April 3, 2019

Crisis: U.S. Censorship, A Rigged System, On Nancy Pelosi, On Facebook, On The New Economy

“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 April 3, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, April 3, 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 April 3, 2019:
1. Widespread Censorship of Former Government Employees Violates the
     First Amendment

2. “The System Is Rigged”: Democrats Drop Corporate and PAC Money

3. Nancy Pelosi Believes in Nothing

4. Not Even Wrong 2.0

5. Everything You Need to Know About the New Economy
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. Widespread Censorship of Former Government Employees Violates the First Amendment

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

For officials in the Trump administration, leaving the government and writing a book has become a reliable and lucrative exit strategy — so much so that it has created a small army of literary agents who specialize in snapping up the next tell-all memoir. For anyone with name recognition in D.C., it has perhaps never been easier to scoop up a sizable advance and make the best-seller list.

But for rank-and-file members of the intelligence community, the process is not so easy. Employees who formerly had access to sensitive information must submit manuscripts for a government “pre-publication review,” intended to ensure that they don’t divulge official secrets.

The result has been a massive system that processes thousands of submissions, in which the rules are broad and vague, and vary from one agency to another. The process can drag on for months or, in some cases, years, and can force authors to choose between deleting text or publishing pages of type blacked out by U.S. government censors.

I guess this is quite correct - and I am an opponent of most censorship. Here is more:

But the American Civil Liberties Union and Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University are challenging this redaction regime. In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the groups allege that pre-publication review amounts to a “far-reaching system of prior restraint,” and that the government’s arbitrary and sometimes confounding censorship decisions are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

“This far-reaching censorship system simply can’t be squared with the Constitution,” Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute, said in a statement. “The government has a legitimate interest in protecting bona fide national security secrets, but this system sweeps too broadly, fails to limit the discretion of government censors, and suppresses political speech that is vital to informing public debate.”

I again guess this is correct, but I do have two remarks:

One. As I said, I am an opponent of most censorship (for one reason because the more is censored from being known by "the public", the less real democracy there is, and for another reason because censorship rules may also be used to keep people from telling the truth about crimes), and this means I am for the
American Civil Liberties Union.

Two. Then again, this will probably be judicially quite complicated, and I should add that if it ever comes to the Supreme Court as this is now, it will probably loose, since the Supreme Court has an absolutely sick "interpretation" of the First Amendment (in majority).

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

“To survive First Amendment scrutiny, a requirement of prepublication review would have to, at a minimum, apply only to those entrusted with the most closely held government secrets; apply only to material reasonably likely to contain those secrets; provide clear notice of what must be submitted and what standards will be applied; tightly cabin the discretion of government censors; include strict and definite time limits for completion of review; require censors to explain their decisions; and assure that those decisions are subject to prompt review by the courts,” the complaint reads. “The prepublication review system, in its current form, has none of these features.”

And the above means that I am strongly in favor of the ACLU's case, and this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is considerably more.

2. “The System Is Rigged”: Democrats Drop Corporate and PAC Money

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

We look at the growing push for lawmakers to refuse money from corporate political action committees, as more than half of the Democrats newly elected to Congress have vowed not to accept such donations. We speak with Congressmember Nydia Velázquez of New York, a long-term legislator who has stopped taking corporate PAC donations. “In order to return trust [to] our democratic institutions, we need to … allow for the voters to feel that their voices are heard and that they don’t have to write a big check in order to gain access into our congressional offices,” she says.

Well... I agree with lawmakers who "refuse money from corporate political action committees", that is, who refuse to be corrupted that way, but I do not know whether I trust "long-term legislator" Nydia Velázquez, for it seems more probable that she goes with the present fashion among Democrats rather than that she really means it, after having accepted PAC money for something like twentyfive years.

Here is some more:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ:  (..) Because, I mean, all the years you’ve been in Congress, you have been accepting PAC money. What changed your decision now to no longer accept those kinds of donations?

REP. NYDIA VELÁZQUEZ: Well, Juan, when I won the first time, I won against the establishment, and I defeated an entrenched, 18-year politician who basically wasn’t representing the interests of the community and the district that he represented. But for many of the first terms in Congress, I barely got any corporate money. They saw me as too liberal. And what I’m doing right now is coming home.

Well... possibly so, but since "many of the first terms in Congress" where in the early 1990s, she has to account for something like 25 years, and in the above bit she evades the question rather than that she answers it.

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

REP. NYDIA VELÁZQUEZ: So what I’m doing now is, because of so much—because there is so much distrust from my constituents and voters across the country, particularly since Citizens United ruling in 2010, so much money is coming to play in politics in our country that a lot of voters feel that the system is rigged, that the deck is stacked against them, especially with young people. We made a promise, a social contract with our young people, saying that if you play by the rules, if you work hard, you can make it in America. But the fact of the matter is that they graduate and they cannot find jobs, or they graduate with a huge student debt and a diploma on the other hand. So, what I’m doing is coming home.

