July 29, 2018

Crisis: Chomsky on Russia, The "Socialist Left", Hope, The Temperature, Failing Experiments


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 29, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, July 29, 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 29, 2018:
1. Chomsky on Mass Media Obsession with Russia & the Stories Not Being

2. Democratic Moderates Fear the 'Socialist Left' Will Wreck the Party
3. 6 Reasons for Hope in Trump Times
4. Hottest Four Years Ever? 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018?
5. Three Failing Experiments? Mine, America’s, and Humanity’s
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. Chomsky on Mass Media Obsession with Russia & the Stories Not Being Covered

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
The New York Times reports special counsel Robert Mueller is scrutinizing President Trump’s tweets as part of Mueller’s expanding probe into Trump’s ties to Russia. This latest revelation in the Mueller investigation is part of a nearly 24-hour stream of headlines about Trump, Russia and the administration’s various scandals. But is the mainstream media missing the real stories amid its obsession with “Russiagate”? For more, we speak with world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and professor Noam Chomsky on media manipulation in the Trump era.
Incidentally, I always print the introductions to the interviews on Democracy Now! because I think this is a good way on introducing interviews, and it is also always well done. And on the just quoted bit I have one comment:

I do not believe in "Russiagate" as this has been presented, mostly because it was Hillary Clinton's bad excuse for not being elected president; because there is some evidence for Russia's hacking, but not at all as much as Clinton insists; and also because if Steve Bannon's Cambridge Analytica (that stole at least 70 million American personal dossiers from Facebook) had been investigated by Robert Mueller I would have been interested, and quite seriously as well, but to the best of my knowledge Mueller has investigated absolutely nothing about Cambridge Analytica, and - it seems to me - because this would oppose Clinton's refrain that "The Russians" did it.

To be sure, part of the last paragraph is guessing, but Mr. Mueller is not one for much clarity or much information.

And here is Noam Chomsky:
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, my frank opinion is that—I must say I don’t pay much attention to television, so I don’t know a great deal about it. But, in general, I think the media—first of all, Fox News is, by now, basically a joke. It’s, as you said, state media. The other media, I think, are focusing on issues which are pretty marginal. There are much more serious issues that are being put to the side. So, the worst of—even on the case of immigration, once again, I think the real question is dealing with the roots of immigration, our responsibility for it, and what we can do to overcome that. And that’s almost never discussed. But I think that’s the crucial issue. And I think we find the same across the board.
Yes, I think Chomsky is right - and incidentally, the last time I watched TV was in 2001, with friends, for I do not have a TV since 1970: It is too stupid; far too much lying, hypocrisy and propagandistic for me; and it also contains loads and loads of advertisements - all explicit lies or explicit propaganda - that I refuse to see.

Here is more by Chomsky:
So, of all Trump’s policies, the one that is the most dangerous and destructive, in fact poses an existential threat, is his policies on climate change, on global warming. That’s really destructive. And we’re facing an imminent threat, not far removed, of enormous damage. The effects are already visible but nothing like what’s going to come. A sea level rise of a couple of feet will be massively destructive. It will make today’s immigration issues look like trivialities. And it’s not that the administration is unaware of this.
I basically agree, although I should add that I am one the at least 70,000 psychologists who insists that Trump is insane (you may disagree if you are a psychologist yourself, but not otherwise: I am sorry, but education does count for me), and given that premiss, I think I would argue that the danger that the madman Trump starts a nuclear war is - currently, and indeed mostly because of the madness of Trump - as serious a danger as climate change, though I agree climate change will remain important for hundreds of years. If mankind survives.

Here is more by Chomsky:
And Rex Tillerson, who was supposed to be the adult in the room before he was thrown out, as CEO of ExxonMobil, was devoting enormous resources to climate change denial, although he had, sitting on his desk, the reports of ExxonMobil scientists, who, since the '70s, in fact, were on the forefront of warning of the dire effects of this accelerating phenomenon. I don't know what word in the language—I can’t find one—that applies to people of that kind, who are willing to sacrifice the literal—the existence of organized human life, not in the distant future, so they can put a few more dollars in highly overstuffed pockets. The word “evil” doesn’t begin to approach it. These are the kinds of issues that should be under discussion. Instead, what’s being—there is a focus on what I believe are marginalia.
Yes, I agree. As to the terminology for lying frauds like Tillerson: I grant I can't find a really good term either, but I do have a description: Tillerson is a man driven by infinite personal greed to extend his own income, and does not care shit for the lives, the health, or the chances of anyone who does not - at least - have $100 million. (Trump appears to be the same.)

