December 14, 2018

Crisis: Kerry & Climate, On Ayn Rand, On Jared Kushner, On Robert Parry, On The 1%


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 14, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, December 14, 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 three 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 December 14, 2018:
1. John Kerry: Forget Trump. We All Must Act on Climate Change.
2. 10 things you should know about the lunatic Ayn Rand

3. Jared Kushner is now trying to take over as Trump's chief of staff
4. Yes, Virginia, There Is a Deep State and Bob Parry Exposed It
5. A World That Is the Property of the 1%: Wall Street, Banks, and Angry
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. John Kerry: Forget Trump. We All Must Act on Climate Change.

This article is by John Kerry on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

This week is the third anniversary of the Paris climate agreement. The Trump administration marked it by working with Russia and Gulf oil nations to sideline science and undermine the accord at climate talks underway in Katowice, Poland.

While I was in New Delhi this week, where I met with solar energy advocates, a comment made thousands of miles away by the journalist Bob Woodward almost jumped off my iPad: The president, he said, “makes decisions often without a factual basis.” This isn’t a mere personality quirk of the leader of the free world. It is profoundly dangerous for the entire planet.

Scientists tell us we must act now to avoid the ravages of climate change. The collision of facts and alternative facts has hurt America’s efforts to confront this existential crisis. Ever since Mr. Trump announced that he would pull America out of the Paris accord, those of us in the fight have worked to demonstrate that the American people are still in.

But the test is not whether the nation’s cities and states can make up for Mr. Trump’s rejection of reality. They can. The test is whether the nations of the world will pull out of the mutual suicide pact that we’ve all passively joined through an inadequate response to this crisis.

I picked this article to review mostly because of John Kerry and ¨the climate¨. I did not know he is a lousy writer (which he is if he wrote this article). Anyway... here are my comments on the above quotation:

First paragraph: Yes - but I disagree with the Paris agreement, as I did with the earlier Kyoto agreement, for the simple reason neither goes far enough. (And I have been following ¨the climate since 1972.)

Second paragraph: I agree Trump ¨is profoundly dangerous for the entire planet¨, but then again I think - as a psychologist, which Kerry is not - that Trump is insane since the beginning of 2016.

Third paragraph: Bullshit, for the decisions of governments are not the decisions ¨the people¨.

Fourth paragraph: Again bullshit. First, ¨the nation’s cities and states¨ cannot make up for a governmental and legal decision. And second, I very much dislike being accused by Kerry simply by being made one of ¨we¨ - and no, I also did not ¨passively join¨.

Here is some more:

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the changes required to hold global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius), as called for in the Paris agreement, would require changes on a scale with “no documented historic precedent.”

Every day we lose ground debating alternative facts. It’s not a “he said/she said” — there’s truth, and then there’s Mr. Trump.
Well... one of the reasons I disagree with the Paris agrement is that I think 1.5 degrees Celsius is too much; one of the reasons I don´t believe in the Paris agreement is that ¨changes on a scale with “no documented historic precedent”¨ are required, but I see no reason whatsoever that these changes will be made (especially not with the American government being out).

Here is Kerry´s ending:

If we fail, future generations will judge us all as failures, not just this president. They will have no time for excuses. Facts matter. Act on them.

This means that I am a failure (on the climate). Well - thank you. I think you are a liar as well.

2. 10 things you should know about the lunatic Ayn Rand

This article is by Jan Frel on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

"The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand." That's freshly minted GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan talking -- statements he would eventually recant -- at a party celebrating what would have been the prolific author's 100th birthday, 

Rand's books are a big driver in the long-term right-wing campaign to delude millions of people into believing that there's no such thing as society -- that everyone must look out only for themselves. Lately, Rand's work has enjoyed a major revival of interest.
In fact, I selected this article to review mostly because I - who has excellent degrees in philosophy and in psychology - agree that Ayn Rand probably was a lunatic in some sense, although I have no idea in which sense, but I do agree she vastly overestimated her own talents and ideas.

