of matters does seem imperiled as never before.
Well... not for me. But then in effect I am an academically trained philosopher and psychologist and Hayes is right truth has been blackened by extremely many lies by very many none too bright academic careerists since thirty years at least. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. The Human Cost of Getting Used to Trump

This article is by Bill Boyarsky on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

It’s well documented that federal immigration detention centers are a living hell. What’s makes them more dehumanizing is the racism poisoning our country, both inside and outside the detention center walls.

President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Republican members of Congress are spreading the poison with inflammatory words appealing to the deep prejudices of the GOP voting base.

Trump has long appealed to racism. He aims his attacks at immigrants, mostly those with darker skin.

He stirs deep fears.
To Sessions, immigrants are “more likely to be convicted of sexual assault, robbery, and driving under the influence. They’re more than twice as likely to be convicted of murder.”

I agree with Boyarsky that Trump and Session are liars, also about immigrants. And speaking of immigrants, the following is relevant, and either true or probably so:

That’s the takeaway from a May 2018 study published in the journal Criminology by scholars Michael T. Light of the University of Wisconsin and Ty Miller of Purdue University titled “Does Undocumented Immigration Increase Violent Crime?”

The researchers wrote:

In reference to public policy, at the most basic level, our study calls into question one of the primary justifications for the immigration enforcement build‐up. Debates about the proper role of undocumented immigrants in U.S. society will no doubt continue, but they should do so in light of the available evidence. For this reason, any set of immigration policies moving forward should be crafted with the empirical understanding that undocumented immigration does not seem to have increased violent crime.

Here is more about the lifes of immigrants and some of the governmental lies about them:

Just about a quarter of the immigrants arrive with children, and several hundred have been sent back to their homelands without their children, which explains the hundreds of tragic family separations that are shaming the country.

Sessions excuses the separations on the grounds that a family member is found to be a criminal and must be imprisoned. That’s not true. TRAC found only one such family member in April. That leaves the federal government no excuse for the cruel practice of separating children from their parents, some of whom they may never see again.

I agree and go further: Sessions simply has no right whatsoever to kidnap children from their parents, indeed also not from parents whom he accuses of being criminals.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

With Trump leading the way, hate and bias are becoming accepted parts of the national dialogue. This thoroughly disrespectful man is making such attitudes respectable. We’re getting used to Trump. We’re accepting the way vast segments of America—Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims of all ethnicities, Asians of all religions—are being subjected to scorn and hatred, just as Japanese-Americans were during World War II. “A Jap is a Jap,” Lt. Gen. John DeWitt, commander of the U.S. Army’s Western Command, said in 1942. “The Japanese race is an enemy race.”

Michiko Kakutani, who was senior book critic for The New York Times, wrote in her former paper last week about those days, when her family was separated and incarcerated in distant parts of the country. She compared it to today: “Once again national safety is invoked to justify the roundup of whole groups of people. Once again racist stereotypes are being used by politicians to ramp up fear and hatred. And once again lies are being used to justify actions that violate the most fundamental American ideals of freedom, equality and tolerance.”

Well... I am not ¨getting used to Trump¨, but meanwhile I tend to believe that the reasons are that I am an intelligent philosopher and psychologist who stems from a family with both parents in the resistance against the Nazis, a grandparent in the resistance against the Nazis, who was murdered by them in a concentration camp, and a father who survived over three years and nine months in four German concentration camps.

I am sorry if you disagree, but then you are like 95% of the Dutch, who collaborated with the Nazis, and forty years later embraced postmodernism because it hallowed their lies, evasions, stupidity and cowardliness. And this is a recommended article.
3. Confront Digital Oligarchs and Defend Net Neutrality

This article is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Imagine if Comcast or Verizon or AT&T, or any other “internet service providers” (ISPs), had the authority to decide what websites you could visit, or what video chat program you must use to call friends or family. Imagine if they manipulated the speed that websites load, giving preference to content providers that paid extra to be in an internet “fast lane.” Imagine if they prevented you from watching videos on any site except YouTube, or barred you from using Skype. These ISPs provide the connection to the internet, but they shouldn’t be able to control how you use the internet. This core quality of the internet, that it is open, is called “net neutrality.”

Current internet regulations just put in place by the Trump administration do away with net neutrality.

Yes indeed. Here is more:

Immediately after President Barack Obama’s FCC passed the net neutrality rules in 2015, the telecom industry sued in federal court to get rid of them. The D.C. Court of Appeals ultimately upheld the regulations. That important ruling included a dissent written by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the man Trump just nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In that dissent, Kavanaugh made the extraordinary claim that net neutrality violates the First Amendment rights of the ISPs. “The threshold question,” he wrote in his dissent, “is whether the First Amendment applies to Internet service providers when they exercise editorial discretion and choose what content to carry and not to carry. The answer is yes.” Corporations are not people. Kavanaugh’s views on net neutrality should definitely be a focus at his Senate confirmation hearing.

