March 7, 2019

Crisis: On Some Myths, On Facebook´s Lies, Climate Catastrophy, Trump´s Lies, On Maximum Wage

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 7, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 7, 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:

. Selections from March 7, 2019:
1. “The End of the Myth"
2. Facebook CEO Vows to Double Down on Privacy

3. Top Democrats Are Enabling Climate Catastrophe

4. What’s the Real American Story?

5. Debating a Maximum Wage
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 End of the Myth"

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

As the Senate appears poised to pass a resolution to overturn President Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a wall along the southern border, we speak with historian Greg Grandin about his new book, “The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America.” Grandin writes in his book, “The wall might or might not be built. But even if it remains only in its phantasmagorical, budgetary stage, a perpetual negotiating chip between Congress and the White House, the promise of a two-thousand-mile-long, thirty-foot-high ribbon of concrete and steel running along the United States’ southern border serves its purpose. It’s America’s new myth, a monument to the final closing of frontier. It’s a symbol of a nation that used to believe that it had escaped history, or at least strode atop history, but now finds itself trapped by history, and of a people who used to think they were captains of the future, but now are prisoners of the past.” Greg Grandin is a professor at New York University and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

I say, which I do this time because I do not think that this story of historian Grandin - which is about how ¨the Mind of America¨ (?!) thinks about ¨America’s new myth¨ (?!) which is the border wall, which is ¨a symbol of a nation that used to believe that it had escaped history, or at least strode atop history, but now finds itself trapped by history¨ (?!) - is interesting and understandable.

I am sorry, but I am nearly 70 and a philosopher and a psychologist, but I find it very hard to understand the above.

Here is some more about ¨the Myth¨:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Talk about the significance of the wall, both what Trump is attempting to do right now, and you look at it as a metaphor as well as a reality.

GREG GRANDIN: Right. Well, the way to understand the significance of the wall in American history is to step back and look at that other myth of American history, that for decades kind of underwrote American exceptionalism, America’s sense of nationalism, and that’s the frontier. The frontier has been a kind of proxy for a privilege that no other nation in history has enjoyed, and that’s the ability to use expansion, use the promise of limitless growth, in order to organize domestic politics. The frontier as a symbol of moving out in the world, as a symbol of the future, as—you know, this has been ideologized by various theorists going back to Frederick Jackson Turner at the end of the 19th century.

And so, one of the themes of the book is trying to look at the way the wall has trumped the frontier as the national symbol, and what that means. Where the frontier symbolized expansion and the future and a certain kind o openness to the world, the wall symbolizes almost its exact opposite, kind of. It embodies what some theorists have called a race realism, a sense that the world isn’t limitless, that there are limits, and that the United States has to take care of its own.

So... there is this ¨Myth of the Wall¨, which in turn - according to Grandin, to be sure - has been based on ¨that other myth of American history¨ viz. ¨the frontier¨ and that  ¨frontier¨ in turn is ¨a symbol of moving out in the world, (..) a symbol of the future¨, which has been trumping ¨the frontier as the national symbol¨.

Well... I am sorry, but rather than a historian, Grandin seems a mythologist, and I am not interested in mythologists.

Here is one more bit from this article:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We only have about a minute left, but I wanted to ask you about the family separations, because one of the things that—points in your book is that this tactic of separating families is not new, but, actually, the Border Patrol was doing it back in the ’80s and ’90s and decades ago.

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah. I mean, there’s nothing that you’re reading about now, under Trump, that is new. The Border Patrol has been on the vanguard of some of the worst, most brutal policies that one can imagine. It just hadn’t been covered. I mean, there were certainly families separated. There’s certainly the tactic of separating children from parents in order to make parents break or confess. There was the releasing of children back into Mexico without any supervision, including U.S. citizens that were accused of not being U.S. citizens. There was sexual terrorism. There was violence and brutality and abuse and beatings and corruption. The INS was riddled with corruption through the 1970s and 1980s. You know, there’s nothing—Trump politicized the issue. Trump turned it into national spectacle, a kind of abuse—a system of abuse that had been more subterranean.

