July 26, 2018

Crisis: Ending Money Bail, On 8 Myths, On Non-voters, Security Clearances, War with Iran


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 26, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, July 26, 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 26, 2018:
1. Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill to End Money Bail
2. American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths 
3. In Defense of Dissenters
4. The Case for Stripping Former Officials of their Security Clearances
5. Who Will Stop Trump From Tweeting Us into War With Iran?
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. Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill to End Money Bail

This article is by Aida Chavez on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Wednesday introduced legislation to end money bail on the federal level and create incentives for states to follow suit.

The No Money Bail Act is the latest example of the push from the left to tackle criminal justice reform. It would prohibit money bail in federal criminal cases, provide grants to states that wish to implement alternate pretrial systems, and withhold grant funding from states that continue using cash bail systems.

Additionally, the bail reform “requires a study three years after implementation to ensure the new alternate systems are also not leading to disparate detentions rates,” according to a summary of the bill provided by Sanders’s office.

“It has always been clear that we have separate criminal justice systems in this country for the poor and for the rich,” the summary reads. “A wealthy person charged with a serious crime may get an ankle monitor and told not to leave the country; a poor person charged with a misdemeanor may sit in a jail cell. And this disproportionately affects minorities — fifty percent of all pretrial detainees are Black or Latinx.”

Yes, I totally agree, and indeed in The Netherlands, where I live, there simply is no such system as the American bail system (and indeed, while I would not call Dutch justice fair, it is a lot fairer - or less unfair, for the more pessimistic - than the American system).

Here is some more:

In a statement accompanying the release of his bill, Sanders said, “Poverty is not a crime and hundreds of thousands of Americans, convicted of nothing, should not be in jail today because they cannot afford cash bail. In the year 2018, in the United States, we should not continue having a ‘debtor prison’ system. Our destructive and unjust cash bail process is part of our broken criminal justice system – and must be ended.”

The idea of eliminating money bail is controversial, even among Democrats, so it is unlikely that the legislation will soon be enacted into law.
Yes, I agree with this as well. And here is some background:
An inability to afford bail leaves defendants across the country languishing in pretrial detention bars for extended periods of time; in 2014, about 60 percent of people in U.S. jails had not been convicted of a crime, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported.

“Pretrial detention should be based on whether or not someone truly should not be freed before their trial,” the summary continued. “It should not depend on how much money they have, or what kind of mood the judge is in on a given day, or even what judge the case happens to come before. We also must insure that jurisdictions do not eliminate cash bail but find pretexts to continue unfairly locking people up before trial.”

I wholly agree, but I don't think it will happen. And this is a recommended article.

2. American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths

This article is by Lee Camp on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Our society should’ve collapsed by now. You know that, right?

No society should function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a “Star Wars” movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself.

Worldwide, one in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. (If they only buy single-ply toilet paper.) Put simply, you cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation.

Well... I agree with the last two paragraphs, but the first is both nonsense and false for me. It is nonsense because there have existed for many centuries systems of exploitation that were worse than the present American one, and one of the very many reasons that I do not agree with Camp is that I disagree with the USA (as a philosopher and a psychologist with excellent degrees) almost since I was born - but the USA still exists.

Here is some more:

We’re all choosing to continue on like this.


Well, it comes down to the myths we’ve been sold. Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth, deeply entrenched, like an impacted wisdom tooth. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned.

I’m going to cover eight of them. There are more than eight. There are probably hundreds. But I’m going to cover eight because (A) no one reads a column titled “Hundreds of Myths of American Society,” (B) these are the most important ones and (C) we all have other shit to do.

I am sorry, but I hate being shuffled on the big heap by people with prejudices who do not know me, and I - like many other intelligent people - did absolutely never choose to live like I do in the system where I am forced to live (because I am ill since nearly 40 years).

Also, I don't like exaggeration. First, the USA is not merely propped up by "myths". In fact, it is propped up by profits, although I grant there are quite a few myths that help making profits. Second, the title asserts that it are the 8 myths that Camp identifies that keep the USA from collapsing, while next Camp said there are "Hundreds of Myths of American society" (which I agree with) but he will not bother people with them because "we all have other shit to do".

I don't think that is a serious argument. Next, here is a summary list of the myths: I have copied all of them (for it is these 8 that prop up the USA, according to Camp), but I have also deleted all texts that explain them, to some extent. You can get the full text by going to the original:

Myth No. 8—We have a democracy.

