June 22, 2019

Crisis: On the Progressive Base,  On Facebook, On Psychiatry, On Whistleblowers

“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 22, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, June 22, 2019.

I realize that I did not commemorate the fact that I am writing Crisis files for six years now, since I started to do so after June 10, 2013, which taught me about Snowden.

I am registering it now, and may write about it the coming days, but I am also somewhat worse at present than I was for a long time.

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 22, 2019:
1. Focus on Growing the Progressive Base and Defeating Biden
2. Facebook's Authoritarian Money Grab
3. ‘Two years ago I compared Trump to Hitler’ — nobody listened
4. How Many Are Not Blowing the Whistle?
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. Focus on Growing the Progressive Base and Defeating Biden

This article is by Naomi Klein on Truthdig. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
A few days ago, I shared what I thought was a fairly innocuous observation about a fundamental difference between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Warren spends most of her campaign unpacking and explaining detailed policy proposals, many of them excellent, while Sanders splits his emphasis between his own strong plans and his calls for the political revolution he has consistently said will be required for any substantive progressive policy wins.

“Smart policies are very important,” I tweeted. “But we don’t lose because we lack smart policies, we lose because we lack sufficient power to win those policies up against entrenched elite forces that will do anything to defeat us.”

Within seconds, I was in the grip of a full-on 2016 primary flashback. I was accused of being a shill for Bernie and an enemy of Warren (I’m neither). My feed filled up with partisans of both candidates hurling insults at each other: She gets things done, he is all talk; she’s a pretender, he’s the real deal; he has a gender problem, hers is with race; she’s in the pocket of the arms industry, he’s an easy mark for Donald Trump; he should back her because she’s a woman, she should back him because he started this wave. And much more too venal to mention.

I am not a fan of Naomi Klein, but I suppose - I don´t do Twitter at all and never will - she is right in the above quoted bit.

In fact, this also points to a much wider problem, namely that Facebook and some other a-social media have made billions of billions their own - usually anonymous - publishers, of which few have the real intelligence and the real knowledge.

I will leave that problem where it is, beyond registering it here and now, and turn to more of Klein:

Liberals in the U.S. often say the Trump presidency is Not Normal. And yeah, it’s a killer-clown horror show. But the truth is that from most outsider perspectives, there is nothing about U.S. politics that is normal — particularly the interminable length of campaigns. Normal countries have federal elections that consume two, maybe three months of people’s political lives once every four to five years; Canada caps federal campaigns at 50 days, Japan at 12. In the U.S., on the other hand, there’s a total of about nine months in every four-year cycle when politics is not consumed by either a presidential or midterm horserace.

Well... I agree with the above, but then again: What would you say democracy is about?

And besides, while I more or less agree that Trump and his government are not normal, I think the reason is that Trump builds on what has become normal since Reagan became president, that was not normal before, but has been made normal by American presidents after Reagan, like Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama.

Anyway. Here is some more:

Because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was absolutely right when she said on ABC’s “This Week,” “We have a very real risk of losing the presidency to Donald Trump if we don’t have a presidential candidate that’s fighting for true transformational change in lives of working people in the United States.”

That was clear on the morning of November 9, 2016. In case more proof is required, see the recent devastating elections in India and Australia, where right-wing incumbents won despite predictions to the contrary, as well as the results of the European parliament vote, most notably in France and Italy, where the far right has surged.

Yes, but my own most general explanation for the fact that the right wins most elections is that most voters are neither intelligent nor informed. There are more explanations, but I am rather sure that is a fact.

Here is the moral Klein draws:

For that to happen, the very last thing we need is for the two strongest left/progressive candidates and their supporters to tear each other apart for the next eight or so months, in a desperate bid to discredit a perceived rival. What should be happening instead is exactly what Sanders and Warren have been doing (with only a couple minor lapses): steadily building their bases by talking about ideas and strategies, thereby sharpening the contrast — in policies, track record, and electability — with Biden.

