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Nederlog

April 17, 2015
Crisis: Roosevelt, Google, Assange, Unofficial Sources, Philosophy & Pomo
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















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Sections
Introduction

1. Here’s a bold plan, Ed Miliband – it worked for Roosevelt
2. Let’s challenge Google while we still can
3. 
Julian Assange speech prompts judges to boycott legal
     conference
 
4. Welcome to Unofficial Sources
5. Philosophy Returns to the Real World


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, April 17, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interesting article by Martin Kettle, in part about Roosevelt; item 2 is about an article that shows how extremely powerful Google is; item 3 is about a crazy
bit of anti-Assange propaganda some (not: all) British judges did; item 4 is about a new part of The Intercept; and item 5 is by an academically employed American philosopher who claims that - after 37 years in my experience - "philosophy" these days might be returning to the real world, with some extras thrown in by me.

1. Here’s a bold plan, Ed Miliband – it worked for Roosevelt

The first item today is an article by Martin Kettle on The Guardian:

This has the following sub-title:

Our individual economic rights - from jobs, to homes to health – should be spelled out, as Roosevelt did 70 years ago

I quote this, rather than the beginning, because that starts with Hillary Clinton, for no other reason - apparently - than that she is in the news. But this is also from the beginning, and sets the theme:

But we shouldn’t single out Clinton over this. She is only one prominent example among many on the centre left who have a difficult time matching the poetry and aspiration of opposition with the prose and practicality of governing. The same question, in various permutations, faces all parties and leadership candidates of the centre left across the developed capitalist world.

Though the question itself was there long before 2008, it has sharpened, and certainly been felt to have sharpened, since the financial crisis.

The basic reasons for this are - I think - the following four (that are neither treated nor even mentioned by Martin Kettle):

(1) "The Left" has been radically broken down by Bill Clinton and Tony Blair in the early nineties by the totally fraudulent, false and careerist "Third Way", that was also followed by many other corrupt "Leftish leaders" (like Kok in Holland), who essentially betrayed their leftist supporters and sold out to the big banks.
(2) "The Right" has been up and strong since 1979-1980, when Thatcher and Reagan took over power in Great Britain and the U.S., and has been dominant for well over thirty years now, and also has - from Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton onwards, "deregulated" very many of the laws that protect the poor and limit the powers of banks and big corporations.
(3) The bankmanagers and big corporations have been for thirty years propagandizing their point of view (in fact, as printed by the papers and mouthed by media anchors on TV, this is indeed almost only propaganda, and nothing like solid fact based theory) and have been enormously helped by "The Left" - its leaders, at least - who announced, already in 1999 (!), that "too big to fail" banks can do whatever they please: they will not be prosecuted. And "the people" have to pay for their mistakes, not the banks or their managers who make them: the profits go them; the losses are for "the people".
(4) Meanwhile, and especiallly since 9/11/2001, "The Right" has spent far more money than it used to in order to influence parliaments by lobbyists and to influence the people by propaganda: they have bought most politicians, most papers, and owe large parts of the media, and therefore the papers and the big media these days
essentially - mostly - say what serves the interests of "The Right" and the government, much rather than print the truth that serves the people at large.

There are more reasons (or causes) but these four are quite important, and also form a considerable part of the reasons why "The Left" these days is argueing on a mostly rightist or centrist economical program: Their leaders are corrupt; their old ideology has been shot down by earlier "leftist" leaders; their new ideology is not popular with the electorate; and at least their present leaders do not formulate any new approaches that the people can believe in. [1]

Now back to Martin Kettle:

Public opinion has often been broadly sympathetic to the things that Miliband stands for. Yet today Labour struggles to break the 35% ceiling. For more than 20 years, through most of the Thatcher-Major-Blair years, about 60% of the population thought that taxes and public spending should increase. They don’t think so any more, particularly since the financial crisis, and they lack confidence in the government to solve the country’s problems.

This is why Labour’s failure to combat the narrative that “Labour wrecked the economy” – chorused again this week by David Cameron and Nick Clegg – remains so damaging.

The reason for this are stated above: The leaders of "The Left" are not real leaders of a real left; "The Right" has been in power - including Clinton and Blair - for over thirty years and has deregulated whatever they could, and bought most of the media and most of the politicians; and "The Right" controls most of the propaganda that ordinary people read or see, and believe are "the real facts".

And here is the reason why I did select this article:

Watching the final DVD of Ken Burns’s US television series on the Roosevelts the other day, there was a glimpse of why Miliband and many others may be missing an important trick. In his 1944 state of the union speech, Franklin Roosevelt told Americans that, when the second world war was over, it would be time to enact an economic bill of rights, a second constitutional tablet of stone to set alongside the political rights that were America’s foundation.

