January 9, 2019

Crisis: Popular Delusions, Mainstream Femnism, Voting Rights Bill, Corporate Pillage, Russia-gate


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 9, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, January 9, 2019. 

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 January 9, 2019:
1. Extraordinary Popular Delusions
2. Everything That is Wrong with Mainstream Feminism

3. Dems Introduce Sweeping Voting Rights Bill

4. The Silver Bullet to Stop the Corporate State Pillage

5. A Look Back at Clapper’s Jan. 2017 ‘Assessment’ on Russia-gate
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. Extraordinary Popular Delusions

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

In a previous column, I described how the Republican Party’s Bad Ideas-Industrial Complex churns out an endless stream of pernicious policy ideas.

But that invites a question: how did these ideas get so much traction among ordinary Americans who are being harmed by them?

As Kurt Andersen exhaustively describes in his book Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, America has always been fertile soil for silly or crank beliefs. And given the whole “common man” rigmarole that has become an integral part of the national creed, every manner of unfounded belief that wouldn’t survive three seconds’ analysis has become folk wisdom or bogus “common sense.”

Quite so.

First this. In case you don´t know who Mike Lofgren is, you can check the link to Wikipedia. Also, I reviewed the
previous column Lofgren refers to on December 28, 2018. I think that review is interesting, and I quote a brief bit from it to explain why I like Lofgren (whom I do not know at all):
I think he is interesting and likeable person - interesting, because he worked for decades for Republicans, and likeable because he has been reflecting publicly on this since 2011, and I agree with many of his conclusions.
And that is still the case.  

Second, there is my own general explanation why (in Lofgren´s words) ¨
every manner of unfounded belief that wouldn’t survive three seconds’ analysis has become folk wisdom or bogus “common sense”¨ in the present-day USA.

My own general explanation (which I have not read a single journalist copy or think of for himself or herself - or that is what appears to be the case) is quite simply this, and consists of two point:
(1) A considerable amount of Americans - more than 50%, in my opinion (which might be supported by my high IQ and excellent academic degrees - is simply quite stupid, and besides
(2) a
considerable amount of Americans - more than 50%, in my opinion, again - is quite ignorant of most of the basic facts about things they are judging (nevertheless).

I also think that both points are obviously true for the more intelligent academically qualified persons. The reason that I do not read them from anyone but myself must be that either the journalists themselves or their editors censor articles in which quite a few of their readers are disqualified.

Anyway - Lofgren comes close my own opinions, and here is more:

In the three decades since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, intellectual laziness and foolish beliefs have carefully been exploited to promote a political agenda. What once were the foibles, crank notions, and misinformation of disconnected individuals now have been ideologically weaponized in a way that has become a danger to the preservation of self-government. Some of the more common delusions follow.

Yes, I agree and I add to my above two general reasons two more particular ones, namely
(3) Foxnews and other similar mostly propagandistic TV, radio or written press, and also
(4) many governmental institutions, who mostly propagandize rather than inform.

Both points could be made with more precision, but I - again - think that most persons with a decent academically trained intelligence will agree with me (regardless of their own politicial convictions also, I think).

Next, there is a fairly long list ¨of the more common delusions¨ that I do not quote for reasons of space. You can read it by clicking on the above link.

But here is first a general conclusion of Lofgren:

In practice, a dumbed-down common sense means attacking public education, arts and humanities, academics – and, ultimately, undermining empirically-based thinking itself. Einstein is supposed to have said that “common sense is nothing more than a deposit of prejudices laid down in the mind before age eighteen.” Come to think of it, are his general and special theories of relativity obvious common sense?

Yes, I quite agree - and in case you need an answer abour real science: No, real science is not based on common sense; it often is too mathematical, too technical or too difficult to be followed (with anything like a genuine understanding) by the majority; and the ideas of real scientists again are not tested by their accordance with common sense but by their accordance with - genuine, careful - scientific experiments.