I agree, but I am skeptical this will work, for the simple reason that most who write nowadays are neither intelligent nor informed. But this is a recommended article.

2. Facebook's Authoritarian Money Grab

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

“Don’t be surprised,” said Terence Ray, one of the hosts of the Whitesburg, Ky.-based podcast “The Trillbillies,” “if Mark Zuckerberg starts trying to pay his employees in ‘Facebook Bucks.’ ”
Lo and behold, not one week later, the business press began reporting that Facebook would, within the month, announce its own new proprietary cryptocurrency. What’s more, the tech giant would perhaps even “allow employees working on the project to take their salary in the form of the new currency,” a proposal of, at very least, dubious legality in the United States.

Yes indeed - and I am, as I have explained before, an opponent of money or currencies being allowed that are not underpinned by a state and a government, indeed in part because states and governments may be controlled somewhat by voters, whereas money that is designed by Zuckerberg will be controlled by the digital gangster Zuckerberg.

Here is some more:

The Libra is (..) not really a currency, but something occupying the interstitial space between a gift card, a share in a mutual fund, a negotiable instrument and an IOU.

And here we enter the territory laid out by the writer Max Read in a smartly speculative article for New York Magazine’s Intelligencer: Facebook is less interested in either the crypto or the currency, per se, than it is in becoming the dominant platform for payment, emulating the already existing and ubiquitous Chinese social-cum-payment network WeChat. “If you think Facebook is powerful now, just wait until it’s, essentially, the global federal reserve, overseeing a global currency over which it has not just monetary control but a visible, minable record of every transaction made,” he writes.

Yes indeed: I completely agree. Here is some more on this:

Read’s warning about “a visible, minable record of every transaction made” is precisely the sort of panoptical scheme that Zuckerberg’s Facebook is infamous for. As the CEO notoriously IM’d a friend in the early days of his company, “they ‘trust me,’ dumb fucks.” Facebook’s value proposition as a publicly traded corporation is precisely that it knows what its users do and like; therefore it’s the world’s most valuable space for targeted advertisement. To know about individuals’ actual finances—what they purchase; how much they send home to mom; what they withdraw from the ATM—is a step beyond, into a realm of omnipresent surveillance that no authoritarian regime dared dream of. That is, at least not before the modern People’s Republic of China, which, notably, Facebook is here self-consciously emulating.

Yes indeed - and China is a dictatorship whose WeChat is very strongly helping the dictatorship knowing everything about anyone, which is, I am pretty sure - see e.g. here - also the end of the internet in the West.

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

(..) [M]oney itself is, in a sense, a public good. Though it has been hoarded and corrupted by financial institutions and the billionaire class, misappropriated for wars and stolen from pensions, and though the Federal Reserve or the European Central Bank exist at a distance from direct electoral control, national currencies are still subjects of and subordinate to politics; they are at least theoretically susceptible to popular control.

Yes indeed, and I made the same point above. This is a strongly recommended article.

3. ‘Two years ago I compared Trump to Hitler’ — nobody listened

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on AlterNet and originally on Salon.

There is a difference between earlier reviews I wrote about psychiatry and Trump, for I shall be following a line I lately made a bit clearer, which is that I am a psychologist with an excellent M.A. and a philosopher with an excellent B.A. who was illegally denied the right to take an M.A. in philosophy, who has been deemed insane for 40 years because I and my ex have ME/CFS since forty years, until very recently (she and I and some 30,000 other Dutchmen now have ¨a serious chronic disease¨, which is correct and was correct all the 40+ years we have been ill) because psychiatry effectively claimed that whatever medics do not know must be insanity, and these psychiatric misfits were believed for 40 years by Dutch medics.

Well, I strongly dislike psychiatry (which I did long before coming ill: it simply is not a real science in any sense) and by now I am also thinking that much of what I´ve heard the last few years about psychiatry functions as an advertisement for this absolute bullshit pseudoscience, and this is another example of it:

One cannot be a good person and continue to support Donald Trump. This is especially true of Trump’s most devoted acolytes.

