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Nederlog

March 17, 2019

Crisis: Trump Cornered, On Terrorism, The ¨Gifted¨ Rich, On Heroic Capitalism, May & Brexit


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







Sections

Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 17, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 17, 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 March 17, 2019:
1. Trump Cornered
2. How The New York Times Flubs Its Terrorism Coverage

3. The Rich Have Bought Their Way Into Elite Colleges for Decades

4. Debunking Billionaire Claims of Heroic Capitalism

5. The Prime Minister of Humiliation
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at everyorning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Trump Cornered

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

What does a megalomaniacal president of the United States do when he’s cornered? We’ll soon find out.

I like it - as a psychologist - that Reich describes Trump as ¨a megalomaniacal president¨, and do so for two reasons:

First, I agree with Reich on the psychiatric/psychological diagnosis of Trump, which has been clear to me for more than three years, and was clearly articulated here, in 2016:
Crisis: Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill?, and which meanwhile seems to be followed - the diagnosis, not my article - by some 70,000 psychologists.

Secondly, I like his use of the term ¨megalomania¨ for Trump´s lack of sanity, because (i) the term is quite appropriate and is proper English since 1895; because (ii) this term is so completely avoided by the psychiatrized Wikipedia that they recently completely deleted the term ¨megalomania¨ from Wikipedia and replaced it by the psychiatrese ¨narcissistic personality disorder¨, which they also did for other psychiatrese terms, while (iii) I learned, both as a psychologist and as a philosopher of science that psychiatry is not a real science at all, with which I completely agree, which also (iv) makes me a strong opponent of Wikipedia´s attempt to psychiatrize everything they can.

And meanwhile I say that you may disagree with me, but only if you have studied both psychology and philosophy, and made excellent degrees in it, as I did: I stopped completely being interested in the opinions of anonymous persons with little education but extremely strong opinions because of their lack of intelligence or their lack of any relevant knowledge.

Finally, for clarity´s sake: I do not oppose psychiatry as such, for the simple reasons that I think there are mad persons and mad persons do require help, while the only persons educated to help mad persons are psychiatrists and psychologists, but I do not need to believe that those who have been educated to help mad people necessarily were educated in a real science, and indeed I deny this. (Here is considerably more on the failings of psychiatry:
DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis")

Back to Reich´s article:

House Democrats are beginning a series of investigations and hearings into Donald Trump

Senate Republicans have begun to desert him: Twelve defected on the wall; seven refused to back Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. Almost all have gone on record that they want Robert Mueller’s report made public. 

That report, not incidentally, appears imminent.

Trump cannot abide losing. His ego can’t contain humiliation. He is incapable of shame.

So what does a cornered Trump do? For starters, he raises the specter of violence against his political opponents.

In an interview with Breitbart News published on Wednesday, Trump noted: “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

Yes indeed: I think both points are true. That is, some of the Republican senators deserted him, and also Trump did raise the spectre of violence against his political opponents.

Here is some more:

“I actually think that the people on the right are tougher,” Trump warned in the same interview. “But the left plays it cuter and tougher. Like with all the nonsense that they do in Congress … with all this invest[igations] – that’s all they want to do is – you know, they do things that are nasty.”

Here we have it, in a nutshell. In Trump’s mind, congressional investigations that could cause him shame and humiliation, and quite possibly result in a prison sentence, will be countered by forces loyal to him: the police, the military, and vigilante groups like Bikers for Trump.

Yes, I think this is also correct. Here is some more:

At a Las Vegas rally during the 2016 campaign he said he’d like to punch a protester in the face; at another event encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap” out of any protester making trouble.

“I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees,” he said.

Yes indeed, though one should realize here that a politician´s promises are very often not so much promises as lies, and this is certainly true of Trump.

Here is Reich´s ending:

It is our job – and the job of all senators and representatives in Congress, regardless of party, and of military leaders – to condemn hatred and violence in all its forms, even when the president of the United States makes excuses for it.

And it is up to all of us to reaffirm our commitment to democracy, even when the president of the United States threatens to unleash the military and vigilantes against it.

I more or less agree, but I also observe that neither the law, nor politicians, nor presidents can avoid talking of violence. But I agree with Reich´s commitmebt to democracy, and this is a recommended article.

