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Thursday, Mar 23, 2017

Crisis: Fighting Trump, U.S. Governance, The Psyche, Russia, No Privacy At All


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Editorial: How We Can Fight Donald Trump and
     Authoritarianism

2. The Crisis of Governance
3.
The Insidious Effect on the Psyche of Trump's Torrent of Lies
4. What Russia Wants — and Expects
5. Senate Might Let Internet Companies Sell User Data to
     'Highest Bidder'
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, March 23, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with five items and five dotted links: Item 1 is about an editorial in AlterNet that I like; item 2 is about the crisis in governance that Robert Reich says is real, which I agree with, although I don't see much in his proposals
to overcome them; item 3 is about an article from which I only learned that its writer doesn't know anything about psychology; item 4 is about an article about "what Russia wants", but it doesn't get far beyond slogans; and item 5 is a fine article on Common Dreams about how everyone's private information will be totally free for internet providers to obtain and sell (which I think will make everyone who is not exceedingly rich into an effective sub-human, with less privacy than even slaves had).

March 23: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; but the Dutch site again stuck on Sunday last (March 19). If over a year of signs are correct, this means it will NOT be updated for at least another week.

Where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. Editorial: How We Can Fight Donald Trump and Authoritarianism

The first article is by Don Hazen, who is the editor of AlterNet, and who did something that other non-mainstream media might also do (for it seems a good idea):

This starts as follows:

We at AlterNet are very concerned that authoritarianism is taking root in the U.S. Aggressive people with destructive agendas are in charge, defunding government and eroding our rights, while trying to stamp out truth itself.

I don't think myself that "authoritarianism" is quite the right name, but the name I prefer - neofascism - is not, as yet at least, popular enough. And the rest is correct.

Here is more:

We also worry that many are not taking the threat seriously enough, and that those who are aware don’t know exactly how to effectively resist. We are laser-focused on educating the public about the threat and the best possible ways to prevent the worst from happening.

To be sure, we don’t have all the answers. But we are clear that what lies ahead is incredibly dangerous.
Yes indeed. Here are AlterNet's priorities:
Fighting creeping fascism is our top priority. We have to be prepared for the worst, such as a terrorist act that would set the stage for serious repression by a president who is a compulsive liar.
Again I prefer my neofascism over fascism, but see above.

And in fact, on the internet in so far as it is known to me (which is rather well, but of course very incomplete), there are no less than 22 different definitions of fascism (which are being discussed by me here:
On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions) while I did not find any decent definition of either neofascism or neo-fascism, which motivated my own, here.

Then there is this:

It is essential that we challenge the corporate media's complicity in the president’s attack on truth. "Post-truth is pre-fascism," as Yale historian Tim Snyder explains.

An expert in European fascism, Snyder has become a critical voice and go-to scholar, and we at AlterNet have been paying attention to his work. He is worried, too. In our recent interview, he said, “We have at most a year to defend American democracy."

Yes, and I have discussed Timothy Snyder's ideas here, here, here, here and here (no less).

Here is what AlterNet will try to do:

In summary, we are going to do all of this and more: Fight creeping fascism, hold the media accountable, highlight the best organizing efforts, and support the emotional well-being of our readers with the highest-quality information. With more than 6 million unique visitors a month, AlterNet ranks 420 out of all websites in the U.S. Such a large number of readers goes beyond preaching to the choir, representing a broad cross-section of people in America who form the bedrock of change and challenging Trump & Co. We intend to deliver the absolute best insights, investigations and information imaginable.

This is a good idea. Incidentally - and this is less pleasant but not at all AlterNet's fault - while I like it that AlterNet ranks 420th of all websites in the USA, it also is a fact
that the "6 million unique visitors each month" are less than 2% of the U.S. population.

And this suggests - correctly also - that all social change starts in small minorities.

2. The Crisis of Governance

The second article is by Robert Reich on his site (and elsewhere, often under different titles):

This starts as follows:

America is in a crisis of governance. There is no adult in charge.

Instead, we have as president an unhinged narcissistic child who tweets absurd lies and holds rallies to prop up his fragile ego, whose conflicts of financial interest are ubiquitous, and whose presidency is under a “gray cloud” of suspicion (according to the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee) for colluding with Russian agents to obtain office in the 2016 election.

While I mostly agree, I also have some critical remarks.

