June 3, 2019

Crisis: Grim on the Democrats, Google & Amazon, Bernie Sanders, Aquinas on Sinning

“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 June 3, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Monday, June 3, 2019.

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, though not yet quite decently working computers.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

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 four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 3, 2019:
1. Ryan Grim on the Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosi, and 2020

2. Google and Amazon Are at the Center of a Storm Brewing
     Over Big Tech
3. Bernie Sanders: I Know Where I Came From. Does President

4. What the philosopher Aquinas teaches us about political
The items 1 - 4 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. Ryan Grim on the Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosi, and 2020 Campaign

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

As Democrats continue to debate whether to initiate an impeachment inquiry, Trump seems to be going nuts from the Democrats’ continuing probe into his possible obstruction of justice, corruption, abuse of power. The Intercept’s Ryan Grim explains Nancy Pelosi’s rise to power within the Democratic Party, her political origins, and what her possible end game strategy is for Trump. Grim also weighs in on the large 2020 Democratic candidate field and talks about his new book, “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement.”

Yes indeed. In fact, there is a whole lot more in the article than I quote. Here is the first bit, about Pelosi:

Nancy Pelosi is, of course, the top Democrat in Congress. She is the House Speaker, third in line to the presidency. Despite Trump controlling the White House and the GOP with a firm grip on the Senate, Nancy Pelosi is incredibly powerful, and it’s important to understand who she is, how she rose to power, and what her endgame strategy with Trump might look like.

To discuss this, and the current state of the Democratic Party, I’m joined by my colleague Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s DC bureau chief. Ryan has a new book out this week that provides an essential in-depth context for the political landscape that we’re in now. It is called “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement.”

Yes. There is a lot more on Pelosi, which I all leave to my readers' interests. Here is more on Barack Obama:

JS: I want to talk a bit before we get to the current situation of the Democratic party about Barack Obama’s impact becoming the not just the president, but the leader for those eight years of the Democratic party. Obama launched his campaign and I think, he wanted to give the impression that he was the anti-war candidate, but in reality the speech that he gave in Chicago in October of 2002, which really launched his national political aspirations and campaign was a very carefully crafted speech with lots of ifs and thens in terms of the position. He famously said I’m not against all wars, I’m against dumb wars, stupid wars and essentially making a tactical argument against the Iraq War.

And I often think of that as kind of a metaphor for how Obama governed. He would telegraph one thing and sort of, there would be this perception people would place onto the canvas of Obama, what they wanted to think he was but in reality, he always if you really took his words at their value, was saying I’m not a leftist and I actually am, would be a sort of, moderate Republican of the 90s.
It was like the sophisticated smart version of Trump saying we’ll see what happens. Obama would allow people to think he was this thing but in reality, he was a pretty right-wing Democrat.

Yes, I think that is correct. Here is more on Clinton and Sanders:

JS: So, then in 2016, we had it boiling down to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And I don’t want to spend too much time on 2016 for all sorts of reasons but in part, because we’ve also discussed it quite a bit on the show. But one part of 2016 I wanted to ask you about and that is when we talk about the documents, John Podesta’s emails, DNC emails. I don’t want to make this about WikiLeaks right now. What did those documents show that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was doing toward Bernie Sanders and his campaign?

RG: Not a lot, right? I mean they were, I mean, the Clinton campaign was infuriated by the Sanders campaign and felt that it was undignified that she was even having to deal with this socialist from Vermont.

JS: Or anyone for that matter.

RG: Or anyone.

JS: This was a coronation. This was not a primary. This was meant to be a very long coronation and Sanders got in the way of that.

I do not know whether I agree with the beginning of this quotation, but I agree with  the end. There´s a whole lot more in this interview, which I skipped for two reasons: This is Nederlog, and there is not enough space, and also I found this interview interesting, but in several ways too particular, in the sense of presuming rather a lot of knowledge that American journalists will tend to have. Anyway, this article is recommended.

2. Google and Amazon Are at the Center of a Storm Brewing Over Big Tech

This article is by four journalists (three is the maximum I name) on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
Google and Amazon have thrived as American regulators largely kept their distance. That may be changing.

Politicians on the right and left are decrying the tech companies’ enormous power. President Trump and other Republicans have taken swipes at Amazon over taxes and at Google over search results they say are biased. Democrats have focused on whether the companies stifle competition.