At least Grandin is speaking about facts here rather than myths, although I disagree with his ¨there’s nothing that you’re reading about now, under Trump, that is new¨, for while Grandin may have forgetten this in contemplating the various myths that he asserts ¨the Mind of America¨ (?!) is thinking about, in fact Trump´s plans for a wall are new.

Anyway. I don´t blame Democracy Now!, but I will not recommend this nonsense.

2. Facebook CEO Vows to Double Down on Privacy

This article is by Michael Liedtke on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook will start to emphasize new privacy-shielding messaging services, a shift apparently intended to blunt privacy criticisms of the company.

In effect, the Facebook co-founder and CEO promised to transform the service from a company known for devouring the personal information shared by its users to one that gives people more ways to communicate in truly private fashion, with their intimate thoughts and pictures shielded by encryption in ways that Facebook itself can’t read.

But Zuckerberg didn’t suggest any changes to Facebook’s core newsfeed-and- groups-based service, or to Instagram’s social network, currently one of the fastest-growing parts of the company. That didn’t sit well with critics.

“He’s kind of pulled together this idea that the thing that matters most to people is privacy between peers and one-to-one communication, ignoring completely the idea that people also value their privacy from Facebook,” said Forrester analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo.

If you trust Mark Zuckerberg - a ¨digital gangster¨ according to British parliamentarians, after 1 1/2 years of research, who called his clients on Facebook ¨dumb fucks¨ because ¨they trust me¨ - I think you must be a dumb fuck yourself.

And while I don´t think Liedtke is as dumb as that, he repeats that ¨
the Facebook co-founder and CEO promised to transform the service from a company known for devouring the personal information shared by its users to one that gives people more ways to communicate in truly private fashion¨ - which I think was essentially a lie, for this was only about Facebook internally and not about Facebook externally: the contacts people on Facebook make with others, such as suppliers.

Anyway. Here is some more by Liedtke:

As part of his effort to make amends, Zuckerberg plans to stitch together its Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram messaging services so users will be able to contact each other across all of the apps.

The multiyear plan calls for all of these apps to be encrypted so no one could see the contents of the messages except for senders and recipients. WhatsApp already has that security feature, but Facebook’s other messaging apps don’t.
Creating more ways for Facebook’s more than 2 billion users to keep things private could undermine the company’s business model, which depends on the ability to learn about the things people like and then sell ads tied to those interests.

Yes, I think that is probably correct, as it is probably also correct that the ¨dumb fucks¨ (Zuckerberg´s terminology) who are still on Facebook must believe the word of Mark Zuckerberg that thet are ¨encrypted so no one could see the contents of the messages except for senders and recipients¨. You may, but I stay away from Facebook, which seems very much safer to me. And this is a recommended article.

3. Top Democrats Are Enabling Climate Catastrophe

This article is by Paul Jay on Truthdig and originally on The Real News Network. It starts as follows:

What follows is a conversation among journalists Jacqueline Luqman, Eugene Puryear, Norman Solomon and The Real News Network’s Paul Jay. Read a transcript of their conversation below or watch the video at the bottom of the post.

PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay.

With all the discussion, debate, news reporting about the Michael Cohen hearings, the Trump scandals, the continuing soap opera in Washington, it’s very difficult to actually spend time focusing on the thing that’s actually the most threatening facing human civilization as we know it.

The climate crisis is without any question the most immediate problem, and it does continuously get lost in the context that the fact this guy is a climate denier, even that kind of gets lost in the fact that he’s involved in corruption scandals and so on. Of course, corporate media doesn’t care much about what’s important, they care about what drives media, but that goes for a large part of the leadership of the Democratic Party as well.

In fact, I mostly agree with Jay, but not quite: I think myself that ¨the most immediate problem¨ is Trump´s lack of mental sanity, for that may easily blow up the whole world as long as he is president of the USA.