Also, here is one specific delusion Lofgren treats:

I voted for X because he’s likeable/I voted against Y because she’s not likeable. Does it occur to people that they’re not choosing a college dorm mate? They’re choosing someone to legislate or administer policy. Like many other platitudes, this is a frequent media narrative amplifying an existing prejudice in popular psychology that presumably originated in selecting high school class presidents.
Now Politico, the Beltway’s TMZ, is road-testing the unlikability meme with Elizabeth Warren’s candidacy. Journalists don’t think consumer protection or financial fraud are subjects that citizens need to worry their little heads about compared to Warren’s purported lack of barroom bonhomie.

Quite so: Politicians are not film stars and should not be judged by the criterions by which film stars are judged.

Here is the ending of this article:

Liberals often tut-tut about “ignorance,” meaning obliviousness to facts. It is certainly that, but it is also something more deeply troubling and less amenable to correction: a systematic corruption of the power of reason and a renunciation of critical and analytical thinking. There is no need to belabor the point about which interests in our society benefit from this intellectual deformation.

Yes again - and here Lofgren does mention ignorance, with which I completely agree. Then again, I think native stupidity explains much of the rest. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Everything That is Wrong with Mainstream Feminism

This article is by Caitlin Johnstone on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
Outlets like MSNBC and Politico have been excitedly running headlines titled “The military-industrial complex is now run by women” and “How women took over the military-industrial complex“. Apparently four of America’s five top defense contractors are now women, whose names I will not bother to learn or report on because I do not care.
I say, for I did not know that.

And in fact I agree with Johnstone about what she will call (and does in her title) ¨mainstream feminism¨: I met with it in the early seventies, mostly but not solely in Holland, and for me (with a genuinely feminist mother; a communist father and mother; and communist and anarchist grandparents) the feminism I saw arise around 1970 was - for the most part - not proper feminism.

I still think so. Here is more by Johnstone:
A lot of men (and the occasional cultishly servile woman) like to bitch about the problem with modern feminism as though it is something that hurts men, threatens men, demonizes men, or robs men of their place in society or anything else they feel entitled to. This is all dopey nonsense which amounts to nothing other than a childish temper tantrum over men losing control over women that they never should have had in the first place; it’s people whining about losing their slaves. That imaginary piffle is not what is wrong with mainstream feminism. What is wrong with mainstream feminism is exemplified perfectly in a mass media parade celebrating the rise of women to the top of the most depraved industry on earth.
I do not agree with everything she says, but I agree with the ending of the above quoted paragraph, although that is not the only thing that is wrong with ¨mainstream feminism¨.

Here is more:
The problem that true feminism seeks to address is not that there aren’t enough women at the top of the corporate ladder, or that Americans refused to elect a woman to do the bombing, exploiting and oppressing in 2016. The problem has always been that we’re trying to value women with a value system created by a few very powerful men. By leaving in place the value system created by patriarchy (i.e. capitalism), we are now valuing women but only for their ability to play men’s games.
Again this is not how I would formulate the point, but I agree that ¨mainstream feminism¨ is mostly valuing women ¨for their ability to play men’s games¨ - and in fact, this is also how for
¨mainstream feminism¨ did succeed in making very many women wage slaves (rather than being paid for the work they did in their own houses, and giving birth to children, and mostly raising them).

Here is more:
Many men will knee-jerk argue that they too are slaves to the corporatocracy, and that’s true. That’s what you get when you don’t change a valuing system that was created by slave-owners to distract their slaves from killing them and to keep them working anyway. That’s what you get when you insist everyone change to suit a system that was created by power to keep power in place. We laugh about how indigenous people were fooled into handing over vast swathes of their land for handfuls of shiny shells, while we hand over our labor, our land, our rights and our freedoms for paper rectangles, today.
And this is again not how I would formulate similar points, but I mostly agree. Then again, I also disagree with something: I think there are fundamental differences between being a wage slave and being a slave.