Myth No. 7—We have an accountable and legitimate voting system.

Myth No. 6—We have an independent media that keeps the rulers accountable.

Myth No. 5—We have an independent judiciary.

Myth No. 4—The police are here to protect you. They’re your friends.

Myth No. 3—Buying will make you happy.

Myth No. 2—If you work hard, things will get better.

Myth No. 1—You are free.

Well... let me put it this way:

I know some things are true, and I know some things are false, but I also know that most of the propositions, facts, ideas, theories or guesses that I hear or read are neither definitely provable nor definitely refutable, and must therefore be ranked on a scale of being (somehow) probably true, that is more probable than 1/2 and less than 1, or else of being (somehow) probably false, that is less probable than 1/2 but more than 0.

Incidentally, the concept of probability and its scaling are both very important and also ambiguous (and there are quite a few theories of probability).

Now to the above eight proposition: I think most are more probably true than false, but I think working hard is good for you, and I also think that, even in the present USA, you are more free than in most countries and at most times.

Also, I think it is a mistake to try to settle complicated issues by simple statements that declare their opposites "myths": They may be, or they may indeed be probably false, but to make this credible you need more arguments and not plain assertions.

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

Point is, in order to enforce this illogical, immoral system, the corrupt rulers—most of the time—don’t need guns and tear gas to keep the exploitation mechanisms humming along. All they need are some good, solid bullshit myths for us all to buy into, hook, line and sinker. Some fairy tales for adults.

It’s time to wake up.

I am not asleep and I think since at least 54 years (I am 68) that the system I live is not logical nor moral and that its rulers are mostly corrupt (and indeed I went to decades of enormous troubles to maintain consequences of these - theoretically very well-founded - convictions) but I vastly prefer my own system over the myths of Camp: I think that the basic problem is that most people are stupid or ignorant or conformist or wishful thinkers (and indeed for these reasons also believe in many myths).

3. In Defense of Dissenters

This article is by Teodrose Fikre on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

I rise today in defense of an oft-maligned group that has become the target of political zealots and of too many Americans who are convinced that voting is a silver bullet to address social inequalities. In today’s political reality show, we are led to believe that Democrats and Republicans are engaged in an ideological death struggle. Consequently, the divides between the two parties and their respective bases get wider with each successive generation of voters.

However, irrespective of their supposed differences, Republicans and Democrats alike find it easy to castigate people who don’t vote.

First, by "dissenters" Fikre means people who do not vote, and indeed also specifically American people. And second, I am one of the dissenters Fikre is defending: I have never voted since 1971 (when I legally was forced to) but then I am Dutch and not American, and besides in Holland there are not merely two parties (or three), but at least fifteen (and usually more, but these rarely gain seats).

Then again, my reason not to vote (in Holland) is and was that I know a whole lot more of politics, economy, philosophy, logic and science in general than the vast majority of voters, whereas the voters vote in vast majority on the basis of very simple ideas and values, while
also I did not see anything nor any person I absolutely wanted to vote for (or against).

But then again, I am Dutch, and apart from not voting I have been politically active for decades.

Here is more from Fikre:

This is a form of victim-blaming and stems from misplaced frustrations. In 2016 alone, more than 100 million people skipped the presidential election. This act of abstention is viewed by some as apathy and dereliction of civic duty; however, what some see as evidence of sloth, I see as a show of dissension. Our political system is a charade mixed with a heavy dose of fiction, so people who choose to sit out elections may well have decided to opt out of a farce instead of opting into a racket.

No, this is simply not logical: "people who choose to sit out elections may well have decided to opt out of a farce" - which is true, but they just as well may have had any of many alternative reasons not to vote, and Fikre simply does not know.

I don't either, but then I also do not assume that the 100 million American non-voters agree with my reasons not to vote, and Fikre does.

Here is some more:

Voting has become an opioid doled out to the public to let us vent our frustrations and to offer us illusions of change. Major-party politicians—who take loyalty pledges to their party, which in either case has entered into a blood oath with the neo-aristocracy—are paraded out on a regular basis to promise a new day once they are elected. The minute the last vote is counted that vision morphs back into the old nightmare of wealth transference to the uber-rich and to financial anxieties for the rest of us.