This was Chauncey DeVega and it is bullshit for at least two reasons:

First, because value judgements are not factual judgements: It is or is not a fact that the temperatures are increasing on average, for one example, but whether that is good, bad or indifferent is not a fact, but a matter of personal evaluation (which if made is a fact).
This also has a lot to do with philosophy (where it is rather widely admitted), for which reason I further leave it alone in this Nederlog.

Second, I think it ought to be quite clear that one can support Donald Trump and be a good person, simply because there are quite a few different reasons why one may support Trump, and one of them is that one is not intelligent nor informed to start with.

Anyway. Here is some more by DeVega:

Where is the mass resistance to Trump’s movement and his assault on American democracy and freedom? Why have some Americans chosen to surrender? How can psychology help to explain Trump’s assault on reality? How has the Mueller Report fueled Donald Trump’s apparent mental illness and other abhorrent and dangerous behavior? Can Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives be compelled to impeach Donald Trump? Will there be violence from Trump’s supporters if he is forced to leave office?

In an effort to answer these questions, I recently spoke with Dr. John Gartner, a former professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School.

The questions DeVega poses are reasonable, but I will only very briefly answer one of then, namely ¨How can psychology help to explain Trump’s assault on reality?¨:

By pointing out that there are quite considerable differences in intelligence and information between people, and by pointing out that now everyone, regardless of his or her stupidity and ignorance, can publish his or her opinions on the internet, and that indeed billions do.

There is much more that ought to be said about this, but these are facts. Here is some more, and the texts that follow in this review are by psychiatrist Gardner:

[There is a] concept known as “malignant normality.” The noted psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton introduced it to describe how in a country like Nazi Germany the dangerous and crazy views of the leader can eventually become the normal reality of a whole society.

In psychiatry there is a condition known as folie à deux, which describes how two people share a psychosis. This almost never happens. It is very rare. But on a massive societal level this is when there is a delusion that millions of people share. This delusion becomes its own reality. The people imbibe it and then reinforce this alternate reality among each other.
These are two paragraphs, and both are bullshit.

The first paragraph is bullshit because a
“malignant normality” is in fact a value-judgement written as if it were a factual judgement, namely saying that a normality (which is or is not a statistical fact) is ¨malignant¨ (evil) if you don´t like it. That is typical psychiatry, and it is nonsense.

The second paragraph is bullshit for quite a few reasons.

First of all, Gardner is correct that
folie à deux is quite rare (which did not prevent a GP to insist we both had folie a deux in 1981 simply because we were both ill and he could not find an explanation).

Second, therefore it is utter bullshit to insist that this is the case when ¨
millions of people share¨: No, it is not, and that is a simple matter of logic.

Thirdly, I take it Gardner seems never to have considered the very many religions and the very many political ideologies that are believed by many millions, of which there is - at best! - only one true: If Gardner were right, each and everyone except the true belief must be deluded and insane - which again is utter bullshit.

Here is some more by Gardner:

Under Donald Trump America is heading towards greater violence. I have no doubt about it.

Two years ago I was comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. People didn’t believe me. They thought I was being hyperbolic, exaggerating.
I neither like Hitler nor Trump, but I think Gardner was and is exaggerating.

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

We elected this Democratic Congress to save us from this monster. Instead, they have allowed themselves to be stymied, neutered and cowed. Each day they don’t open an impeachment inquiry Trump becomes more normalized, more powerful and emboldened to do even worse.

This is again a value-judgement presented as if it were a factual judgement, for all this amounts to in fact is that Gardner likes impeachment. Well... this article is far too confused to recommend. 
4. How Many Are Not Blowing the Whistle?

This article is by Caitlin Johnstone on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
Whistleblower Chelsea Manning is now being slammed with $500 fines for every single day that she remains imprisoned in contempt of court for refusing to testify in a secret grand jury against Julian Assange. Next month it will increase to $1,000 a day.