Here is more by Chomsky:
First of all, if you’re interested in foreign interference in our elections, whatever the Russians may have done barely counts or weighs in the balance as compared with what another state does, openly, brazenly and with enormous support. Israeli intervention in U.S. elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done, I mean, even to the point where the prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, goes directly to Congress, without even informing the president, and speaks to Congress, with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine the president’s policies—what happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015.
I do not know whether all of the above is true, but I agree with Chomsky that Nethanyahu seems another madman, whose activities also may start World War III.

Here is the last bit I quote from Chomsky:
I mean, one of the most elementary principles of a functioning democracy is that elected representatives should be responsive to those who elected them. There’s nothing more elementary than that. But we know very well that that is simply not the case in the United States. There’s ample literature in mainstream academic political science simply comparing voters’ attitudes with the policies pursued by their representatives, and it shows that for a large majority of the population, they’re basically disenfranchised. Their own representatives pay no attention to their voices. They listen to the voices of the famous 1 percent—the rich and the powerful, the corporate sector.
Precisely. And this is also why I gave up the Democrats, simply because I found that nearly all of them may sound somewhat radical before elections, but most do the biddings of the bankers and the rich as soon as they are elected - and I grant they do it for "good money" for themselves.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Democratic Moderates Fear the 'Socialist Left' Will Wreck the Party

This article is by Andrew O'Hehir on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

No political organization in the recent history of the world has had a gift for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory quite like the Democratic Party. This is the party that has managed to lose three of the last five presidential elections, despite only once in that period getting fewer votes than the opposition. Although the Democrats nominally hold positions with broad majority support on a wide range of issues, following the heavy losses of the 2010 and 2014 midterms the party found itself in its worst nationwide position since the early 1930s.

For much of the 20th century, Democrats understood themselves to be the party of permanent hegemony on Capitol Hill, no matter who was in the White House: Between the Franklin D. Roosevelt election of 1932 and the Newt Gingrich election of 1994, the party held a House majority for 58 out of 62 years, and a Senate majority for 52 of 62.
This is all quite true. Here is more:
Over the last three decades, the party has been virtually wiped out in numerous states between the coasts where it was once competitive (or even dominant). It now holds a legislative majority in just 14 states. You can slice and dice the history of American party politics in all sorts of tedious ways, but there is no clear precedent for such an imbalance. More to the point, there’s no precedent whatever, in the United States or anywhere else, for a situation where one party appears to represent majoritarian opinion and typically gets more votes, but has conclusively been shut out of power.
And the reason for this must be (primarily) changes within the Democratic Party. I think that is correct, and the main change I see is that the majority of the Democratic Party (indeed like the majority of the Republican Party) seems to have just one single norm: How much are they paid (mostly be lobbyists) for their decisions.

In brief, the political system of the USA has been mostly destroyed by corruption and by the rich, and indeed also both main parties are equally responsible.

Then there is this:
What may be even more impressive than the Democratic record of losing winnable elections is the party's aptitude for finding someone else to blame every time it happens. It was the Russians. It was Ralph Nader. It was the Swift-boat ads. It was liberal complacency. It was gerrymandering. It was all the mean things Republicans said.
I think this is also true, but I regard it as less serious because almost every party almost everywhere resorts to lies to account for their losses. Then again, the main reason for the other corruption of large parts of the Democrats simply is never mentioned by them: The - corrupt - money many of them get for their decisions from the rich or from lobbyists.

Here is some more on the Democrats:
A debate is overdue. But a debate about what? The problem for Democratic moderates is precisely that they will not define or explain their positions clearly, except in wonky, granular, political-calculus terms, in large part because their ideas are widely discredited and massively unpopular.
Yes, I agree. They much rather endlessly discuss vagueries with very little or no evidence than answer the question: Who got how much from whom for which decisions?