I agree with most of that but not with the first statement: Voting is not "an opioid doled out to the public to let us vent our frustrations and to offer us illusions of change". Voting is a way of selecting people who - if selected - will become lawmakers, though Fikre is quite right that (i) being able to select just one of two (or three) parties does not give much choice, and also that
(ii) once elected many elected soon may turn corrupt (i.e. they get bought, usually by the rich).

Then again, I would have voted in the American elections of 2016, because I think Trump is both insane (and I am a psychologist) and a neofascist (read my definition before you disagree). And it also is my guess that most, though not all, of the 100 millions who chose not to vote did so not because they were dissenters, but because they were lazy or stupid.

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

Our political system is a reflection of our values, and as long as we place self-enrichment above communal wellness, we will keep getting leaders who cater to our grievances and disregard our common struggles.

I would not have formulated it as Fikre does, but I agree more than not, and this is a recommended article.

4. The Case for Stripping Former Officials of their Security Clearances

This article is by John Kiriakou on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Libertarian senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said on Monday that in a personal meeting with President Donald Trump, he urged the president to revoke the security clearances of a half dozen former Obama-era intelligence officials, including former CIA director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. I couldn’t agree more with Paul’s position, not specifically regarding these three people, but for any former intelligence official. No former intelligence official should keep a security clearance, especially if he or she transitions to the media or to a corporate board.
First, about security clearances: This is a link, for I was uncertain about its meaning. And second, I agree with Kiriakou. Here is more:
Why are these people saying anything at all? And why do they have active Top Secret security clearances if they have no governmental positions? The first question is easier to answer than the second. Before answering, though, I want to say that I don’t think this issue is specific to Donald Trump. Former officials of every administration criticize those who have replaced them.
Yes, I agree. And here are Kiriakou's reasons:
How is it that former officials who now have no role in government are able to keep their active security clearances? This has abuse written all over it. First, these officials run the risk of exposing classified information in a television interview, either inadvertently or not. Second, and more cynically, what is to keep them from propagandizing the American people by simply spouting the CIA line or allowing the CIA to use them to put out disinformation? What’s to keep them from propagandizing the American people by selectively leaking information known only to the intelligence agencies and Congress? Or to release information passed to them by the FBI?

No former intelligence officials should have a security clearance. There’s no purpose for it other than propaganda and personal enrichment.
I agree to all of this. And this is a recommended article.
5. Who Will Stop Trump From Tweeting Us into War With Iran?

This article is by Medea Benjamin on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump may be taking us to war on Iran and those who should be trying to stop him—from Congress to the grassroots—are too obsessed with Russia to even pay attention.

Trump is well aware that a war with Iran could be a good diversion from his domestic and Russia travails, and could even help Republicans in the November elections. In 2012, when President Obama was down in the polls, Trump tweeted: “Looks like he’ll have to start a war or major conflict to win. Don’t put it past him!” So we certainly shouldn’t put it past Donald Trump.

Yes, I agree. Here is more:

The Korean talks took place with the support of South Korea, and in the absence of any significant U.S. opposition lobby. With Iran, both Saudi Arabia and Israel have been trying to suck the United States into their decades-old feud with Iran. Both opposed the Iran nuclear deal, and Israel has been advocating for the U.S. military to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities (even though Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons of its own and Iran has none.)

Saudi Arabia insists that Iran is spreading terrorism throughout the region, even though the Saudis have spent billions spreading their intolerant version of Islam, Wahhabism. And let us not forget the terror of the Saudi bombing of Yemen that has caused the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophe.

I mostly agree with this as well. Here is more:

In defiance of the deal’s five co-sponsors—Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia—the Trump Administration unilaterally restored sanctions, which will go into effect in two waves during August and November. The devastating sanctions not only prohibit U.S. companies from doing business in Iran, but will also punish foreign companies and banks.

Despite efforts by European governments to shield their companies, the companies themselves—from oil giant Total to airplane manufacturer Airbus—do not want to take the risk and are already pulling the plug on trade deals they had negotiated with Iran. The value of the Iranian rial has plummeted this year by forty percent.
And I fear this is also correct. The article ends thus:
Before all hell breaks loose with the Trump wrecking crew taking us into a cataclysmic conflict with Iran, Congress and the American public better get their heads out of the Russiagate sand and rush to stop them.
I am afraid this will not work, 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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