I suppose I somewhat agree with the above but I - still - think Velázquez is fashionable rather than honest. And this is a recommended article.

3. Nancy Pelosi Believes in Nothing

This article is by Jacob Bacharach on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Last month, Nancy Pelosi gave an interview to the Washington Post that incensed an increasingly socialist flank of the Democratic Party. “I don’t think we should go down that path,” she said of President Trump’s possible impeachment, before adding the president of the United States is “just not worth it.”

It was unclear, in this context, what “worth it” meant to Pelosi. In the same interview, she claimed that Trump was unfit for office “ethically,” “intellectually” and “curiosity-wise.” So “worth it,” it seems, translated to “politically advantageous.” From this, one might draw the conclusion that the Speaker of the House thinks it better to keep this guy around—a far cry from newly elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s pledge several months before to “impeach the motherfucker.”

Pelosi regretted the negativity of her tone in describing the president. “I don’t usually talk about him this much,” she offered. “This is the most I’ve probably talked about him. I hardly ever talk about him. You know, it’s not about him.” Rather it’s about “lower health-care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government.” What exactly that “it” is remains unclear.

I don't like Pelosi, and the above bit gives a few (of many) reasons, for she evidently is bullshitting.

Here is some more:

Democratic House leaders like Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff have since pivoted to calling for the release of the full Mueller report. They are right to do so, as Barr has proved himself a notorious water-carrier for corrupt conservatives. It is entirely possible he slanted his abstract of the investigation’s conclusions so they’d land with the loosest, wettest possible plop.

Yes, I think that is right (and I am strongly "for the release of the full Mueller report"). Here is some more:

But in the face of demands from their own activist base that they try to actually do something, they have sought—as Democratic centrists inevitably do—to negotiate against their own best positions before they even begin. The Green New Deal? Expensive, overly broad. Medicare-for-all? Likewise, not to mention impractical and disastrous for the beloved private health insurance industry.

Yes, I take it this is correct. Moreover, these "replies" to the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-
all are condescending bullshit. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

There is a curious void at the heart of Democratic politics. It isn’t necessary to believe in some absurd, magical notion of willpower to note that at its highest level, the party seems to lack an essential, motivating will. Instead, it views itself as something more akin to a professional membership organization that has a convention in a nice hotel every few years.

Actually, I think this is too positive. As far as I can see Pelosi does have "an essential, motivating will", namely to keep herself and the other corrupt Democrats in well-paid power as long as possible, and one way to do that is to avoid most or all big political decisions. This is a recommended article.

4. Not Even Wrong 2.0

This article is by Peter Woit on his site. Also this may need some explanation, since Woit is a mathematical physicist, while Nederlog is since 2012 almost only directed towards politics.


Well... I am a philosopher as well as a psychologist, and only did not get an - excellent - M.A. in philosophy because I was removed from the right to do so in 1988 because I had, very briefly before taking my M.A., publicly attacked the mass of philosophical frauds that were supposed to teach me philosophy, and in fact did not teach me anything whatsoever.

In response (also being ill since January 1, 1979, like my ex: we both have ME since over 40 years) I was simply removed from the faculty of philosophy as a student, no doubt also because (i) I was neither a marxist nor a postmodernist, and in effect 95% of the students and the majority of the staff pretended to be marxists, or "very sympathetic to Marx", and/or were, from 1985 onwards, effectively postmodernists; because (ii) I had protested since arriving in Holland, where I had returned from Norway to get an excellent education, whereas what I got was a shit education; because (iii) I had also created a student-party in 1981, because the "University" of Amsterdam was in effect ruled by the students, and specifically by the first Marxist and then postmodernistic ASVA; and because my party had participated in the "University" -elections in 1982 and had gotten 5% of the vote - the rest went to the ASVA, that strove to get as easy bachelor degrees and M.A.s from 1971 till 1995 as was possible, and succeeded nearly everywhere. (In 1995 the law that gave the studends most of the power was withdrawn, and since then the "University" of Amsterdam is more authoritarian and much more expensive than it ever was.)

Besides, I was hated by the ASVA and was called - with a communist father, a communist mother, and a communist grandfather, who had all become communists because of the Nazis, and of whom one was murdered by the Nazis and the other survived over 3 years and 9 months of four concentration camps - a fascist or a dirty fascist from 1977 till 1989 (where I should add that I did not study some of these years, because I was too ill).

In fact, this is why I did get an - also excellent - M.A. in psychology, because I was denied the right to take an M.A. in philosophy.

