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Nederlog

August 8, 2015
Crisis: New TPP Leaks, Psychologists, Daily Show, Bernie Sanders, Merkel&Obama

"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.
 New TPP Leaks Reveal US 'Pandering to Big Drug
     Companies,' Threatening Innovators

2. Psychologist’s Work for GCHQ Deception Unit Inflames
     Debate Among Peers

3. VIDEO: ‘The Daily Show’ Wraps Up With Fond Words,
     Special Appearances and a Warning

4. Open Letter to Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders
5.
Plugging Leaks: Merkel's War on Germany's Press and
     Parliament


 
This is a Nederlog of Saturday August 8, 2015.

This is a crisis blog.  There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about new TPP leaks, that show how much one can trust Obama's government; item 2 is about a psychologist who saw no problem to work - for pay, in secret - for the GCHQ (and I assure the reader most Dutch psychologists would do the same, if it were kept secret); item 3 is about Jon Stewart's leaving the Daily Show, with an ending about bullshit, which I agree with (and supplement by a bit of my article on it in the Philosophical Dictionary); item 4 is about an open letter by Ralph Nader to Bernie Sanders, that contains some sound advice - it seems to me - on (not) using the word "socialist"; and item 5 is about a fairly long article on Spiegel On Line about Angela Merkel's approaches to freedom, liberty and the press: Just like Obama's government, it seems.

1. New TPP Leaks Reveal US 'Pandering to Big Drug Companies,' Threatening Innovators

The first article of today is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows (and keep in mind that the TPP is a secret "law", that the noble Obama is very much for):

New leaks of the negotiating text of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement reveal that the Obama administration is pushing forth radical proposals that critics say will threaten to harm consumers and innovators while rewarding big drug companies and "extremist copyright" policies.

Negotiators for the 12-nation trade pact failed last week to reach a final agreement at their meeting in Maui, a development Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, cheered as "good news for people and the planet."

The new leaks are of the Intellectual Property Chapter, which includes provisions on copyright and patents, and were released this week by Knowledge Ecology International (KEI).  The group says that the "text reflects the state of negotiations directly prior to" that Maui meeting.

Here are the words of James Love, director of the Washington, DC-based social justice organization:

[t]he May 11, 2015, text includes country positions, and reveals extensive disagreements among parties, as well as the isolation of the United States as the country that continues to be the most aggressive supporter of expanded intellectual property rights for drug companies, publishers and other companies.

The proposals contained in the TPP will harm consumers and in some cases block innovation. In countless ways, the Obama Administration has sought to expand and extend drug monopolies and raise drug prices. The astonishing collection of proposals pandering to big drug companies make more difficult the task of ensuring access to drugs for the treatment of cancer and other diseases and conditions.

And not only that: This supposed "free trade pact" also contains strong rules that bind free speech and free expression to just those things the government (and its rich sponsors) desire to hear:

Among the innovators who are calling out the dangers the TPP poses with regard to intellectual property rules is Canadian documentary filmmaker Brett Gaylor, who writes Thursday that his own "2008 film Rip! A Remix Manifesto would have been illegal to make under the TPP."

"Sadly, the current trend is towards rules that lock up works of art and stifle independent creators' output," Gaylor writes, further warning that "the TPP will transform Canada's intellectual property rules into an alarmingly large barrier to free speech and free expression."

There is considerably more in the article.

2.  Psychologist’s Work for GCHQ Deception Unit Inflames Debate Among Peers

The next article is by Andrew Fishman on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

A British psychologist is receiving sharp criticism from some professional peers for providing expert advice to help the U.K. surveillance agency GCHQ manipulate people online.

The debate brings into focus the question of how or whether psychologists should offer their expertise to spy agencies engaged in deception and propaganda.

Dr. Mandeep K. Dhami, in a 2011 paper, provided the controversial GCHQ spy unit JTRIG with advice, research pointers, training recommendations, and thoughts on psychological issues, with the goal of improving the unit’s performance and effectiveness. JTRIG’s operations have been referred to as “dirty tricks,” and Dhami’s paper notes that the unit’s own staff characterize their work using “terms such as ‘discredit,’ promote ‘distrust,’ ‘dissuade,’ ‘deceive,’ ‘disrupt,’ ‘delay,’ ‘deny,’ ‘denigrate/degrade,’ and ‘deter.’” The unit’s targets go beyond terrorists and foreign militaries and include groups considered “domestic extremist[s],” criminals, online “hacktivists,” and even “entire countries.”