Finally, this is about "socialism" and the Democratic Party:
It’s tempting to say that a specter is haunting the Democratic Party and it’s the specter of socialism, blah blah blah. But that’s largely untrue: The specter is imaginary and so is the socialism, pretty much. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and their loose array of allies across the country are a modest contingent within the party. Only a handful of them will win elections this year, and in any case they’re closer to being old-time left-wing populists, with a 21st-century overlay of multiculturalism and intersectionality (..)
Yes, I quite agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. 6 Reasons for Hope in Trump Times

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

In these darkest of days, here’s what gives me hope:

First, Donald Trump has been a giant wake-up call that we can’t take democracy for granted.
Actually, this is from a fairly brief article, from which I have only copied the bold main points, and suppressed the rest. You can read all of it by clicking on the last link.

As to this first point: I am sorry, but I do not consider this a reason for hope, indeed as little as I would regard having a pneumonia as a reason for health.

Here is more:
The second thing that makes me optimistic is occurring at the grassroots of America, where there’s more activism than I remember in half a century.
I agree with Reich that this is a reason for hope, except that it is definitely exaggerated: Fifty years ago ("half a century") it was 1968 (which I recall very well) and there certainly was "more activism" then than there is now.

Then again, if Reich had said "forty years" I would have agreed. Here is more:
Third, Fueled by Trump’s election, more women are running for office than ever before.
I do not really know whether this is a reason for optimism. I happen to like women a bit better than men, and I do think women are the right persons to ask about the things that are characteristic for women, and to that extent I agree with Reich, but on the other hand I have seen no radical differences in intellect or morality between most men and most women, whereas also women can be corrupt as well as men.
Fourth, I’m optimistic because America’s history shows that every time we’ve gotten off track, Americans mobilize to get our country back on track.
I am sorry, but this is not a logical argument: If you agree that American history, parlementarism, influence of voters, surveillance of absolutely everyone by the creeps from the NSA etc. have "gotten off track" you are being unlogical if you are optimistic. And indeed, I agree a lot is "off track" but for me this is a reason for pessimism, not for optimism. (To me this sounds like saying "The armies of the enemy have utterly defeated us, but I am optimistic we shall win nevertheless".)

Here is more:
Fifth, I’m also optimistic because these grueling years of the Trump presidency have made us all realize how fragile our democracy really is, and what we need to reform
This is also not a logical argument, but this is a bit less clearly so than the previous one: I disagree completely with "us all" (this is at most true of a fairly small minority) and also with the thesis what we know "what we need to reform" (for this is true only of a smaller minority).

Here is the last bit that I quote:
Finally, I’m optimistic because I don’t like the alternative.
I am more interested in the truth than in supplying reasons for optimism, and especially at a time in which I have many reasons for pessimism and very few for optimism. Then again, this may be a difference between Reich and myself. And in any case, for this last point I have a parallel which I think does apply, though I also admit it is a bit exaggerated: This sounds like one is a Jew who has arrived at Auschwitz, and who concludes he is optimistic because he doesn't "like the alternative".

Then again, I agree that the reasons one has for being optimistic or optimistic mostly are private and do not have much to do with truth or facts.

4. Hottest Four Years Ever? 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018?

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

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2018 is on pace to be the fourth hottest year on record. Only three other years have been hotter: 2015, 2016 and 2017.

"The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle," Michael Mann, a climate scientist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, told CNN.

"We are seeing them play out in real time in the form of unprecedented heat waves, floods, droughts and wildfires. And we've seen them all this summer," he said.

Even more than extreme weather, climate change is best exemplified by the consistent rise in temperatures year after year.

Yes, I completely agree. Here is one more bit from this article:

Climate scientists sounded alarms this week as reports circulated of extreme weather and record-breaking high temperatures all over the globe, with dozens of deaths and thousands of hospitalizations reported in some countries—while one journalist with a major platform on corporate cable news admitted the news media's failure to give serious attention to the link between the climate crisis and such events.

"There is no doubt that the prolonged extreme temperatures and floods we are witnessing around the world right now are a result of climate change," said Caroline Rance, climate campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland. "Temperature records are being broken across the U.K. and globally, exactly as climate science has long warned, and with devastating consequences."

Again I completely agree, and this is a recommended article.