Again, this is while Manning is also locked up in jail. It’s not enough to re-imprison a whistleblower who already served years of prison time, including nearly a year in solitary confinement, for taking a principled stand against an opaque and unjust grand jury system; they’re going to potentially ruin her life with crippling debt as well. The only way to make it more cruel and unusual would be to start waterboarding her or threatening her family members.

All for refusing to participate in a corrupt and unaccountable legal performance designed to imprison a publisher to whom she leaked evidence of U.S. war crimes in 2010.
Yes, I quite agree. Here is some more:
Who is going to blow the whistle on U.S. malfeasance after watching what’s being done to Chelsea Manning? Seriously, who? Would you? Would anyone you know?

I think most people, the overwhelming majority of people, would opt out of the chance to give the empire a truth smack in exchange for years in prison, financial ruin, and seeing their name slandered and smeared around the world. Most people have too much to lose and too little to gain to take that risk already, and the war on whistleblowers and investigative journalists is only escalating.
Well... I have some pretty strong opinions on this bit, and they have everything to do with my direct family:

In 1940 Holland was occupied by the Nazis. My father, my mother and my father´s father all went into the resistance, in considerable part because they were communists - and the Dutch communists were the only group which went as a political group into the resistance - and in part because they were - anyway - much horrified by the Nazis and their policies.

Between May 1940 and May 1945, there were at most 5% of the Dutch who went into the resistance, which also is one of the reasons over 100,000 Jews were arrested and murdered by the Nazis: Few Dutchmen wanted to risk their lives to help save them.

And my own judgement, indeed ever since my late teens, is and was that the large majority of the Dutch did not go into the resistance because (i) they were not courageous, and because (ii) most of them were neither intelligent nor informed. (Both of my parents had IQs above 130, as I do.)

I also think, also since my late teens, that 5% is about the maximum support I and other intelligent and informed persons can find in large unsorted groups for quite a few of our ideas and values that differ from the average.

And you may disagree, but you do not have my family. Here is more by Johnstone:
It’s a really slick double bind they’ve got us all in, if you think about it. Try to expose government malfeasance from the inside and you’re a traitor; you’re guilty of transgressing the rules of the position you’ve been entrusted with. You go to jail. Try to expose government malfeasance from the outside and that’s hacking, that’s espionage. You go to jail.

Either way, you go to jail. Directly to jail.
Yes, but as I said above: This was the same - in fact: a lot worse - under the Nazis in Holland between 1940 and 1945, and nevertheless a few had it in them to resist.

Here is some more:
Seriously, just pause and really think about that for a minute. Let it sink all the way in. We know about just a teeny, tiny fraction of the evils that our governments have been up to behind the scenes, because the people who are in a position to expose those evils and who are willing to do so are exceedingly rare. And, because of the public flagellations of whistleblowers such as Chelsea Manning, we may be certain that they are becoming much rarer. We appear to be moving rapidly toward a world with no Chelsea Mannings at all.
Well... possibly so, but it is also my personal opinion that in that case they need to kill most of the 5% who resist nevertheless (and indeed my grandfather was murdered in a concentration camp and my father - barely - survived over 3 years and 9 months of the same).

And this is from the ending of this article:

No matter how much you think you know about the depravity of your government, it is necessarily dwarfed by what you don’t know.

This is why the U.S.-centralized empire fights so hard to maintain government secrecy and shut down anything that is a threat to that secrecy.
Does grasping this self-evident truth mean harboring an intense suspicion of everything your government says and does? Most certainly. But the alternative is to live in a fantasy world. And an uncomfortable truth is always superior to a comfortable fantasy.
I probably am somewhat less worried by the first above quoted paragraph than Johnstone is because, while I agree in a sense with what she wrote, I also insist that almost all knowledge human beings may have is of a probabilistic kind, and few of the things that humans may know are certainties.

As to the rest: While I agree that ¨
an uncomfortable truth is always superior to a comfortable fantasy¨ I think it is also rather probable that more than half of the presently living adults disagree. 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 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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