Next, as regards Peter Woit: I am and was since 1970 quite interested in mathematics and physics (which is probably what I should have studied), and I know a reasonable amount about them. Also, one of the physicists I admire was Richard Feynman, who had already in 1984 protested against string theory (or theories) that from then on got more and more popular, on the ground that he could not see how this theory (or theories) could be tested - and I agreed.

I still do, and this led me to Peter Woit's site, which is almost exclusively about mathematics and physics, because he has a similar (but certainly more sophisticated) theory about string theory as I had since 1984: It is not testable and is, therefore, "not even wrong" (which is the title of Woit's site, and which was originated by Wolfgang Pauli).

And this is how Woit's site got selected as one of the 35 sites I look at every day, in fact as the only non-political one.

Next, the reason Woit's site is mentioned today:

On Facebook

Around April 1, 2019, Woit published a small article that said, among other things, the following:

I’ve decided to follow some more of the advice I have been getting, and have started up a Not Even Wrong Facebook site. No longer will you have to navigate to my WordPress site to access the blog content, instead it will be available the same way most people are now getting their news, through your Facebook News Feed. This will make it much more convenient for everyone to get notified about new posts and share these with others. I’m looking forward to the expanded readership and connections to the rest of the world that becoming part of the Facebook information eco-system will provide.

In fact, I did not believe this, simply because I had learned meanwhile that Peter Woit is a very intelligent man, and very intelligent persons dislike Facebook. It also turned out he got (at least) 110 reactions, and nearly all of them were quite against Woit's joning Facebook (including many who had given up Facebook).

And now he has this text:

The uniformly hostile response here to the Facebook idea has been extremely reassuring. No, I don’t intend to move the blog to Facebook. The fact that a sizable fraction of the US population in recent years has been getting its news off their Facebook News Feed seems to be one of the main factors in the 2016 collapse of democracy here, and the same thing is happening all over the world. This has also significantly moved along the ongoing destruction of the economic viability of conventional journalism. Going through the exercise of putting up a Facebook site made me aware of some aspects of how Facebook works I’d never realized. For example, on a Facebook post you can only hyperlink text to other Facebook material, not to the outside world.

It has become all too clear just how ugly the world created by Facebook is, that it is a sociopathic organization, and a danger to a healthy democracy. If you must stay in contact with friends and family this way, avoid any engagement with anything else on the Facebook site. Best would be to delete your Facebook account, now.

Update: For a book-length explanation of why you should be concerned about Facebook, see Roger McNamee’s Zucked, reviewed here.

Excellent! I completely agree with Woit, and this is a strongly recommended article, as is the article mentioned and linked in the last quoted paragraph.

5. Everything You Need to Know About the New Economy

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

The biggest economic story of our times isn’t about supply and demand.  It’s about institutions and politics.  It’s about power.

The median annual earnings of full-time wage and salaried workers in 1979, in today’s dollars, was $43,680. The median earnings in 2018 was $45,708. If between 1979 and 2018, the American economy almost tripled in size, so where did the gains go?  Most went to the top.

Now this is broadly known, but there is less certainty about why.

Yes indeed, although I think I should add that all economy is - among other things - about power.

Conventional wisdom attributes the widening economic divide to globalization and technological change – the “inevitable” result of the invisible hand of the so-called “free market.”

Well... I think that if you believe in the "free market", you probably are rather stupid, for it is in fact bullshit - as Reich explains:

To understand what really happened, it’s critical to understand that there is no “free market” in nature. The term “free market” suggests outcomes are objectively fair and that any “intervention” in the free market is somehow “unnatural.” But in reality, markets cannot exist without people constructing them. Markets depend on rules, and rules come out of legislatures, executive agencies, and courts.  The biggest political change over the last four decades is the overwhelming dominance of big money in politics – influencing what those rules are to be.

Quite so. Here is some more (and the first paragraph is about the past):

American capitalism contained hidden pools of what [John Kenneth Galbraith] called “countervailing power” that offset the power of large corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy: labor unions, state and local banks, farm cooperatives, and small retail chains, for example. All of these sources of countervailing power had been fostered by the New Deal. They balanced the American economic system.

But since the late 1970s, these sources of countervailing power have been decimated, leading to an unbalanced system and producing widening economic inequality and stagnating wages.

Again quite so (and there is considerably more in the article). Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Offering a Compelling Set of Ideas about What Should be Done with Countervailing Power.

For example:

A guaranteed basic income so no one is impoverished,

A guaranteed job so everyone can get ahead,

A progressive wealth tax to pay for these and other basics,

Stronger unions so workers have more bargaining power,

New forms of corporate organization so workers have more voice,

–  A Green New Deal so workers can get better jobs while fighting climate change. 

Reinvigorated antitrust so concentrations of economic power are broken up,

Election finance reforms to get big money out of politics and end the revolving door,

Voting reforms so votes cannot be suppressed.

Yes, I agree to all of the above, and this is a strongly 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 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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