2. How The New York Times Flubs Its Terrorism Coverage

This article is by Joshua Cho on Truthdig and originally on FAIR. It starts as follows:

“What is terrorism, and who is a terrorist?” The New York Times (3/7/19) asked in a recent report on the hindering of peace negotiations between the United States government and the Taliban in Afghanistan—without suggesting any possible answers to these questions. When the headline of a story literally includes the phrase “Big Question: What Is Terrorism?” you might think it would offer at least one plausible definition proposed by any party or individual involved in these discussions. But not a single definition is suggested by anyone in the report, written by Mujib Mashal.

This isn’t the first time in the Times’ propagandistic coverage of the War on Terror that the paper has raised the question without attempting to answer it; a 2005 piece  (8/14/05) whose headline included the big question, “What Is Terrorism?,” also didn’t propose any definitions either.

Yes indeed: I think Cho is quite correct about terrorism, and not only in The New York Times.

Then again, I think the same - or indeed worse - is true of other terms that are used as if they are completely clear without ever being defined in any sense, while in fact these terms are quite unclear, and one notable example is the term ¨fascism¨.

In fact, in part because I do know a lot about fascism, I have been following the various uses of the term ¨fascism¨ for at least six years now, and I have not succeeded in reading as much as a single definition of the term, while I read it many hundreds of times, in as many articles, often by reputable journalists: None gave anything resembling a definition.

And in fact that is not easy: As readers of my
On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions know there are over 20 different definitions of the term ¨fascism¨, most of which in various respects contradict some or most of the others, and some of which also are very partial or nonsense - but it seems also as if no journalist ever read as much as the Wikipedia´s Definitions of fascism

Yet all journalists who use the term use it as if their - always unclear or at least unclarified - understanding of it is quite plain and quite correct.

Back to the article:

While there’s no reason to treat the United States military’s Guide to Terrorism in the 21st Century definition of terrorism (8/15/07) as authoritative, its emphasis on the motivations of terrorists rather than their identities is useful in several ways. It defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious or ideological.” It’s the exact opposite of the standard that the corporate media has consistently pursued in favor of sensationalist and racist coverage throughout the War on Terror, emphasizing the identity of the perpetrators, rather than their motivations (FAIR.org, 3/29/18).

I say, for I did not know that the definition of terrorism that is used by the United States military´s Guide to Terrorism in the 21st Century is quite like mine:

Terrorism: Attempt to get one's way in politics or religion by violence and murder, directed especially at civilians.
There also is one important difference: The definition the United States uses insists that terrorism involves ¨unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence¨ whereas my definition leaves that out, because the law itself (in some states) may be terroristic or may invite terrorism.

And I think I am right (and there is considerably more under my definition of
Terrorism).

Back to the article:

Foreign policy critic Noam Chomsky has observed (in Hegemony or Survival) that the primary reason even official definitions are avoided is that (if universally applied) it would inevitably follow that the United States is “a leading terrorist state,” which would blow apart the conventional thesis that terrorism is a “weapon of the weak” rather than “primarily a weapon of the powerful.”

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

The Times reports that the Taliban seeks to avoid providing a definition of terrorism because it is a “sensitive and existential” issue for the group, as it “strikes at the core of the ideological narrative” they want to propagate. One could also argue that the Times and the rest of corporate media scrupulously avoid giving strict definitions of terrorism—even in articles explicitly about what terrorism is—because it is a sensitive and existential issue for US foreign policy, in the Middle East and elsewhere.

I quite agree and thus is a strongly recommended article.

3. The Rich Have Bought Their Way Into Elite Colleges for Decades

This article is by Daniel Golden on Truthdig and originally on ProPublica. It starts as follows:

My 2006 book, “The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates,” was intended as a work of investigative journalism.

But many of its more affluent readers embraced it as a “how to” guide. For years afterward, they inundated me with questions like, “How much do I have to donate to get my son (or daughter) into Harvard (or Yale, or Stanford)?” Some even offered me significant sums, which I declined, to serve as an admissions consultant.

They may have been motivated by a tale I told in the book about a youth whose admission to Harvard appears to have been cemented by a $2.5 million pledge from his wealthy developer father. The then-obscure Harvardian would later vault to prominence in public life; his name was Jared Kushner.

I did know about Jared Kushner´s history of his admission to Harvard, but otherwise this is mostly new to me, although I am sufficiently informed (I think) to agree with the title of this article.