I take it Ms Dhami - who seems meanwhile to be a professor - doesn't know she has done anything that might be wrong, and indeed she also is not a member of the APA or the BPS (the American and the British associations of psychologists).

Clearly, if you advice secret services that are engaged in lying and bullshitting the public, and which are proud to "‘discredit,’ promote ‘distrust,’ ‘dissuade,’ ‘deceive,’ ‘disrupt,’ ‘delay,’ ‘deny,’ ‘denigrate/degrade,’ and ‘deter’" any member of the public who opposes them (all in secret), or who expresses doubts about their powers or their secrecy, then a psychologist of Ms Dhami's exquisite ethical sensibilities does not feel in the least hindered by the knowledge that she - for pay - helped the British secret services to "‘dissuade,’ ‘deceive,’ ‘disrupt,’ ‘delay,’ ‘deny,’ ‘denigrate/degrade,’ and ‘deter’"" any member of the public who is not wildly enthusiastic about such actions.

There is a lot more in the article, but since I am a Dutch psychologist, who has met a lot more psychologists than those who are not psychologists, I want to assure the public that by far the largest segment of the several hundreds of psychologists I have known (albeit very superficially) would have done as Ms Dhami did, especially if this were both well-paid and kept secret.

I hope this will quiet the distrust of psychologists... (for you are, as a professional psychologist, entirely free to speak as the secret service desires you to speak, and you are proud and thankful for having such freedom).

3. VIDEO: ‘The Daily Show’ Wraps Up With Fond Words, Special Appearances and a Warning

The next article is by Donald Kaufman on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The final episode of “The Daily Show” saw host Jon Stewart turn teary-eyed after a long farewell that featured cameos of the show’s beloved correspondents and a montage of the politicians and media figures he lampooned over more than a decade and a half.

Toward the end of the show, Stewart spent a few minutes reminding his audience to remain vigilant against “institutional bullshit designed to obscure and distract.” As examples, he offered the Patriot Act, the Dodd-Frank finance law and Citizens United. Bruce Springsteen, Stewart’s favorite musician, finished the show with a performance.

Watch the segment, titled “Three Kinds of Bullshit”
OK - here it is, and Jon Stewart starts with saying "Bullshit is everywhere"(click on the bold text if you want to see the segment):

Jon Stewart Explains Why Bullshit is Everywhere in Final Show

I agree, and since I do, I also share the beginning of the item "Bullshit" in my Philosophical Dictionary, which seems a bit more precise, while it has the merit of telling you what the majority of philosophy, politics, religion, common sense, advertisement, propaganda, and public relations really is: 

Bullshit: The quitessence of much that goes for philosophy, politics, religion, common sense, advertisement, propaganda, and public relations: Talk or writing designed to impress the audience, without any concern for truth or rational probability.

The reasons there is much bullshit around, in the (post)modern period, are mainly three:

First, there is very much
advertisement, propaganda, and public relations because most institutions, commercial or governmental, these days have chosen to "interact with the public" through the medium of - what is called, misleadingly - public relations (actually: public lying for pay; conmen for rent).  

Second, postmodern academia - in the West - is radically different from the universities that once existed in the West, say from 1865-1965: Accessible to far more people out for an academic degree to make money with, many academic degrees are degrees in what is mostly bullshit (<-Wikipedia):

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.

Third, bullshit is very much easier to learn and to practice than are science and honesty, and the essence of postmodern society, and indeed of postmodernism itself, is to replace almost all forms of communication and education by forms of bullshit, that generally take the pretended form of information to the public, but is essentially a form of lying:

Telling people what they want to hear, and suggesting them what to feel, believe, want and think, because doing it this way, the as if way, where the real content - the packaging, and the packaging is designed to take people in, is so very much easier than trying to speak the truth, and also tends to be much more profitable.

For this reason, most of the communications large institutions do are these days done by hired tribes of professional liars, conmen, deceivers, and frauds, whose art it is to make anything whatsoever look well in the eyes of a public that is in vast majority not educated nor informed to understand they are being deceived and manipulated.