Roosevelt listed the rights he had in mind: the right to a useful and remunerative job; to earn enough to provide for one’s needs; to produce and trade products without unfair competition; to have a decent home; to good health and adequate medical care; to protection from the fears of old age and unemployment; and to a good education. It is a simple but compelling list. It is in some ways of its time and not ours. Yet it speaks across the decades, and if Roosevelt had lived to govern again in peacetime – he died 70 years ago this week – more might have come of it.

That is right (and no, I do not see why this list "is in some ways of its time and not ours"). And it is a major shame none of these rights have been taken serious by most politicians (who mostly are careerists out for money and power for themselves much rather than who they claim "to serve").

But yes, a society that does not give the vast majority these factual rights:

  • to a useful and remunerative job;
  • to earn enough to provide for one’s needs;
  • to produce and trade products without unfair competition;
  • to have a decent home;
  • to good health and adequate medical care;
  • to protection from the fears of old age and unemployment; and
  • to a good education.

and also to

  • the basic freedoms to speak and write as one thinks, and
  • not to be spied on by the state secret security organizations
  • and to have the rights that were formulated by the original Universal Declaration of Human Rights
is not a real democracy, but is an authoritarian oligarchy of some kind, whatever it is propagandized to be by its lying main media.

2. Let’s challenge Google while we still can

The next item is an article by James Ball on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:
Typing “Google antitrust” into your browser this week yields some very interesting results – but it’s wholly possible your results will be delivered to you through Google search, into a browser made by Google, on to a phone or computer running Google’s very own operating system. Such is the scale of the modern internet giant.

Comfortingly, the company has made no effort to hide this particular story from its own search results: currently the first result you will see is that Google is facing a huge and likely years-long legal battle with the EU competition commission over how it presents some of its search results.
James Ball also says:
Google has, by some measures, almost 90% of the global search engine market– a service used by billions of people daily – while its nearest rival, Bing, has less than 5%; Gmail is the second most-used email service, after Hotmail; its mobile software, Android, has 76% of the smartphone market; and Google-owned YouTube is the overwhelming leader in online video, dwarfing Netflix.
I observe that of these I only use YouTube (and don't have a cell phone, use Linux, and Duckduckgo or - rarely - Yahoo as search machines), but that is by the way.

Now a battle has started between Google and the EU:

Compared with the scale of Google’s reach, the EU’s challenge seems almost trivial: it centres on whether Google’s presentation of e-commerce search results favours its own shopping service over rivals. A second mooted investigation would be somewhat wider, focusing on Android.

The spotlight might be on small parts of Google’s empire, but the fight is a deadly serious one: EU authorities have the power to levy fines of up to 10% of Google’s revenues, which topped $45bn in 2014, and to order the search giant to change its behaviour, including in theory changing how some of its results are presented.

Google has made clear that it intends to contest the charges, vigorously. The fight will likely be long, bloody and entertaining for those who like that sort of thing. But it also highlights some of the stark realities of the internet era.

Here is the basic problem:
We are entering an era of near-stateless global giants, several of which will gain the power to act as a monopoly. The world’s legal systems are not ready for such a thing: philosophically, different countries have different levels of concern.
And individual countries for the most part do not have the money or the clout or the will or the ideas or indeed the laws to confont major big corporations.

3. Julian Assange speech prompts judges to boycott legal conference 

The next item is an article by Joshua Rozenberg on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Some of the most senior judges in Britain withdrew from a legal conference in Glasgow after the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, was booked to speak by video-link.

Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since losing his legal challenge to an extradition request from Sweden in 2012, spoke at a panel session of the Commonwealth Law Conference about surveillance and security on Wednesday.

Judges from Scotland, England and Wales and the UK supreme court had agreed to speak at or chair other sessions but withdrew – in some cases after arriving at the conference centre– when they found out about Assange’s appearance.

Among those to boycott the conference were the most senior judge in Scotland, Lord Gill, and two judges on the supreme court, Lord Neuberger and Lord Hodge.

Representatives of the judges said it would have been inappropriate for them to have attended, because of Assange’s legal status.

There is more in the article, with more lies (and I don't blame the journalist), but this is just sickening propaganda from these judges, who normally see "fugitives from justice" all the time, when they are arrested, and convict many of them.

And this really was an attempt to blacken Assange's character by propaganda, for The Guardian has as its last paragraph this:
More than 20 Commonwealth judges attended the session at which Assange spoke and listened to a discussion about legal professional privilege.
And indeed why should they not? He gave an opinion, that he is quite qualified to give, and listening to someone in no way implies any consent, while refusing to listen to someone with an opinion he is qualified to give seems both stupid to me, and is a kind of censorship.

4. Welcome to Unofficial Sources

The next item is an article by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:

This starts under a photograph of someone holding a board that says:

Journalism is
printing what someone
else does not want
printed. Everything
else is public relations.