But this is probably a matter of interpretation or personal values, and Jay is correct in the rest he says. Here is some more (a quotation):

BERNIE SANDERS: What you’re asking is maybe–you know, a couple years ago, I don’t know if you were moderating, well I don’t know if it was you or CBS, I can’t remember. Somebody asked me, they said, “What is the major national security issue facing this country?” You know what I said? I said, “Climate change,” and people laughed. Wasn’t that funny? Well, people are not laughing now, because they have read the scientific reports and they know that if we don’t get our act together in the next twelve years or so, there’s going to be irreparable damage.

So let me lay it out on the line. We are going to have to not only take on Trump and his deniers, but we are going to have to take on the power of the fossil fuel industry, that is the coal companies and the oil companies and the gas companies. And we are going to have to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

Yes indeed, I completely agree, apart from - again - believing myself that Trump´s insanity is more important than climate change (but hey: I am a psychologist, so I know what madness is, and most people have little or no idea).

Here is some by Norman Solomon from the interview:

NORMAN SOLOMON: (..) The climate deniers are augmented by the climate enablers, as you put it, and the enablers are at the top of the Democratic Party in the Congress. And so, when we look at where there are areas for progressives to hammer on the Democratic Party leadership such as it is, I think climate is at the top of the list. We’ve got Pelosi and Hoyer in the House, we have Schumer and Durbin in the Senate, and as you put it, they’re good at the lip service, but this is totally inadequate in terms of anything that is being done by those top Democrats given the threat involved.

Yes, I agree (apart from differing a bit on the importance of things). Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

PAUL JAY: Right. The big attack on the Green New Deal coming from Trump and the right is that this is “just an excuse” for more big government. And that phrase, more big government, is just a symbol, a tag word for more socialism, for more planned economy. The problem is two parts to it. Number one, yeah, you’re going to deal with climate change, there’s going to be a planned economy. You have to plan to get off fossil fuel and onto sustainable. That’s going to take government planning, because without doubt, it’s clear the free market is not going to go there. And number two, the fraud of this whole attack on big government and planned economy is that the biggest planned economy already exists, and it’s called the militarization of the American economy and the Pentagon.

Yes indeed. And this is quite right: ¨the fraud of this whole attack on big government and planned economy is that the biggest planned economy already exists, and it’s called the militarization of the American economy and the Pentagon¨. This is a recommended article.

4. What’s the Real American Story?

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

Donald Trump has perfected the art of telling a fake story about America. The only way to counter that is to tell the real story of America.

Trump’s story is by now familiar: he alone will rescue average Americans from powerful alien forces – immigrants, foreign traders, foreign politicians and their international agreements – that have undermined the wellbeing of Americans.

These forces have been successful largely because Democrats, liberals, “socialists,” cultural elites, the Washington establishment, the media and “deep state” bureaucrats have helped them, in order to enrich themselves and boost their power. Not surprisingly, according to Trump, these forces seek to remove him from office.

What makes Trump’s story powerful to some Americans despite its utter phoniness is that it echoes the four tales Americans have been telling ourselves since before the founding of the Republic.

I agree with most of the above, but I doubt that ¨the four tales Americans have been telling ourselves¨ are very relevant, although I will quote parts of two of them. Here is the first:

The first tale: The Triumphant Individual. 

It’s the little guy or gal who works hard, takes risks, believes in him or herself, and eventually gains wealth, fame and honor. The tale is epitomized in the life of Abe Lincoln, born in a log cabin, who believed that “the value of life is to improve one’s condition.” The moral: with enough effort and courage, anyone can make it in America.

This is utterly false, for the simple reason that each and every rich society there is, is a pyramid with a few at the top (1% or 0.1%, depending on which norms you use) and a lot at the bottom, and indeed most not rich at all.

This fact will limit the chances of anybody who is not rich to become rich: It is at most 1% or 0.1% - and because I like the illustration, here it is again:


That is the shape of each and every rich society: The vast majority cannot become rich without a revolution of some serious kind.

Here is the other myth I will quote part of:

The fourth and final tale: The Rot at the Top. 

This one is about the malevolence of powerful elites – their corruption and irresponsibility, and tendency to conspire against the rest of us.