First about Trump's being "no adult" and being "an unhinged narcissistic child who tweets absurd lies and holds rallies to prop up his fragile ego" (etc): If these judgements are correct (and I think they are), it seems to me quite a lot better
to say that a person who is like that and is president of the USA (i) is totally unfit
for his job, because (ii) his words and actions can only be adequately described as
insane.

And I think that is quite correct, and indeed should be what psychiatrists and psychologists have said about him. [1]

Second, about Trump's supposed "colluding with Russian agents to obtain office in the 2016 election":

While I would like it if this were correct, my own guess is that it is incorrect, for which there also are two good reasons: (i) William Binney and Ray McGovern - who know the NSA and the CIA extremely well - have both said that with the levels of spying the NSA and the CIA do, it is quite incredible that therehas been no evidence produced for these claims, indeed since the end of 2016, while (ii) the collusion "with Russian agents" definitely was a part of the Democrat's attempts to shift the blame of loosing the presidency from Hillary Clinton to the Russians.

And while I agree that both points are probabilistic only, I think both points are good.

Then there is this:

He’s advised by his daughter, his son-in-law, and an oddball who once ran a white supremacist fake-news outlet.

His cabinet is an assortment of billionaires, CEOs, veterans of Wall Street, and ideologues, none of whom has any idea about how to govern and most of whom don’t believe in the laws their departments are in charge of implementing anyway.

He has downgraded or eviscerated groups responsible for giving presidents professional advice on foreign policy, foreign intelligence, economics, science, and domestic policy. He gets most of what he learns from television.

I agree with all of this, though I like to extend this by the remark that Trump is the outcome of the level of "democracy" that is practised in the USA, that means - among other things - that the great majority is very badly educated, but is allowed to
vote. [2]

The following is more serious, because this makes it far more probable that Trump will last:

Meanwhile, Congress is in the hands of Republicans who for years have only said “no,” who have become expert at stopping whatever a president wants to do but don’t have a clue how to initiate policy, most of whom have never passed a budget into law, and, more generally, don’t much like government and have not shared responsibility for governing the nation.

In fact, while I agree that most of the Republicans "don’t much like government", which I think is important, I think there are two other things that are more seriously wrong  with Republican members of the House or Congress than the things Reich mentions: First, most of them are rich, and second all of them have to speak with many lobbyists, who all try to move them to help the corporations the lobbyists lobby for.

The article ends as follows:

Where we need thoughtful resolve we have thoughtless name-calling. Where we need democratic deliberation we have authoritarian rants and rallies. Where we need vision we have myopia.

The only way out of this crisis of governance is for us – the vast majority of Americans who deserve and know better – to take charge. Your country needs you desperately.

Hm. While I agree there is very little to be expected from the present House and Congress, I don't think it is a good idea to try to get "the vast majority of Americans"
"
to take charge", and that for two general reasons:

The first is that there is no way (at least not before the successful arrival of libertarian anarchism, or something like that) in which "the vast majority of Americans" can "take charge". And the second is that I do not have any trust in "the vast majority of Americans", since they live in a country in which 2 out of 3 cannot answer the most simple questions about politics or the law.

Does this mean you should not be active? Of course not. But you should be active for realistic plans, and not for irrealistic ones.

3. The Insidious Effect on the Psyche of Trump's Torrent of Lies

The third article is by Neil Baron on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

There’s a problem with the media’s repetitive refutation of Donald Trump’s lies: It makes them more credible. Research finds that repeating a lie, even to refute it, imprints it on our brains, and they become more memorable than the refutations.

Most presidents lie. Nixon said he was not a crook. Reagan said he wasn’t aware of the Iran-Contra deal. Clinton said he did not have sex with that woman.

But Trump’s lies are different. They are more frequent and glaringly contradict the facts: Obama wiretapped the phones at Trump Tower; there was record turnout at Trump’s inauguration; Trump knows no one who has anything to do with Russia; he knows more about ISIS than our generals.

I am sorry, but I am a psychologist, and this is the first time - in my 67 years - that I hear that "the media’s repetitive refutation of Donald Trump’s lies (...) makes them more credible" - which is for me a sound reason to completely disbelieve this.

Also, while I agree that all politicians lie, and I also agree that "Trump’s lies are different", I do have a psychological explanation for this fact: Trump is not sane.
(And indeed the examples of Trump's lies that are given by Baron support that - and check out the last link if you disagree with me.)

But then we get more baloney:

Why do such lies persist in our memories, while repeated proof of their falsity fades; and why do we still believe the lie, or not change our opinions of the liar? Two theories can explain this.