Yes, indeed (though I would be very much relieved if there were no public relations lies: I hate propaganda of all kinds, including advertisements).

The text starts as follows:

Here’s where a recent story in The New York Times got its information: “American officials said … officials said … several officials said … American officials acknowledge … Western officials say … a Western official said …”

And here’s where you’re getting the news if you read The Washington Post: “according to senior American and Persian Gulf officials … officials said … was described by the officials … The officials, however, did not rule out … Saudi and U.S. officials described … a senior administration official said …”

Much of the U.S. media might as well as be named “Official Sources Say.” And by using their standard method of newsgathering — calling up powerful people and writing down what they’re told — the media has been a key accomplice to the invasion of Iraq (cost: $5 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives), the collapse of the U.S. economy ($6.5 trillion in lost output) and numberless smaller catastrophes.

Yes, indeed. This continues as follows:

The Intercept created this new blog to do the opposite: to tell the unofficial story, one that describes the reality of U.S. politics as accurately as we possibly can. We believe the awful truth is out there, it’s just not at background briefings by the National Security Council.

Unofficial Sources will tell you everything about the political and economic corruption that’s stealing money, power and hope from ordinary citizens — corruption centered in Washington, D.C. but oozing into every nook and cranny of the country. We’ll take you on a backstage tour of the national security/surveillance state. We’ll make sure hypocrisy and lies are the headline, rather than the 34th paragraph.

There is more under the last dotted link, which you can read yourself by clicking the last dotted link.

Of course, I like the idea, and in case you do as well, here is the ending:

Two hundred and forty-one years ago the Continental Congress explained that the whole point of having freedom of the press was so that “oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs.”

So please bookmark Unofficial Sources, subscribe to the RSS feed, follow The Intercept on Twitter, read us and participate.

And of course, if you’d like to become an unofficial source yourself, we’re very eager for you to get in touch — overtly or covertly.

5. Philosophy Returns to the Real World

The last item today is an article by Crispin Sarwell on the Opinionator Blogs (that are attached to the site of The New York Times):

This item is here because from age 17 - 38 I regarded myself as a philosopher and a logician, and read extremely much in these fields. I also studied philosophy (much handicapped by the illness that struck my - former - wife and myself in the first year of our studies) and expected to make a living in it (if I could get rid of being ill) because it was evident - not only to me: to quite a few - that I was brilliant.

All the time I studied (which I was forced to do off and on, since falling ill) there were almost only two directions in philosophy in the University of Amsterdam:

Either one was a marxist (or pretended to be one, or to be "very sympathetic and much interested" in Marx, as most of the academic staff did, which they did because the whole University of Amsterdam was marxist, since it was legally given to the students from 1971 - 1995, and these were nearly all marxists or communists in the late 1970ies) or one was a postmodernist, that got started in 1978, by a public lecture for the opening of the academic year, and was summed up by the following three theses, that were taught all the time by many of the academic staff, from ca. 1980 at least till 1995, and in most faculties:

  • "everybody knows that truth does not exist"
  • "everybody knows that everybody is equivalent (of equal value)"
  • "everybody knows that all morals are wholly relative"

Well... my parents were both communists; my grandparents were anarchists or communists; my parents and grandparents belonged to the very small minority of Dutchmen who went into the resistance against the Nazis; my father and his father were convicted in 1941 to the concentration camp because they were communists i.e. "political terrorists", and my grandfather was murdered; I had given up on communism and socialism in 1970 because these were to totalitarian; and I knew these three theses were utterly false bullshit - total crap no one of any rational intelligence would ever believe in, at least without being grossly tortured.

But the whole University of Amsterdam, including nearly all professors and lecturers, who at that time earned between 10 and 25 times what the students got, were or pretended to be very much for - especially - postmodernism. [2]

Because I am a very good speaker, I was asked in 1988, briefly before doing my M.A. in philosophy, to make a speech to the faculty and the students of philosophy, and to say something about postmodernism. I did so, and the text consisted only of questions and is under the last link (in English translation).

After I had finished two things happened I would not have believed:

First, I was screamed at by at least 16 academically employed "philosophers" and by at least as many students that I was "a fascist", "a dirty fascist" and "an idiot" and also "a terrorist" and "a dirty terrorist" (after which I stopped), and second I was removed from the faculty of philosophy, and denied the right to take an M.A. When I appealed to the Board of Directors - who knew me as their opponent: I had led a student party that was elected in the University Parliament -
this sadistically agreed I was to be removed (and assured me that they took my serious disease o so very serious: that is how I know they were sadists) and ever since then have refused to answer my letters or mails. [3]

Here are some quotations from Crispin Sarwell:

It was in one of Fish’s seminars that I first read Richard Rorty, another arch-postmodernist who was later my dissertation adviser. Rorty convincingly defended himself against the charge of relativism – I know, having spent hours in his office, trying to make it stick — and yet he maintained that it was useless to talk about the world, or truth. It was ridiculous or impossible, he asserted, to try to describe reality outside of our linguistic practices, to describe it as it would be if it were not being described.