This tale has given force to the populist movements of American history, from William Jennings Bryan’s prairie populism of the 1890s through Bernie Sanders’ progressive populist campaign in 2016, as well as Trump’s authoritarian version.

Trump wants us to believe that today’s Rot at the Top are cultural elites, the media and “deep state” bureaucrats.

But the real Rot at the Top consists of concentrated wealth and power to a degree this nation hasn’t witnessed since the late 19th century. Billionaires, powerful corporations, and Wall Street have gained control over much of our economy and political system, padding their nests with special tax breaks and corporate welfare while holding down the wages of average workers.

Yes indeed, though I would add that not only have ¨billionaires, powerful corporations, and Wall Street have gained control over much of our economy and political system¨: they also select many of the ¨cultural elites¨ and ¨the media¨, and may also be involved in selecting the ¨“deep state” bureaucrats¨. And this is a recommended article.

5. Debating a Maximum Wage

This article is by Colin Hickey on Common Dreams. This is from near its beginning:

In the wake of the lively debate following Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s proposal for a top marginal tax rate of 70% on annual income over $10 million, it is clear the mood is ripe for a national discussion of ambitious proposals to tackle inequality.

And in a modern media environment that rewards simple, bold, and slogan-ready proposals, the maximum wage is an intriguing idea with clear rhetorical punch.

Moreover, the moral arguments in favor of it are substantial. So much so, that it is revealing to look at what someone, from the right or left, who would resist an upper limit on annual income has to be committed to in rejecting it.

There are many forms a “maximum wage” could take. One option would merely set an upper limit on the ratio between the highest and lowest earners (e.g., capping the CEO-worker pay ratio).

But for the purposes of argument, consider a simpler version which simply selects an income point past which all earnings are taxed at 100%.

Well... OK, although I am a proponent of a maximum wage (see my: Crisis: On Socialism) who sets ¨an upper limit on the ratio between the highest and lowest earners¨ (which is 20 to 1, in my case, and 10 to 1 in Orwell´s case).

Hickey´s proposal is simpler, but since the discussion is theoretical anyway, this does not matter much.

And here are first two arguments for a maximum wage:

The most basic arguments for a maximum wage come in two main forms.

The first results from the recognition that there are morally urgent unmet needs which could be eliminated with appropriate funding generated by the tax revenue on income above the maximum wage. And that relief would come, at most, at the cost of significantly less morally important values, mere luxuries, in the process.

The second argument comes from a recognition that rampant economic inequality undermines core democratic values and rights of political equality. Wealthy people are able to convert their financial power into political power to skew nominally democratic processes toward their interests (via campaign and Super PAC spending, lobbying, gatekeeping, media access, agenda setting, think-tanks, etc.). This strips lower earners of the real value of their democratic participation.

Yes, I agree with both arguments (though I would have put the first a bit differently, but OK).

Here are two counter-arguments, of which this is the first:

First, a high earner might suggest they deserve their riches as a product of their labor. However, it is important to recognize that many claims about desert are indexed to a set of rules, institutions, or expectations.
Given the alternative purposes such excess income could go to in halting the erosion of democratic equality and securing the most basic human rights of the worst off, resistance to the maximum wage proposal as a matter of desert, amounts to a claim that the rich morally deserve their surplus resources more than the countless innocent victims of terrible, avoidable suffering. But it is simply not plausible to think someone deserves their 2.6th or 10th million dollar more than someone in poverty deserves their basic human rights fulfilled.

Yes, I agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, which concerns the second counter-argument of the few rich:

Failing a plausible desert claim, others might worry that the maximum wage proposal would stifle incentives for innovation and wealth creation.
The philosopher G.A. Cohen evocatively compares this kind of mindset to a ransom. It effectively holds the poor and downtrodden hostage. The wealthy could do the same productive work, for $2.5 million—still living in world-historical luxury. But they choose not to. And that choice to ransom their productivity for ever more luxury is something we shouldn’t excuse or encourage, morally.

Yes, I agree again. I also insist there are more arguments, but they are not dealt with in the present article, which is strongly recommended.

[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 3 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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