Here is some more:

One would think that the rich and famous would care less than the rest of us about foisting their children on elite colleges. After all, their kids are likely to be financially secure no matter where, or if, they go to college. Yet they seem even more desperate — to the extent, according to a complaint, that dozens of well-heeled parents ponied up six or seven figures for bogus SAT scores and athletic profiles for their children to increase their chances at Yale, Stanford and other brand-name universities.

The parents allegedly paid anywhere between $200,000 and $6.5 million to William Rick Singer, who ran a college counseling business in Newport Beach, California. Singer in turn bribed standardized test administrators and college coaches in upper-class sports like crew, sailing and water polo, even staging photos of the applicants playing various sports, prosecutors said.

The parents “chose to corrupt and illegally manipulate the system,” Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said at a press conference Tuesday. “There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy.”

I agree - of course - with Lelling, but I am not one of those who ¨would think that the rich and famous would care less than the rest of us about foisting their children on elite colleges¨ for the fairly simple reasons that the vast majority of mankind seeks to excel in something, while it also seems as if the rich and the famous like to pretend that they are rich or famous because they are special persons, with special gifts and special talents. (In fact, I think they rarely are.) Anyway, this is a recommended article. Also see the next article:

4. Debunking Billionaire Claims of Heroic Capitalism

This article is by Linda McQuaig on Common Dreams and originally on The Toronto Star. It starts as follows:

In the future, people will probably continue to marvel at how creatures with tiny brains once stalked the Earth unchallenged.

For now, however, billionaires reign supreme, with only a small stirring of dissent, led by the impressive U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC.

Still, that small stirring is noteworthy. It could catch on.

The notion that it is somehow legitimate for a tiny group of humans to cordon off the bulk of the world’s bounty for themselves — leaving billions of people begging on the street or scrounging through garbage dumps — is fairly astonishing, on the face of it.

The unfairness is compounded by the fact there’s no evidence billionaires are particularly smart or talented, given that some 60 to 70 per cent of them inherited their wealth, according to the French economist Thomas Piketty.

I more or less agree, especially with the last paragraph (and see above).

As to ¨
the notion that it is somehow legitimate for a tiny group of humans to cordon off the bulk of the world’s bounty for themselves (..) is fairly astonishing¨ I only very partially agree, and my main reason is that the vast majority of mankind never seems to have protested much against the fact that there have been since the last 2000+ years a few rich and many poor people.

I also agree that there seems to have been always fairly small groups who disagreed with this quite fundamental division between the few rich and the many poor, that indeed in democracies (which actually exist only since the 1920s: before that women were not allowed to vote nearly everywhere) these fairly small groups could grow fairly large, but they rarely got the majority
by non-violent means.

In fact, both of my parents and three out of four of my grandparents disagreed
with this quite fundamental division between the few rich and the many poor, and so do I, but my parents and grandparents were rather rare, for they were - Dutch - anarchists or communists.

Back to the article:

Today’s extreme concentration of wealth is so palpably unfair — the richest 26 individuals have as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity — that it cries out for a powerful justification.

Mega-billionaire Bill Gates seemed to produce a pretty powerful justification last month at the annual elite gathering in Davos — a spectacular infographic showing that the world poverty rate had plummeted over the past two centuries, from 94 per cent to just 10 per cent today.

Bill Gates is a liar, who indeed also has a strong motive to lie, namely his many billions. In brief, the real facts seem to be these (very roughly):

Even in the four decades since 1981, there’s been no decline in global poverty, Hickel insists. On the contrary, he says if we use a more meaningful poverty measure — $7.40 U.S. a day, rather than the absurdly low $1.90 U.S. a day used by Roser — the number of people living in poverty has dramatically increased, to 4.2 billion today, more than half the world’s population.

And in fact this - ¨more than half the world’s population¨ is quite poor - was also true in the 1960ies and 1970ies, with this major difference that then there were fewer people in all (around 3 billion, of whom more than half were poor or very poor) than there are now: Over 7.5 billion (of which again more than half - over 4 billion - are poor or very poor).

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

The real story of today’s global capitalism is better captured by Piketty. In his epic 577-page treatise, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, he makes the case that capitalism leads to ever-increasing inequality.