5. Three Failing Experiments? Mine, America’s, and Humanity’s

This article is by Tom Engelhardt on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch. It starts with te following subtitle:
Each of us might, sooner or later, be thought of as a kind of failed experiment that ends in the ultimate failure: death.  And in some ways, the same thing might be said of states and empires.
In fact, I mostly disagree with this, which is also why I quoted this: I certainly do not think that death is the ultimate failure, and in fact I think so while I also think there is no heaven, no god, and no afterlife of any kind. And one of my reasons is that everything that gets born must die; and another of my reasons is that I - for one - would not like to live the next 100 or 500 years as a couch potato.

Here is some more:
There was a period in my later life when I used to say that, from the age of 20 to my late sixties, I was always 40 years old; I was, that is, an old young man and a young old one.  Tell that to my legs now.  Of course, there’s nothing faintly strange in such a development.
My life has been very different from Engelhardt's: I have had a "serious chronic disease" from age 28 to age 68 (at least), while the existence of that "serious chronic disease" has been systematically denied by 9 out of 10 (or more probably: 99 out of 100, or 999 out of 1000, but I jave evidence only for 9 out of 10) of Dutch medics, which created enormous problems for me that lasted at least 25 continuous years.

In fact, I'd say I have felt as if I was 70 or older ever since I was 28, and indeed I still do. (But no Dutch medic cares.)

Here is more, this time about the USA:
In this case, the nation I’m thinking about, the one that seems in the process of being unbuilt, is my own.  You know, the one that its leaders -- until Donald Trump hit the Oval Office -- were in the habit of eternally praising as the most exceptional, the most indispensable country on the planet, the global policeman, the last or sole superpower.  Essentially, it.  Who could forget that extravagant drumbeat of seemingly obligatory self-praise for what, admittedly, is still a country with wealth and financial clout beyond compare and more firepower
than the next significant set of competitors combined?
I agree. Here is more:
It’s hard to look back on the last decades and not think that democracy has been sinking under the imperial waves.  I first noticed the term “the imperial presidency” in the long-gone age of Richard Nixon, when his White House began to fill with uniformed flunkies and started to look like something out of an American fantasy of royalty.  The actual power of that presidency, no matter who was in office, has been growing ever since.  Whatever the Constitution might say, war, for instance, is now a presidential, not a congressional, prerogative (as is, to take a recent example, the imposition of tariffs on the products of allies on “national security” grounds).
Yes, I agree again (and I am rather certain that in legal fact war can only be declared by Congress, and I think the same should be true - but I don't know - for tariffs).

Here is more again:
He’s also gained his own private air force: the CIA’s Hellfire-missile armed drones that he can dispatch across much of the planet to kill those he’s personally deemed his country’s enemies.  In that way, in this century -- despite a ban on presidential assassinations, now long ignored -- the president has become an actual judge, jury, and executioner. The term I’ve used in the past has been assassin-in-chief.
I think Engelhardt was (and is) quite correct. Here is more on the insane person who now is president of the USA:
When that “very stable genius” (as he reminded us again recently) inherited such powers long in the making, he also inherited the power to use them in ways that would have been unavailable to the president of a country that had genuine “checks and balances,” one in which the people knew what was going on and in some sense directed it.
More or less, I would say, for my own view is that (bolding added) "genuine “checks and balances”" are possible only if it is impossible for either the rich or their lobbyists to corrupt the men and women in the Senate and the House - whereas at present this corruption seems to happen all the time: American lawmakers make or reject laws for money for themselves; not because they may do good or bad for ordinary people who have to live with their consequences.

Here is more:
In other words, in the twenty-first century, Donald Trump is proof indeed that the American experiment in democracy may be coming to an unseemly end in a president with all the urges of an autocrat (and so many other urges as well).  Or think of it this way: the contest -- from early on an essential part of American life -- between democracy and empire seems to be ending with empire the victor. 
Yes, I quite agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
There is, however, another experiment, a planet-wide one that seems to be failing as well.  You could think of it as humanity’s experiment with industrial civilization, which is disastrously altering the environment of this previously welcoming world of ours.  I’m referring, of course, to what the greenhouse gases from the fossil fuels we’ve been burning in such profusion since the eighteenth century are doing to our planet.
I think "fossil fuels" started in the 19th Century, but otherwise Engelhardt again seems quite correct, and this is a recommened article in which there is considerably more.

[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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