Well... I think that the First Amendment has been thoroughly abused by the majority of the Supreme Court since the Citizens United decision of 2010, and I take it that it will be further abused by the majority of the Supreme Court. I also take it that the rules of common English or of common semantics just don´t hold anymore for the majority of the judges of the Supreme Court, and that the First Amendment, at least in their hands, is quite dead.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

These large ISP corporations, however, are trying to control the internet, to restrict the free flow of information, to restore their historical role of for-profit arbiter of what we can and cannot read, watch or hear. Preserving net neutrality will thwart the digital oligarchs, keeping the internet open and free.

I agree in principle, but I am also afraid that the large ISP corporations will succeed, indeed with the help of the majority of the Supreme Court. And this is a recommended article.

4. Climb Down From the Summit of Hostile Propaganda

This article is by Norman Solomon on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme. Mainline U.S. journalists and top Democrats often bait President Trump in zero-sum terms. No doubt Hillary Clinton thought she was sending out an applause line in her tweet Sunday night: “Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”

A bellicose stance toward Russia has become so routine and widespread that we might not give it a second thought — and that makes it all the more hazardous. After President George W. Bush declared “You’re either with us or against us,” many Americans gradually realized what was wrong with a Manichean view of the world. Such an outlook is even more dangerous today.

Since early 2017, the U.S. mass media have laid it on thick with the rough political equivalent of a painting technique known as chiaroscuro — “the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition,” in the words of Wikipedia. The Russiagate frenzy is largely about punching up contrasts between the United States (angelic and victimized) and Russia (sinister and victimizer).
As the great journalist I.F. Stone observed long ago, “All governments lie, and nothing they say should be believed.” In other words: don’t trust, verify.
I agree with I.F. Stone and indeed started my Nederlogs for quite a few years with several quotes, including his.

Then again, I think I somewhat disagree with Solomon, and indeed not because he is wrong, but because he does not seem to see that a ¨
bellicose stance toward Russia has become so routine and widespread¨ is being furthered and strengthened by the majority of the American media because the majority of the American mainstream media has become totalitarian.

But Solomon is right in this:
Often the biggest lies involve what remains unsaid. For instance, U.S. media rarely mention such key matters as the promise-breaking huge expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the brazen U.S. intervention in Russia’s pivotal 1996 presidential election, or the U.S. government’s 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, or the more than 800 U.S. military bases overseas — in contrast to Russia’s nine.
Precisely - and ¨800 U.S. military bases overseas¨ = 4 per country, although it would also seem as if 25% of all countries (small ones) lack U.S. military bases.

Then there is this:
For human survival on this planet, an overarching truth appears in an open letter published last week by The Nation magazine: “No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false.”

The initial 26 signers of the open letter — “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security” — included Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, writer and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, former UN ambassador Gov. Bill Richardson, political analyst Noam Chomsky, former covert CIA operations officer Valerie Plame, activist leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II, filmmaker Michael Moore (...)
... and indeed many more. This is helpful, but meanwhile Solomon´s ending is this:
Yet a wide array of media outlets, notably the “Russiagate”-obsessed network MSNBC, keeps egging on progressives to climb toward peaks of anti-Russian jingoism. The line of march is often in virtual lockstep with GOP hyper-hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The incessant drumbeat is in sync with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.”

Meanwhile, as Dr. King said, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent co-existence or violent co-annihilation.¨
I agree with Dr. King (who spoke over 50 years ago), but meanwhile opinions like his are being battled by vast mostly totalitarian parts of the U.S. mainstream media. But this is a recommended article.

5. Over 60 House Democrats to Launch Medicare for All Caucus

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Adding to the rapidly growing wave of support for Medicare for All at the grassroots and on Capitol Hill, more than 60 House Democrats are forming an official Medicare for All Caucus with the goal of closely examining specific policy components of single-payer and seriously discussing the steps necessary to implement it in the United States.

"This is a sea change from just four or five years ago and people are more likely to see healthcare as a right," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told Vice News, which first reported on the formation of the caucus on Wednesday.
Well... I hope they make it, but I should say immediately that ¨the goal of closely examining specific policy components of single-payer and seriously discussing the steps necessary to implement it¨ does sound considerably less strong in my eyes than in the eyes of Jayapal.

But OK. Here is a bit more:

As Common Dreams reported, a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 51 percent of Americans—and 74 percent of Democrats—support a single-payer healthcare plan over the current for-profit system, which has left around 30 million Americans without any health insurance.

In addition to growing support among the American public, Medicare for All is also gaining steam among congressional candidates, who have discovered that a platform calling for healthcare for all as a right is a winning message.

Medicare for All has also received record levels of support among current members of Congress.

Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) Medicare for All Act currently has 15 Democratic co-sponsors, while the House Medicare for All bill—led by Ellison—has the support of nearly two-thirds of the Democratic caucus.

Once again, I hope they make it, but one of the things I have learned about the current USA is that democracy is mostly dead: It doesn´t matter much what the majority of the American people think or want, for what happens is up to their representatives - and these representatives are often more interested in their own financial welfare than in defending the rights of their voters. But 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 (!!).
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