Also, in fact I am thinking so since the beginning of the 1970ies, when I for the first time heard about her from some Americans I had befriended, and then read some of her books, which I thought extremely ill-written, and quite silly in so far as they were philosophical.

I found later that most (real, academically employed) philosophers thought the same, but it is true that Rand has gained some popularity with the rise of neoliberalism (and on neoliberalism one of the best sites I know is by Mike Huben: See his ¨Critiques Of Libertarianism¨).

I still think the same about Rand
, and I am pleased that AlterNet seems to agree. Here is more from the article:

AlterNet has kept the pace with Rand's resurgence, doing our best to educate people about what a nutcase she was and how harmful her ideas are. These 10 articles, previously published on AlterNet, shed light on why Rand's influence on Ryan is so dangerous.

1. How Ayn Rand Seduced Generations of Young Men and Helped Make the U.S. Into a Selfish, Greedy Nation

"When I was a kid," AlterNet contribuer Bruce Levine writes, "my reading included comic books and Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There wasn’t much difference between the comic books and Rand’s novels in terms of the simplicity of the heroes. What was different was that unlike Superman or Batman, Rand made selfishness heroic, and she made caring about others weakness."

Bruce Levine's explanation of how Rand has captured the minds of so many is a must-read. "While Harriet Beecher Stowe shamed Americans about the United State’s dehumanization of African Americans and slavery, Ayn Rand removed Americans’ guilt for being selfish and uncaring about anyone except themselves. Not only did Rand make it 'moral' for the wealthy not to pay their fair share of taxes, she 'liberated' millions of other Americans from caring about the suffering of others, even the suffering of their own children."

I think that is more or less correct, and indeed I will link all 10 articles on AlterNet although I did not read them, mostly because I do dislike Rand a lot and do not need any conviction she is a bad writer and a bad philosopher, both for lack of talent.

Here is some more:

2. Rand's Philosophy in a Nutshell

The bloggers at ThinkProgress explain that the philosophy Ayn Rand laid out in her novels and essays was, "a frightful concoction of hyper-egotism, power-worship and anarcho-capitalism. She opposed all forms of welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. She also insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts were the only appropriate arenas for government, and that all taxation should be purely voluntary. Her view of economics starkly divided the world into a contest between 'moochers' and 'producers,' with the small group making up the latter generally composed of the spectacularly wealthy, the successful, and the titans of industry."

Yes, I more or less agree. In fact, here are the other eight titles (all are links), this time without texts, except for the last:

3. Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them

4. Rand Worked on a Movie Script Glorifying the Atomic Bomb

5. Billionaires and Corporations Use Rand's Writings To Brainwash College Students

6. How Rand Became the Libertarians' Favorite Philosopher

7. Ayn Rand in Real Life

8. Red-State 'Parasites,' Blue-State Providers

9. Ayn Rand Was a Big Admirer of a Serial Killer

10. We've Already Had a Randian in High Office (Alan Greenspan), and It Was Devastating to the Middle Class

"The most devoted member of [Rand's] inner circle," George Monbiot writes, "was Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve. Among the essays he wrote for Rand were those published in a book he co-edited with her called Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Here, starkly explained, you'll find the philosophy he brought into government. There is no need for the regulation of business – even builders or Big Pharma – he argued, as 'the "greed" of the businessman or, more appropriately, his profit-seeking … is the unexcelled protector of the consumer.' As for bankers, their need to win the trust of their clients guarantees that they will act with honour and integrity. Unregulated capitalism, he maintains, is a 'superlatively moral system.'"

Again, I more or less agree, and this is a recommended article.

3. Jared Kushner is now trying to take over as Trump's chief of staff

This article is by Matthew Chapman on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Since the announcement that John Kelly will be leaving the White House early next year, President Donald Trump's search for a new chief of staff has not been going well. Ever since Trump's first choice, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Nick Ayers, declined the position, the White House has been considering a series of increasingly desperate options including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows.