And now, the two federal agencies that handle antitrust matters have split up oversight of the two companies, with the Justice Department taking Google and the Federal Trade Commission taking Amazon, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

The decisions do not mean that the agencies have opened official federal investigations, the people said. But by staking claims over the two tech giants, the agencies are signaling the potential for greater scrutiny.

Regulators have struggled to keep pace with the growth of technology companies in recent years. With huge profits and work forces, the companies have come to dominate large swaths of the economy. Amazon is the de facto force in online retailing. Google is the starting point for many people searching online.
Yes, I think all of the above is correct, although I also should warn you that much of the present article is less about attacking or regulating Google and Amazon, and more about possible preparations for it.

Here is some more:

The regulators’ moves are small and preliminary, and could easily come to nothing. But if the agencies pursue cases, Google and Amazon will almost certainly face reams of bad publicity, rising consumer distrust and falling employee morale. An inquiry would remind everyone that Google, with its early motto of “Don’t be evil,” held itself to standards it sometimes could not match.

“This is more of a warning to the companies that they’re being carefully scrutinized and they need to be careful not to play fast and loose given their dominant positions in the digital marketplace,” said Gene Kimmelman, a former senior antitrust official at the Justice Department who is now president of the consumer group Public Knowledge.

Indeed, and as I said under the first quotation. Here is some more:

Even without formal government investigations, the political pressure for action has been mounting.

“It’s time to fight back,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democratic candidate for president, said after news of the Google developments emerged. Senators Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, and Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, each said the scrutiny of Google was overdue.

Yes indeed, and I agree with those mentioned. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The queasiness over the big tech companies is more spiritual than financial. Polls show a growing anxiety about the influence of technology on American lives, and the issue has emerged as a litmus test for the 2020 Democratic presidential field.

Ms. Warren said that she had been “talking for years about how Google is locking out competition.” A billboard her campaign erected last month near a train stop in San Francisco was meant to appeal to Silicon Valley commuters, particularly those who have been squeezed to distant housing by the area’s tech-fueled property boom.

It asks passers-by to “join our fight” to “Break Up Big Tech” by sending a text message.

On Saturday, a spokesman for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, another leading contender, said the senator “has been trying to sound the alarm for years that the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few threatens our democracy and leads to rigged political and economic systems.”

And I agree again with the speakers who are named. This is a recommended article.

3. Bernie Sanders: I Know Where I Came From. Does President Trump?

This article is by Bernie Sanders on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
We are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world and, according to President Trump, the economy is “booming.” Yet most Americans have little or no savings and live paycheck to paycheck.

Today our rate of childhood poverty is among the highest of any developed country in the world, millions of workers are forced to work two or three jobs just to survive, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, millions more owe outrageous levels of student debt, and half a million people are homeless on any given night. Over 80 million Americans have inadequate health insurance or spent part or all of last year without any insurance, and one out of five cannot afford the prescription drugs they need.

While wages in the United States have been stagnant for over 40 years, we have more income and wealth inequality than at any time since the 1920s.

Today, the wealthiest three families in the country own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people and the top 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Millions of workers earn starvation wages even as nearly half of all new income is going to the top 1 percent.
Yes indeed: I think all of the above is quite correct. Here is more:

I am running for president because we must defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in the modern history of our country. But, if we are to defeat Mr. Trump, we must do more than focus on his personality and reactionary policies.

We must understand that unfettered capitalism and the greed of corporate America are destroying the moral and economic fabric of this country, deepening the very anxieties that Mr. Trump appealed to in 2016. The simple truth is that big money interests are out of control, and we need a president who will stand up to them.

Quite so. Here is some more:

Wall Street, after driving the United States into the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, now makes tens of billions in profits while forcing working-class Americans to pay usurious interest rates on their credit card debt. The top 10 American drug companies, repeatedly investigated for price fixing and other potentially illegal actions, made nearly $70 billion in profits last year, even as Americans paid the most per capita among developed nations for their prescription medicine.

Top executives in the fossil fuel industry spend hundreds of millions on campaign contributions to elect candidates who represent the rich and the powerful, while denying the reality of climate change.

Major corporations like Amazon, Netflix, General Motors and dozens of others make huge profits, but don’t pay federal income taxes because of a rigged tax system they lobbied to create.

I again completely agree. Hete is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Back in 1944, in his State of the Union speech, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt reminded the nation that economic security is a human right, and that people cannot be truly free if they have to struggle every day for their basic needs. I agree.

