December 23, 2018

Crisis: Trump & Insanity, Two Kinds Of Democrats, Trump As Gift, Science vs Religion, Reich


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 23, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, December 23, 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 23, 2018:
1. The Narcissistic Donald Trump’s Latest Antics
2. Are Democrats Attempting to Kneecap the Green New Deal?

3. Here's why Trump is a great gift to America

4. Yes, there is a war between science and religion

5. 10 Steps to Save American Democracy
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 Narcissistic Donald Trump’s Latest Antics

This article is by James Risen on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

A malicious loner paralyzed one of the world’s great cities this week. Meanwhile, a drone operator shut down a major international airport.

Donald Trump and the drone enthusiast who halted flights out of London’s Gatwick Airport apparently have a lot in common. Both have been willing to wreak havoc with a callous disregard for the public.

The motivation behind Trump’s pre-holiday assault on Washington — sowing chaos, breaking promises, shutting down the federal government, changing his policies from one minute to the next, forcing out one top official after another, spooking the stock market – is easily explained. Trump is a psychopathic criminal who feels cornered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, so he is lashing out in every direction.

After two years in office, at least one thing about Trump has become predictable: He reacts violently whenever Mueller appears to be making progress in his investigation.

Well... yes and no, though mostly yes. But I am a psychologist and Risen is not, so I do want to say that - according to many psychologists, including myself, and many psychiatrists - Trump is insane because he is a grandiose narcissist aka (and better, but this good English term - since 1895 - has been totally removed from Wikipedia) a megalomaniac, but saying he is a psychopath is far less precise than the diagnosis I just gave, and besides at least somewhat confusing.

Indeed, here is the first paragraph of the item ¨Psychopathy¨ on the Wikipedia (minus note numbers):

Psychopathy is traditionally a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits. It is sometimes considered synonymous with sociopathy. Different conceptions of psychopathy have been used throughout history that are only partly overlapping and may sometimes be contradictory.

I more or less agree with the above first statement, but I completely disagree with the thesis that psychopathy is synonymous with sociopathy (which essentially means: not having the accepted social norms - as e.g. in the Soviet Union, which shows sociopathy is basically bullshit).

In any case, this is sufficient for this review. Here is more from Risen´s article:

Trump has plenty of reason to worry about Mueller these days. The signs are everywhere that Mueller’s investigation is intensifying and closing in on Trump and the crooks around him. It is even possible that Mueller may soon complete his work and issue a final report – or even a criminal indictment of Trump. What’s worse, from Trump’s point of view, is that in January the Democrats will take over the House of Representatives from his Republican enablers, making it far more difficult for him to get rid of Mueller. In fact, the House Intelligence Committee, which has been a laughingstock under Republican rule, will soon have a Democratic chair with subpoena power to conduct an aggressive investigation of Trump, perhaps picking up where Mueller leaves off.

This is all correct, to the best of my knowledge. This is followed by a fairly lengthy survey of Trump´s present main problems, but I skipped all that and only give you the ending of this article:

With so many of his cronies facing serious legal trouble and ready to cooperate with Mueller, it’s no wonder that a weak and frightened Trump has started insulting them in public. He called Cohen a “rat” for being willing to talk.

Bottom line: Anyone who thinks that Trump’s frenzied troop pullouts and government closure this week have anything to do with substantive policy issues hasn’t been paying attention for the last two years. Anyone who thinks that Trump actually cares about immigration, border security, the well-being of American troops, or U.S. involvement in Syria or Afghanistan will be deeply disappointed when he suddenly reverses himself again a few days or weeks from now, if and when he believes such a reversal will help him survive Robert Mueller.

Never forget that everything Trump does is about saving his own skin.

No, I disagree, indeed in part because I am a psychologist. Here is my argument:

First, I agree with Risen (if that is what he means) that
Trump is insane because he is a grandiose narcissist. (Please check the latest link but one if you never did so.) In fact, this is what I think, based on my own knowledge of psychology and psychiatry, and my own experiences with madmen.

But second, I think that Trump does have an ideology, and that ideology is neofascism. Here is how I define neofascism (and this is a good definition, at least from a technical point of view, unlike nearly all attempts at defining things by journalists that I have read):
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
Third, I insist that all 10 points of this definition can be supported from videos by Trump, but I leave it at that in this review. And this is a recommended article.

2. Are Democrats Attempting to Kneecap the Green New Deal?

This article is by Jake Johnson on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In what critics denounced as a blatant attempt to shield fossil fuel executives and cripple Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) proposed Green New Deal Select Committee before it even gets off the ground, incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Wednesday that—unlike other congressional committees—the new panel “will not have subpoena power” and will serve as a mere “recommendatory committee.”

Hoyer’s remarks immediately sparked fury from progressives, including Ocasio-Cortez herself, who noted that while the Select Committee isn’t “our ultimate end goal,” a “weak committee misses the point and endangers people.”