But according to the Huffington Post, there could be one leading contender who slipped under the radar: Trump's son-in-law:

Jared Kushner, the husband of Trump's daughter Ivanka and already an official White House adviser, met with Trump Wednesday about the job, a top Republican close to the White House told HuffPost. He and two others close to Trump or the White House who confirmed Kushner's interest in the position did so on condition of anonymity to discuss the president's staffing considerations freely.

I say, which I do because Kushner seems to be both quite talentless, does not have much or any experience, and is family of the president.

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

Kushner taking over as White House chief of staff would be problematic for several reasons.

First of all, Kushner is not even qualified for the advisory position he has right now, let alone the foremost managerial role over day-to-day White House operations. Second of all, Trump giving his son-in-law a major, paid role in his administration would seem to violate the spirit of anti-nepotism laws, although Trump's Justice Department has rather narrowly defined these laws to only include people working in "agencies." Third, Kushner has already shown himself rife with conflicts of interest in his White House work, he and his wife having aggressively pushed a policy in the GOP tax law that they stand to make money from.

I think all of this is correct and this is a recommended article.

4. Yes, Virginia, There Is a Deep State and Bob Parry Exposed It

This article is by Ray McGovern on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
A year ago yesterday, it became fully clear what was behind the feverish attempt by our intelligence agencies and their mainstream media accomplices to emasculate President Donald Trump with the Russia-gate trope.

It turned out that the objective was not only to delegitimize Trump and make it impossible for him to move toward a more decent relationship with Russia.

On December 12, 2017, it became manifestly clear that it was not only the usual suspects — the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-Media-Academia- Think-Tank Complex, namely, the Boeings, Lockheeds, and Raytheons profiteering on high tension with Russia; not only greedy members of Congress upon whom defense contractors lavish some of their profits; not only the TV corporations controlled by those same contractors; and not only the Democrats desperately searching for a way to explain how Hillary Clinton could have lost to the buffoon we now have in the White House.

No, it was deeper than that. It turns out a huge part of the motivation behind Russia-gate was to hide how the Department of Justice, FBI, and CIA (affectionately known as the Deep State) — with their co-opted “assets” in the media — interfered in the 2016 election in a gross attempt to make sure Trump did not win.
Yes, I think that is fundamentally correct, but then I did read a lot by Robert Parry, and about ¨Russia-gate¨, and also by Ray McGovern: See the crisis index.

And in fact, this article seems mainly to be - deserved - praise for Robert Parry, who started Consortiumnews and edited it till the beginning of 2018, when he died.

Here is more:
Here’s what Bob, clear-eyed, despite fuzzy eyesight, wrote:

“On Christmas Eve, I suffered a stroke that has affected my eyesight (especially my reading and thus my writing) although apparently not much else. The doctors have also been working to figure out exactly what happened since I have never had high blood pressure, I never smoked, and my recent physical found nothing out of the ordinary. Perhaps my personal slogan that ‘every day’s a work day’ had something to do with this.

“Perhaps, too, the unrelenting ugliness that has become Official Washington and national journalism was a factor. It seems that since I arrived in Washington in 1977 as a correspondent for The Associated Press, the nastiness of American democracy and journalism has gone from bad to worse. …

“More and more I would encounter policymakers, activists and, yes, journalists who cared less about a careful evaluation of the facts and logic and more about achieving a pre-ordained geopolitical result –and this loss of objective standards reached deeply into the most prestigious halls of American media. This perversion of principles –twisting information to fit a desired conclusion – became the modus vivendi of American politics and journalism. And those of us who insisted on defending the journalistic principles of skepticism and evenhandedness were increasingly shunned by our colleagues … Everything became ‘information warfare.’ …
Yes, I agree with the last two paragraphs. As to the first: It seems Parry died from an undiagnosed pancreatic cancer.