But I will not try to articulate the differences here and now. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

True feminism doesn’t hold that the world would be better off if women ran things; shifting control from one gender to the other would change very little as long as the current valuing system remains in place. True feminism holds that all of humanity needs to change its valuing system to one which rewards feminine work as much as masculine, instead of only rewarding women when they succeed at climbing the ladder of the patriarchal paradigm.

Women controlling the military-industrial complex is not feminism, it’s toxic masculinity. It’s the fruit of the sick valuing system that is blackening our air, poisoning our water, filling the oceans with plastic, bulldozing the rainforests, and marching us toward the brink of nuclear Armageddon. True feminism means turning away from the toxic valuing system which elevates the most ambitious sociopaths and toward one which values empathy, collaboration, nurturing and peace instead.
I basically agree, and this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Dems Introduce Sweeping Voting Rights Bill

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

Voting rights activists are hailing a new House bill that aims to restore voting rights to millions, crack down on the influence of dark money in politics, restore the landmark Voting Rights Act, establish automatic and same-day voter registration and other measures. The bill has been dubbed the For the People Act. It is the first piece of legislation introduced by the new Democratic majority in the House. We speak with Ari Berman, senior writer at Mother Jones, reporting fellow at The Nation Institute and author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America.” His latest piece is titled “Democrats’ First Order of Business: Making It Easier to Vote and Harder to Buy Elections.”

I think this is all true, but I must add that I have strong reservations about Mother Jones, that I also recently stopped reading. My reasons are that Mother Jones - without any comment that I saw - suddenly turned uncopyable (which I think is an utter shame) and at the same time started gilding the signatures of their leaders and publishing highly artificial film star portraits of them.

In fact, I think that is pretty sick: If this goes on, soon everyone has to pay for everything there is on the internet. And because I think so, I totally stopped reading Mother Jones. Also, I say so here and now because it does seem to me somewhat relevant.

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: Voting rights advocates are hailing a new House bill that aims to restore voting rights to millions, crack down on the influence of dark money in politics, restore the landmark Voting Rights Act, establish automatic and same-day voter registration, and other measures. On Friday, Democratic Congressmember John Sarbanes of Maryland introduced the bill.

REP. JOHN SARBANES: We heard loud and clear from the American people that they feel left out and locked out too often from their own democracy, that they want us to fight the culture of corruption. They want us to clean up Washington, fix the system and give them their voice back. They want to be able to get to the ballot box without having to run an obstacle course. They want it to be easy, not hard, to register and vote in America. And HR 1 will address that concern.

I probably agree with the proposed new bill (but have not read it). Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: Explain this first act in the Democratic House.

ARI BERMAN: It’s a huge bill. It basically includes so many things that democracy reform advocates have been arguing for decades are necessary. It really is the most important democracy reform bill introduced since the Watergate era.

On voting rights, it would include things like automatic voter registration, Election Day registration, restoring voting rights to ex-felons, making Election Day a federal holiday. This is the most significant voting rights bill, probably, since the introduction of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

On money in politics, it would include public financing of congressional elections, which would be huge, to try to counteract the amount of dark money that we see in the system right now, the huge amount of corporate money that we see in the system right now.

And on ethics and lobbying reform, one of the things it does is say that any sitting president and vice president has to release their tax returns, which, of course, is so important, because Donald Trump was the first candidate and the first president in 40 years not to release his taxes.

So, taken together—massive expansion of voting rights, a crackdown on dark money, huge lobbying and ethics reform—it’s incredibly significant this was the first thing that House Democrats said they wanted to do out of the gate.

I agree with all of the above. But there is a question: Will the bill be passed?

AMY GOODMAN: And what are its chances of not just passing in the House, but, of course, being enacted, because it’s President Trump who has to sign off on it?

ARI BERMAN: Well, it has no chance right now. I mean, all the things I just talked about are anathema to President Trump and to Mitch McConnell, who controls the Senate. I think it has a very good chance of passing in the House. But when it comes to the Senate, when it comes to President Trump, this is as much a political document as a legislative document.