For more about Fish, you have to click the last dotted link. As to the late Richard Rorty (<- Wikipedia): I think he was a major fraud, indeed like my Dutch professors of philosophy, apart from the Englishman Jon Dorling, whose life also was destroyed by the University of Amsterdam, who were all minor frauds, that I call whores of reason (for more see my - translated - Spiegeloog-columns).

My reason to call them all frauds or whores of reason is that (1) it is very much easier to explain the many lies they spoke as lies than as somehow honest if very stupid attempts to understand something and (2) at least the Dutch frauds got at least 15 times as much as I got, for which they hardly worked, while none of the 16 that screamed at me that I was a fascist and a terrorist ever published anything in the last 27 years (in which they were extremely well paid, while all were physically healthy).

Here is one of the problems Crispin Sarwell saw:

Studying with Fish and Rorty, it was awfully hard not to pick up a sense of the end: the end of their own disciplines — which Rorty, for one, explicitly declared — and vaguely the end of many things that they said had expired long ago: objective truth, determinate meanings, noncontingent values, a material external world. That certainly presented a quandary for a graduate student trying to generate a dissertation topic under their tutelage.

It seems Sarwell did not have the talents or the background to say or at least to believe that pandered and pampered highly paid academic intellectuals who spout this manner of nonsense might have simply been lying, as I insist, and as quite a few others have said so since, of whom Sokal got best known.

Instead, Sarwell pleads that well... it's all long ago, and by now, some 35 years later (!!) a few (!!) philosophers are turning back from postmodernism:

But the ‘80s heyday of Rorty and Fish is beginning to seem like a long time ago, and a backlash seems to be in progress. More recent work in philosophy includes various forms of realism about the world: the idea that reality is not the product of consciousness, or of human perceptual structures or languages or interpretive communities, but exists independently. We don’t make the world, as one might put it; the world makes us.

It seems as if Sarwell doesn't quite believe it, even though almost everyone until postmodernism believed "that reality is not the product of consciousness, or of human perceptual structures or languages or interpretive communities, but exists independently".

But he has one bit of terminology:
Let’s call this phase after postmodernism post-postmodernism – “popomo” for short.

There is considerably more under the last dotted link. It isn't very good, but then
it is by an American academically employed philosopher.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
Note

[1] Incidentally: I am neither a socialist nor a marxist (or communist), mostly because these ideologies seem to totalitarian to me and to concentrate to much power. But real socialism is at
least
as valid an ideology as the bullshit that the bankers propagate, and has the advantage of having a far more comprehensive ethics. Also, I might be in favor of social democracy, if I had seen a credible social democratic leader the last 45 years, but I have not.

Finally, since I am a philosopher and a psychologist who did a vast amount of reading, it is very difficult or impossible for me to believe much of the
ideologies - of whatever kind - that are believed by most people as "the truth".

[2] This is quite literally so. There were a few exceptions (most of whom were forced out of the university!!) but in the faculties of philosophy, psychology, Dutch, sociology, politicology, anthropology, pedagogy, anthroposophy, and also, but not completely, law, postmodernism was THE ideology most students, most lecturers and most professors publicly had or pretended to have, and that were often stated by the threesome stated in the text.

Indeed, I found very few professors of anything who were prepared to say - in an university!! - that they believed in truth.


[3] Of course, they were all "social democrats", just like the three successive mayors who all refused to answer my letters or mails since I was gassed, also in 1988, by my landlord, it seems to help his illegal drugsdealers, who had gotten permission to deal from Amsterdam's mayor (I do not know for what percentage, but the drugsdealers still function and are very, very rich), and who threatened to murder me, and also dealt in both soft and hard drugs. (There are many drugs-related murders in Amsterdam.)

Since then - after 27 years of unanswered letters with perfectly legitimate legal complaints, about being gassed illegally, being threatened with murder illegally, by illegal criminals who dealt in soft and hard drugs, and being removed from the university illlegally, and having seen a parliamentary report that stated (in 1996) that around 50 billion guilders (20 billion euros) gets turned over each year in illegal drugs in Holland - I do not think Holland is a democracy.

For also in all these 27 years not one Dutch judge said anything about the illegal drugstrade that turns over
20 billion euros (25 billion dollars) each year (at least), while all mayors, all district attorneys, and all aldermen all have stonewalled, stonewalled, stonewalled and stonewalled me, and taken care I got no help and minimal dole, while being ill, which they and their bureaucrats also deny, till this very day.

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