Here is more (by Parry):
“Western journalists now apparently see it as their patriotic duty to hide key facts that otherwise would undermine the demonizing of Putin and Russia. Ironically, many ‘liberals’ who cut their teeth on skepticism about the Cold War and the bogus justifications for the Vietnam War now insist that we must all accept whatever the U.S. intelligence community feeds us, even if we’re told to accept the assertions on faith. …

“The hatred of Trump and Putin was so intense that old-fashioned rules of journalism and fairness were brushed aside. On a personal note, I faced harsh criticism even from friends of many years for refusing to enlist in the anti-Trump ‘Resistance.’
Again I agree (and I thought - and think - the ¨Resistance¨ bogus from the beginning).

Here is the last bit (again by Parry) that I quote from this article:
“Other people, including senior editors across the mainstream media, began to treat the unproven Russia-gate allegations as flat fact. No skepticism was tolerated and mentioning the obvious bias among the never-Trumpers inside the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence community was decried as an attack on the integrity of the U.S. government’s institutions. Anti-Trump ‘progressives’ were posturing as the true patriots because of their now unquestioning acceptance of the evidence-free proclamations of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

“Hatred of Trump had become like some invasion of the body snatchers –or perhaps many of my journalistic colleagues had never believed in the principles of journalism that I had embraced throughout my adult life. To me, journalism wasn’t just a cover for political activism; it was a commitment to the American people and the world to tell important news stories as fully and fairly as I could; not to slant the ‘facts’ to ‘get’ some ‘bad’ political leader or ‘guide’ the public
in some desired direction.”
Yes, I agree again (and am very skeptical of most though not all American journalism). This is a strongly recommended article.
5. A World That Is the Property of the 1%: Wall Street, Banks, and Angry Citizens

This article is by Nomi Prins on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:

As we head into 2019, leaving the chaos of this year behind, a major question remains unanswered when it comes to the state of Main Street, not just here but across the planet. If the global economy really is booming, as many politicians claim, why are leaders and their parties around the world continuing to get booted out of office in such a sweeping fashion?

One obvious answer: the post-Great Recession economic “recovery” was largely reserved for the few who could participate in the rising financial markets of those years, not the majority who continued to work longer hours, sometimes at multiple jobs, to stay afloat. In other words, the good times have left out so many people, like those struggling to keep even a few hundred dollars in their bank accounts to cover an emergency or the 80% of American workers who live paycheck to paycheck.

In today's global economy, financial security is increasingly the property of the 1%. No surprise, then, that, as a sense of economic instability continued to grow over the past decade, angst turned to anger, a transition that -- from the U.S. to the Philippines, Hungary to Brazil, Poland to Mexico -- has provoked a plethora of voter upheavals. In the process, a 1930s-style brew of rising nationalism and blaming the “other” -- whether that other was an immigrant, a religious group, a country, or the rest of the world -- emerged.

Yes, quite so - and I (who am very poor) completely agree that ¨the post-Great Recession economic “recovery” was largely reserved for the few who could participate in the rising financial markets of those years, not the majority who continued to work longer hours, sometimes at multiple jobs, to stay afloat.¨

In fact, this is why I have been writing about the crisis since 2008 (and will continue). Here is the second and last bit that I quote from this article, also from the beginning:

To understand how we got here, let’s take a step back. Only a decade ago, the world experienced a genuine global financial crisis, a meltdown of the first order. Economic growth ended; shrinking economies threatened to collapse; countless jobs were cut; homes were foreclosed upon and lives wrecked. For regular people, access to credit suddenly disappeared. No wonder fears rose. No wonder for so many a brighter tomorrow ceased to exist.

The details of just why the Great Recession happened have since been glossed over by time and partisan spin.
Yes, I agree again. There is a lot more in this article, which is strongly recommended, but too long to properly abstract and review here and now.

[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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