What House Democrats want to do is they want to say, “This is what we stand for. This is what we believe in. And this is what our democracy needs.”

I appreciate that Berman concedes that the bill ¨has no chance right now¨, but I think he should have added something about ¨the Democrats¨, who seem to me far less unified than they are presented here.

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

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what’s happening in Florida. Tomorrow is a major deadline.

ARI BERMAN: Huge day. So, in the last election, Florida voters restored voting rights to ex-felons. There was an amendment called Amendment 4; 64.5 percent of the public approved it, which was a huge number, basically saying that people that have paid their debt to society should get their voting rights back. That could lead to up to 1.4 million people getting their right to vote back. And tomorrow is the day in which ex-felons in Florida can register to vote for the first time. This is a huge day for democracy in Florida.

I think this has been passed, and this is a recommended article.

4. The Silver Bullet to Stop the Corporate State Pillage

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

Every year a certain number of our soldiers decide they’d rather not be involved in shooting people they don’t know so that ExxonMobil can have more oil or Lockheed Martin can make more cash or MSNBC / Fox News can give their hosts topics for their upcoming poetry books. Basically, these soldiers do something horrifying, something terrible, something often called “treasonous” … They — wait for it — think for themselves!

(Glass shatters. Woman screams. Baby cries.)

Nothing is more frightening for our endless war machine than a military grunt who thinks for him or herself. They’re supposed to do nothing more than follow orders. They’re supposed to ask a superior officer for permission to wear a different color pair of socks. That’s right — the biggest, toughest gladiators in our society have to get authorization to switch from boxers to briefs.

I’ll get to what this has to do with our inverted totalitarian corporate pillaging in a moment.

Yes, I basically agree and I add two explanations in case some readers may not know them.

First, Richard Nixon changed the American army from an army that was drafted from the whole - male - population (which risked that the sons of the rich could get drafted) to something that is sometimes called ¨a professional army¨.

I think - from a democratic point of view - that this was a bad change.

And second, in case you don´t know what inverted totalitarianism means, there is the last link, and also a series of fine interviews Chris Hedges made with Sheldon Wolin (who originated the term) in 2014, which is summarized and linked in my Nederlog of November 8, 2014.

Here is more from the article:

Why is it they would need to sell a war? Oh, I know — because it’s completely unjustifiable. For activities people naturally agree with or enjoy doing, you don’t have to advertise them. Like you don’t see ads saying, “Hey, feed your kids. … Don’t forget.” Or a commercial saying, “Try having sex some time. It’s fun!” That stuff comes pretty naturally. But you do need promotion (Read: media propaganda) for our endless war games because it does not come naturally to most of us. War comes naturally to sociopaths, and then it’s sold to the rest of us, much like a used car or an ill-advised timeshare in Cleveland.

I think this is slightly misleading, in part because war is - in some situations - supported by many persons, and in part because the whole - psychiatric - term ¨sociopathy¨ is utter bullshit (in my psychologist´s opinions), for all it means that you are ill (which is what ¨pathy¨ means) according to psychiatrists if you disagree with the current norms in your society.

That is not sound science, but is sound totalitarianism, I think.

Back to the article:

Conscientious objectors even show up in the grand hallways of the famously lockstep mainstream media outlets. Just last week, veteran national security journalist William Arkin left his job at NBC and MSNBC and basically blasted them in an open letter “… for becoming captive and subservient to the national security state, reflexively pro-war… and now the prime propaganda instrument of the War Machine’s promotion of militarism and imperialism.” Of course, anyone who regularly reads independent outlets like Truthdig would probably say Mr. Arkin is roughly 30 years late to this realization. Yet it still takes nerve, gonads and a spine to turn against your employer while calling them out for manufacturing consent for hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths.

I think this is mostly correct, although I am less inclined than Lee Camp seems to be to say that he was ¨roughly 30 years late to this realization¨, indeed in part because I do not know of many such conversions among journalists or other persons.

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

The truth is, we the people may not have that much power. We don’t control our democracy anymore now that every decision is based on money. We can’t instantly change the entire system. But we have one very powerful tool — we have the power of our labor.