Yes, I agree (and the last indented bit is by Ocasio-Cortez), and in fact I may go a bit further, for I think there are basically two kinds of Democrats:

Those who depend on financial support by the rich, which seems the present majority, that also has nearly all the powers in the Democratic Party, and to whom Steny Hoyer belongs, and those which do not (at present)
depend on financial support by the rich, to who Ocasio- Cortez belongs, and which is a minority of mostly newly elected Democrats.

Here is more from the article:

In a statement, Sunrise Movement spokesperson Varshini Prakash condemned the expected decision to deny the Green New Deal Select Committee subpoena power as “an insult to the thousands of young people across the country who have been calling on the Democratic Party leadership to have the courage to stand up to fossil fuel billionaires and make sure our generation has a livable future.”

While Hoyer—whose office has recently been targeted by youth-led climate protests and sit-ins—claimed to have no idea why the Green New Deal Select Committee would need subpoena power, critics were quick to point out that such authority would be necessary for the body to compel fossil fuel executives to testify and turn over crucial documents.

“The sole purpose of this is protecting fossil fuel executives,” HuffPost reporter Zach Carter said in response to Hoyer’s remarks.

Yes, I completely agree. Here is more:

Waleed Shahid, spokesperson for Justice Democrats, argued that the Democratic leadership’s move to create a toothless Green New Deal committee represents yet another glaring example of how out of touch the party establishment is with the surging support for bold climate action among the vast majority of the American public.

“The Democratic Party establishment never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” Shahid declared in a statement. “They have failed to propose solutions that match the scale of the climate crisis and they have failed to fully hold fossil fuel billionaires accountable.”

“Instead of seizing the opportunity right in front of them,” he concluded, “they have decided to violate the norms of most select committees by stripping away its power to bring the barons of the industry to account.”

I once again completely agree - and I think it is Good News that ¨the vast majority of the American public¨ seems to approve.

Indeed, here is the last bit from this article:

“We think that the committee needs to have the authority and the capacity to develop a plan for a Green New Deal to transition our economy to a zero-carbon economy in a 10-year timeframe,” Trent said. “Without subpoena power, without the ability to draft legislation, without the commitment to not put members in seats that are taking money from the fossil fuel industry, then we don’t think we would have the capacity to do so.”
According to a survey published this week by Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University, a Green New Deal is extremely popular among the American public. The new poll found that 81 percent of Americans—including 92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans—support the ambitious proposal.

I completely agree, and I find it somewhat inspiring that ¨92 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans (..) support the ambitious proposal¨. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Here's why Trump is a great gift to America

This article is by Jeremy Sherman on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Assuming he goes down in flames before he causes us to; assuming that what’s left of our democracy ends him before he ends what’s left of our democracy, Trump will have been the best thing that ever happened to America, indeed, among the best for our global survival imperative – figuring out how to spot and thwart the asshole impulse in human nature.

You can’t thwart what you can’t spot. Even with all our experience with the asshole impulse, we’re still lousy at spotting it.

Trump is the absolute best, the greatest, the most tremendous negative role model we could ask for. He is the e-z reader of sleazy leaders, the large print edition, the 1st grader’s Where’s Waldo or word finder puzzle for spotting assholes.

No, I disagree that (as the title says) ¨Trump is a great gift to America¨, although I do think that the election of Trump as president of the USA did show one thing: How stupid and/or ignorant vast parts of the American electorate is.

I am also quite certain of this, but this is not at all what Sherman has in mind. What Sherman has in mind is this ¨diagnosis¨:

Trump is different. He’s generic. He has no ideology to distract us. He’s essence of asshole, authoritarian distillate. He’s pure, uncut, unalloyed, unadulterated by any tinge of cover-story ideology. Eau de asshole.

That is, in Sherman´s opinions (i) Trump is an asshole, and indeed I don´t disagree, but also (ii) being an asshole is a sort of political diagnosis of the man, which I think is a piece of baloney that only allows Sherman to pretend that his scolding has a serious basis.

If he has (which I do not think, but suppose so), here is his ground:

If humanity is to survive, we therefore, need to know how to spot an asshole, an authoritarian who will end free society. It’s no good getting distracted by this or that asshole’s style or platform. We need to be able to spot assholes from any corner no matter how they’re camouflaged. We need to be able to recognize essence of asshole.

It’s hard.

Bullshit. In case you doubt my diagnosis:

So what is the essence of asshole stated as simply as possible so everyone can learn to spot it?

It comes down to this: Assholes and asshole movements (cults) have a simple formula that proves that they deserve all the power no matter what they do. It’s a trump card that justifies a wild card and a wild card that justifies a trump card.

If you are convinced by this, I do not think that you are intelligent enough to read Nederlog.

4.  Yes, there is a war between science and religion

This article is by Jerry Coyne on AlterNet and originally on The Conversation. It starts as follows:

As the West becomes more and more secular, and the discoveries of evolutionary biology and cosmology shrink the boundaries of faith, the claims that science and religion are compatible grow louder. If you’re a believer who doesn’t want to seem anti-science, what can you do? You must argue that your faith – or any faith – is perfectly compatible with science.

And so one sees claim after claim from believers, religious scientists, prestigious science organizations and even atheists asserting not only that science and religion are compatible, but also that they can actually help each other. This claim is called “accommodationism.”