Depressing as Piketty’s case is, it also includes a ray of hope. He notes that an exception occurred in the period following the Second World War (1945 to 1975) when equality actually increased. This was particularly true in the Anglo-American countries, largely due to the very progressive tax systems enacted by governments, notably in the Anglo-American countries, including Canada.

So the campaign stirred up by AOC — calling for a tax system similar to the early postwar years — could actually make a difference, if the public started paying attention.

I agree with Piketty, and I also agree with Ocasio-Cortez´s ¨calling for a tax system similar to the early postwar years¨, but I do not think this will solve the many problems caused by the division in the few rich, who decide almost everything, and the many poor, who have no effective decisions except struggling on.

And I also have a radical resolution of the - truly enormous - differences in riches and power that exist between people, and that is to legally forbid that anyone may earn or own more than 20 times as much as the poorest do, and the poorest should have enough money to lead decent lives.

In fact Orwell proposed 10 times as much (see my
On Socialism) while members of American trade unions liked 7 times as much (!!). I think my rule is a little more realistic, but I do insist on it being legally forbidden to earn more than 20 (or 10 or 7) times as much as the poorest do.

I also think this is all quite reasonable, quite fair, and quite rational, but unfortunately I know that so far few agree, it seems mostly because they have unreasonable, unfair or irrational ideas. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. The Prime Minister of Humiliation

This article is by Peter Müller and Jörg Schindler on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:

In June of 2017, about a year after the Brexit referendum, the BBC dedicated a show to the British prime minister. At that point, Theresa May had been in office for 11 months and had been Home Secretary for six years before that. Her severe face, her garish shoes and her gangly walk were familiar to every British boarding-school student. But May also remained strangely alien to her fellow Brits. There were no anecdotes about her and very few memorable quotes. Nobody really knew who she actually was.

The BBC reporter set out to solve the riddle -- and was forced to admit in the end that he wasn't any smarter than he had been at the beginning. None of the old school friends and associates he interviewed seemed to have truly gotten close to her. But, amazingly, they all agreed about one thing: If she were ever stumbled, it would be because of her inability to build bridges. "She lacks the ability to form a gang."

I chose this article mostly because I liked Great Britain in the 1970ies, when I also briefly lived there, and I neither understand Brexit nor May: I think Brexit is silly while May is a typical politician, which is to say that I have very little respect for her.

Here is some more:

Yet something momentous had happened. This week, 17 days before the date when the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union, British parliament rejected the divorce deal for the second time. And once again, it did so by such an overwhelming majority that the last remnants of Theresa May's control over events -- if she ever had it in the first place -- evaporated. Whatever happens now is no longer up to her.

Quite possibly so. Here is some more:

It has become increasingly clear that May has led her country, her party and herself into a labyrinth, and that she apparently has neither the power nor the ideas that will allow them to find a way out. Brexit would have been a momentous challenge for any prime minister, but May's stubbornness and ineptness have made it even more difficult. Because of this, Brexit has become, for many, a referendum on May herself.

Well... I do not like May and I do not think she is competent, but it is also true that she is not the only on responsible for the present enormous mess: There are the parliamentarians, who also are responsible; there are the Brexiteers, idem; and indeed there are quite a few more.

Here is some more on May (by Matthew Parris, a conservative BBC correspondent):

"She is mean. She is rude. She is cruel. She is stupid. I have heard that from almost everyone who has dealt with her," Parris says. He said he had never expected this much hatred, "and that is not a word I use lightly."

The worst thing, though, he says, is May's inability to win over others to her position, to compromise and to lead. "It's crazy," says Parris. "That someone like her would end up in a job where the most important thing is to communicate, answer questions, make decisions. That is, I believe, more of a psychological than a political problem."

I do not know May at all, and restrict myself to agreeing with Parris that she is not competent.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Rarely, if ever, has a British prime minister become as frequent and public a laughing stock as Theresa May. The Conservative has become a political pioneer, albeit not the one she could have ever hoped to be: She is the first head of government to have been found in contempt of parliament; the first to have lost nearly two dozen ministers and secretaries of state within two years; the first to have had her central political project twice voted down by overwhelming majorities; and the first to, despite all this, remain in power -- at least to this point.

I more or less agree, but then again, as I pointed out above, May is not - by far - the only responsible for Brexit and its present total mess. This is a recommended article.

Note
[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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