Millions of Americans, and hundreds of millions worldwide, work for corporations or organizations that do evil every single day. This list includes:

  • People at the big banks that fund the destruction of our world
  • Officials sent to steal children from their mothers and fathers
  • People working at big oil companies, pushing papers while knowing we only have 11 years left to completely change our behavior
  • Soldiers told to drone bomb a guy they’ve never met before
  • Merchants in charge of selling Kid Rock T-shirts

The list is endless, and ALL of these people have the ability to say “I object. I will not help with your villainy.”

If they all objected — we would see a different world overnight.

Well... in one sense I agree, and indeed think similar things since over 50 years, but in another sense I disagree, for the fairly simple reasons that (i) the majority of persons is neither quite or very intelligent nor educated by parents who disagree with the norms of the society in which they live, while also (ii) there is rather a lot of pressure and propaganda imposed on everyone just so that they behave (in public) as if they are normal.

But this is a recommended article, although I do not think it will make many ordinary persons less ordinary.

5. A Look Back at Clapper’s Jan. 2017 ‘Assessment’ on Russia-gate

This article is by Ray McGovern on Consortium News. It has a subtitle:
On the 2nd anniversary of the “assessment” blaming Russia for “collusion” with Trump there is still no evidence other than showing the media “colluded” with the spooks, says Ray McGovern.
I quote this because I agree with it, and do since two years as well, and in fact wrote quite a few reviews in Nederlog which said the same. (And if you do not know who Ray McGovern is, check out the link.)

Here is more:
The banner headline atop page one of The New York Times print edition two years ago today, on January 7, 2017, set the tone for two years of Dick Cheney-like chicanery: “Putin Led Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Says.”

Under a media drumbeat of anti-Russian hysteria, credulous Americans were led to believe that Donald Trump owed his election victory to the president of Russia, whose “influence campaign” according to the Times quoting the intelligence report, helped “President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton.”

Hard evidence supporting the media and political rhetoric has been as elusive as proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002-2003. This time, though, an alarming increase in the possibility of war with nuclear-armed Russia has ensued — whether by design, hubris, or rank stupidity. The possible consequences for the world are even more dire than 16 years of war and destruction in the Middle East.
Yes indeed. And here is more:
Buried in an inside page of the Times on Jan. 7, 2017 was a cautionary paragraph in an analysis by reporter Scott Shane. It seems he had read the ICA all the way through, and had taken due note of the derriere-protecting caveats included in the strangely cobbled together report. Shane had to wade through nine pages of drivel about “Russia’s Propaganda Efforts” to reach Annex B with its curious disclaimer:

    “Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents. … High confidence in a judgment does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong.”

Small wonder, then, that Shane noted: “What is missing from the public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. That is a significant omission…”

Since then, Shane has evidently realized what side his bread is buttered on and has joined the ranks of Russia-gate aficionados.
Yes again. There is rather a lot more in the article that I skip, in considerable part because I did write a fair amount about what I tend to call Russia-gate already. (See the indexes.)

This is from the ending:

Clapper and the directors of the CIA, FBI, and NSA briefed President Obama on the ICA on Jan. 5, 2007, the day before they briefed President-elect Trump. At Carnegie, I asked Clapper to explain why President Obama still had serious doubts.  On Jan. 18, 2017, at his final press conference, Obama saw fit to use lawyerly language to cover his own derriere, saying: “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked.”

So we end up with “inconclusive conclusions” on that admittedly crucial point. In other words, U.S. intelligence does not know how the DNC emails got to WikiLeaks. In the absence of any evidence from NSA (or from its foreign partners) of an Internet hack of the DNC emails the claim that “the Russians gave the DNC emails to WikiLeaks” rests on thin gruel. After all, these agencies collect everything that goes over the Internet.
I am rather sure that the first ¨2007¨ above must in fact be a typo for ¨2017¨, but I agree with the rest 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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