4. Open Letter to Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders

The next article is by Ralph Nader (<- Wikipedia) on his site:

This is exactly what the title says, and it starts as follows:

Dear Senator Sanders,

You’ve come a long way without my advice, but now that you are running for president, you may be interested in these suggestions:

After which come eight suggestions, of which I will copy the third, which seems to me sound advice:

As your polls rise and your audiences get larger, your opponents will challenge you for being a self-identified “socialist.” It is best to pre-empt them. Your socialist beliefs seem in-line with social democratic parties in Western European nations. So, while there are many examples of widely bipartisan support for socialist institutions – municipally owned utilities, regionally owned utilities like the giant Tennessee Valley Authority, and more – you are not interested in nationalizing industry and the banks. You are interested in breaking up giant “too big to fail” banks and reforming the governance of giant multinationals. Over eighty percent of the American people favor the breakup of large banks, want the Wall Street crooks prosecuted, convicted, and jailed, and oppose bailing out powerful big businesses. This is a Left-Right convergence issue – of Main Street against Wall Street.

The two reasons these seem sound advice are, first, that it seems to me that Bernie Sanders is - in European terms [1] - much more of a social democrat than of a socialist, and second, also in view of the fact that  Bernie Sanders Supporters Embrace the Word ‘Socialism’: if these supporters really want him to be a presidential candidate (and win), it is wise to avoid the term "socialism", simply because "the word “socialist” has become a dirty word in the public sphere".

5. Plugging Leaks: Merkel's War on Germany's Press and Parliament

The final article today is by Spiegel Staff on Spiegel On Line:

This starts as follows:

When former German Federal Prosecutor Harald Range greeted SPIEGEL journalists for an interview at the end of July, he seemed combative. The 67-year-old recalled his oath of office as a young public prosecutor in the university town of Göttingen, to investigate "independent of a person's standing."

He also said he refused to allow his position to be influenced by politics in any way, adding that he "had so far" not been given any orders by the government. "I am free in my decisions," he said. But did he already suspect at that point that an investigation into two journalists would soon rock both his office and the government in Berlin?

Two weeks after the interview, Range stood in front of his admiring staff in Karlsruhe, where the federal prosecutor's office is headquartered. It was the day after he had challenged the federal government, which he accused of an "intolerable intervention" into his work. And it was a few hours after he had been terminated. He said it was more important to him to be able to look in the mirror than in a newspaper. "I did it for myself and I did it for the agency," he said. His staff showered him with applause.

The mood in Berlin was quite a bit different. In an almost unprecedented show of unity, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her cabinet distanced themselves from Range. They acted as though they had nothing at all to do with the investigation that cost Range his job -- an investigation that marked the first time the state had probed journalists for treason since the government of West Germany sought to prosecute DER SPIEGEL journalists 53 years ago.

Range is now gone, but what remains is a mess that could still lead to other politicians, ministers or agency chiefs getting pushed out.

I say. Here is some more, also from close to the beginning:

In recent days, the chancellor, Justice Minister Heiko Maas and Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière have santimoniously thrown their support behind freedom of the press. But reality often looks different. In reality, senior government officials and intelligence agency heads in Germany have long been pursuing a policy of intimidating and deterring journalists and their sources.

Leaks and whistleblowers are being hunted down and criminalized. Treason, a word that had hardly been heard for decades, is once again being used as part of the repertoire of politicians in Berlin -- and all in the alleged name of protecting the common good. Security is to be increased in order to better protect the country from terrorism. At the same time, however, the balance between the executive, legislative, judiciary and the press as the Fourth Estate is being thrown off.

There is a lot more in the article, but it seems as if Merkel's government -

Security is to be increased in order to better protect the country from terrorism.

- is taking the way of Obama's government, which is essentially that spying on everyone is fine, and necessary, and no one should know about it outside the government, and those who do know about it and are journalists are close to terrorists and traitors, and should be stopped publishing what they know.

For more, see the article.

--------------------------------------
Notes

[1] First, I happen to be European. But more importantly, second: I think that the European usage of "socialist" and "social democrat" - although far from clear, for various reasons, one of which is that in Europe there are quite a few political parties that describe themselves as "socialist" or as "social democrat", and they do not agree on quite a few things - is considerably clearer than in the US, were it only because there have not been many such parties in the US, where also the term "socialist" has been styled by the media and by many politicians as hardly different from "communist". I disagree with the American usage, but I am not blind to the fact that it has been widely accepted.

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