But I argue that this is misguided: that science and religion are not only in conflict – even at “war” – but also represent incompatible ways of viewing the world.

Yes, I fundamentally agree with Jerry Coyne, that is, to be a bit more precise:

I agree that science and religion ¨
represent incompatible ways of viewing the world¨, and I possibly agree that science and religion are at war - but to fully agree I need some more precision on what science is (I am a scientist and a philosopher of science, who maintains that at present considerable parts of what is presented as science in fact is not science, but some kind of pseudoscience) and also what religion is (because there are very many religions, that widely differ).

Here is more:

My argument runs like this. I’ll construe “science” as the set of tools we use to find truth about the universe, with the understanding that these truths are provisional rather than absolute. These tools include observing nature, framing and testing hypotheses, trying your hardest to prove that your hypothesis is wrong to test your confidence that it’s right, doing experiments and above all replicating your and others’ results to increase confidence in your inference.

And I’ll define religion as does philosopher Daniel Dennett: “Social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought.” Of course many religions don’t fit that definition, but the ones whose compatibility with science is touted most often – the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – fill the bill.

I mostly agree, although I probably do not believe as much as Coyne does that many scientists are ¨trying [their] hardest to prove that [their] hypothesis is wrong¨, but I am willing to agree that this part is mostly happening by trying to replicate ¨ [their] and others’ results to increase confidence in your inference¨ (although this also seems to happen too little, but OK).

Here is more about the differences between science and religion:

In contrast to the methods of science, religion adjudicates truth not empirically, but via dogma, scripture and authority – in other words, through faith, defined in Hebrews 11 as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In science, faith without evidence is a vice, while in religion it’s a virtue.

Yes, I think this is correct - and here is my own definition of faith, which I think you should read if you are interested in the present subject (the distinction of science and religion) and did not do so before.

Here is more:
Two ways to look at the same thing, never the twain shall meet. And yet, without supporting evidence, Americans believe a number of religious claims: 74 percent of us believe in God, 68 percent in the divinity of Jesus, 68 percent in Heaven, 57 percent in the virgin birth, and 58 percent in the Devil and Hell. Why do they think these are true? Faith.
Well... it is not just faith, but also stupidity and ignorance, I am quite certain. (And it is true that scientists, as a group, are more intelligent than all men, as a group.)

Here is more:

There are over 4,000 religions on this planet, and their “truths” are quite different. (Muslims and Jews, for instance, absolutely reject the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God.)

Yes. I suppose I agree, although I believe(d) that there are over 3000 religions. In any case, there are many, and they all disagree with each other as well.

Here is some more:

The “war” between science and religion, then, is a conflict about whether you have good reasons for believing what you do: whether you see faith as a vice or a virtue.

Yes, I think that is correct, although I also insist that science is - at least, and for the most part, in so far as it is real science - is rational.

Here is more:

What is not disputable is that today science is practiced as an atheistic discipline – and largely by atheists. There’s a huge disparity in religiosity between American scientists and Americans as a whole: 64 percent of our elite scientists are atheists or agnostics, compared to only 6 percent of the general population – more than a tenfold difference. Whether this reflects differential attraction of nonbelievers to science or science eroding belief – I suspect both factors operate – the figures are prima facie evidence for a science-religion conflict.

Yes, I mostly agree, although I did not know that 64 percent of ¨our elite scientists¨ (in the USA) are agnostics or atheists, and I also am quite certain there is a difference in intelligence between ¨elite scientists¨ and the general population.

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

In the end, it’s irrational to decide what’s true in your daily life using empirical evidence, but then rely on wishful-thinking and ancient superstitions to judge the “truths” undergirding your faith. This leads to a mind (no matter how scientifically renowned) at war with itself, producing the cognitive dissonance that prompts accommodationism. If you decide to have good reasons for holding any beliefs, then you must choose between faith and reason. And as facts become increasingly important for the welfare of our species and our planet, people should see faith for what it is: not a virtue but a defect.

I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

5. 10 Steps to Save American Democracy

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

Trump isn’t the only problem. As Big Money floods our political system, and some in power are intent on making it harder for certain people to vote, we need a movement to save our democracy. 

Here are 10 steps:

I mostly agree with Reich (althoug he is less radical than I am, it seems to me), and I will copy the 10 points in so far as he bolded them, but suppress the associated text, which you can read bt going to the above article:

Number 1: Make voter registration automatic for all eligible voters

Number 2: Pass a new Voting Rights Act

Number 3: Implement public financing of elections

Number 4: Require public disclosure of the sources of all political donations

Number 5: End the revolving door between serving in government and lobbying

Number 6: Ban members of Congress from owning specific shares of stock while they’re in office

Number 7: Require that all candidates running for Congress and the presidency release their tax returns

Number 8: Eliminate gerrymandered districts by creating independent redistricting commissions

Number 9: Make the Electoral College irrelevant

10 and finally: Fight for a Supreme Court that will reverse its Citizens United decision

Follow these 10 steps and begin to make our democracy work again.

I agree with each of these steps and 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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