We must change the current culture of unfettered capitalism in which billionaires have control over our economic and political life. We need to revitalize American democracy and create a government and economy that works for all.

Yes, the government should guarantee a decent paying job for all Americans and universal health care through a single-payer system. Yes, we should raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 an hour, make it easier for workers to join unions, provide free tuition to public colleges and substantially lower student debt. Yes, we should wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, reform a racist criminal justice system and enact comprehensive immigration reform with a path toward citizenship.
And I  completely agree again. This is a strongly recommended article.

4. What the philosopher Aquinas teaches us about political disagreements

This article is by Anonymous on AlterNet and originally on Daily Kos. I do not know whether the present article is about the crisis according to other people, but I think it is, among other things because I am a philosopher. Also, in case you are interested at all in considering some of the ideas of a Catholic saint who lived in the 13th century, I recommend you to read the items evil and sin in my Philosophical Dictionary. Also, here is considerably more about Aquinas (for those interested).

This is from near the beginning of the article:

One of Aquinas’s goals is to understand why people do evil. This question is especially puzzling for Aquinas. Like Aristotle, he thinks that the ultimate goal of all our actions is to have a good life (and, for Christians like Aquinas, bliss in the hereafter). Moreover, Aquinas and Aristotle think that we can have a genuinely good life—good for us, not just “morally” good—only if we live a life of virtue and excellence. According to one interpretation, which I share, Aristotle and Aquinas think that a fulfilling life just is a life of intellectual and moral excellence. In that case, why do people do evil? Don’t they know they’re just hurting themselves?

Aquinas identifies three ways we can do evil despite wanting a good life for ourselves: we can sin from ignorance, from passion, or from what Aquinas calls malitia. In all three cases, we’re still seeking what’s best for us, but we are temporarily confused about what is in fact best for us.

In fact, there are quite a few philosophical problems touched upon in the above, but I skip them, and only say that the above seems a fair summary.

There is first sinning from ignorance:

You can sin from ignorance in two ways:

  • You don’t know that the kind of action you’re performing is bad for you in the long run. For example, a young child might steal something simply because they don’t know that stealing is a bad idea.
  • You know that the kind of action is bad but don’t realize that the particular action that you’re performing is of that kind. For example, you might know that stealing is bad in general but not know that what you’re taking belongs to someone else.

As you can guess, Aquinas views this kind of sin as the least serious.

I more or less agree, although I probably believe sinning from ignorance may be more serious than Aquinas may have thought, for I think avoidable ignorance itself is - let´s say - an avoidable bad.

Then there is sinning from passion:

When you sin from passion, you aren’t ignorant. You know that the general kind of action that you’re performing is bad for you in the long run. Under normal circumstances, you would also be able to recognize that the particular action that you’re performing is of that kind.

But at the moment when you act, intense emotions or sensations have biased your thinking so that you momentarily fail to notice that your particular action is of that kind.

Yes, although I think I would add sinning from avoidable stupidity as well here.

Finally, there is sinning from badness:

Malitia simply means “badness.” It’s often translated as “malice,” but the English word “malice” implies a cruelty that malitia doesn’t. For Aquinas, sinning from malitia means sinning because you have misjudged which of two evils is lesser. When you sin from malitia, you aren’t ignorant that your action is bad, nor are you experiencing violent emotions, but you still incorrectly perceive the situation: you think that the evil you’re committing is worth it when it really isn’t.

I would - again - add the possibilities that one sins from badness also if the reasons for one´s sinning are due to one´s avoidable ignorance or avoidable stupidity.

Also, there is a lot that could be said here that I all do not say, except that, although I am neither a Catholic nor religious, I agree that Aquinas had a great mind.

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

Aquinas tells us that people do evil because, at the moment when they act, they are confused about what’s good for them. Maybe you disagree with this theory. But whether you agree with him or not, his analysis of sinning helps remind us that most people aren’t trying to be evil. They may be ignorant, misled by passion, or simply bad at judging which evil is lesser, but ultimately they’re just doing what they perceive to be best for them.

Yes, although I do take avoidable ignorance and avoidable stupidity more serious than Aquinas seems to do (whom I have read partially, but some thirty years ago, at least) and besides I also do not believe in the concept of sin that Aquinas had. But I think this is an interesting article that is 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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