One theory is called “confirmation bias.” It describes the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions.” Some psychologists describe it as the “prevalence of directional reasoning that aims not at truth, but at the vindication of prior opinions.” Even the most well-educated and smartest among us succumb to this phenomenon.

Again I am sorry, but I am a psychologist, and I never heard what is being said in the first statement, which I also regard as a total falsehood: If this were true, education would be far better if it were based on lies instead of truths (for the lies - Baron tells us - are better retained than (bolding added) "proofs of their falsity"). Which is absurd.

Indeed, here is a rather systematic remark about lying:

I do believe ordinary men lie a whole lot, and considerably more than they think they do or than they are aware of. The last fact is explained by the fact that most lying is done to appear more conformistic than one feels one is, and also by the fact that a considerable amount of the effective lying that people do is to say nothing when it is their - legal or moral - duty to speak up.

But every man has been educated on the basis of the belief that there are evident - visible, hearable - empirical truths everybody can experience and talk about (including denying them), and I do not know of any other basis to be rapidly educated. (It is very much more difficult to educate anyone if you tell them that the things they see and hear happening in front of their noses are all not so. Indeed I do not think this has ever been systematically tried, indeed because most would say this would be cruel.)

There is more to say, but I read more about psychology that is completely new to me:

Psychological studies find that to conclude that a statement is a lie, our brain must first record the statement for an instant as true. We must accept something to understand it. Only then, can we engage it to process the refutation.

Really now? So Baron maintains that "[p]sychological studies" have found that you first must believe that "it rains and it does not rain" or "this is black allover and this is also not black allover" and only then realize it is false? While no one knows how one ever can believe a plain contradiction?

It is pure baloney. Indeed, if statements represent imagined facts (which they do, apart from contradictions), that may be true or not in reality, all we need to know is what the real facts are to conclude that a statement that denies them is false. (And in this again we may also be mistaken, but what I said seems to be the ordinary case: If you know that you see a big man with a red nose, you do not need to believe the statement "you see a small cat with a white nose" before rejecting it.)

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

Joseph Goebbels wrote, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it … The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the … consequences of the lie.”

Yes, but (1) Goebbels was a big liar; (2) there are lies that no one believes: the big lies must be of a certain - usually political or religious - type to be believed; and (3)
he also said that lies will be seen through if the consequences of the lie are seen clearly.

In any case, this article is based on crude falsehoods about psychology.

4. What Russia Wants — and Expects

The fourth article is by Gilbert Doctorow on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

As Democrats and the mainstream U.S. media focus intensely on still unproven charges of Russian election meddling to explain Hillary Clinton’s surprising defeat, the furor has forced an embattled President Trump to retreat from his plans to cooperate with Russia on fighting terrorism and other global challenges.

Amid the anti-Russian hysteria, Trump’s Cabinet members and United Nations ambassador have gone out of their way to reiterate the tough policy positions of the Obama administration with respect to Russia, underlining that nothing has changed. For its part, Congress has plunged into McCarthyistic hearings aimed at Trump supporters who may have met with Russians before the 2016 elections.

In fact, I don't know whether any of these statements is true, apart from the facts that (i) the U.S. media are focussing intently on Russia, (ii) in part to explain (!!) Hillary Clinton's surprising defeat. These appear to be true.

Here is part of the Russian reactions:

Instead, the Russians are concentrating on their domestic defense capabilities and their budding political alliances with China and a host of Asian countries that together can oppose the power of the West. It is important to understand that the Russian vision is a future multi-polar world, not a return to the bipolar Cold War system of two superpowers, which Russian elites see as unattainable given the diffusion of power across the globe and Russia’s own more limited resources.

In other words, the Russians are envisioning a future world order whose contours harken back to the Nineteenth Century. In terms of details, the Russians are now inseparably wed to China for reasons of mutual economic and security interest on the global stage.
Again I don't quite understand this, basically for two reasons: First, I don't think anyone is harking "back to the Nineteenth Century". That simply seems nonsense to me. And second, from Doctorow's descriptions, though indeed not from his inferences from these, it seems that the world is returning to "the bipolar Cold War system of two superpowers", albeit that the one superpower now is "the West" and the other "the East", with a combination of the Russians and the Chinese. (But even this is rather like
it was in the 1950ies and 1960ies.)

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
The real area of contention is in how each side today conceptualizes global governance. On this level, it makes sense to speak of an ideological divide because there is a vast body of thought to underpin the competing views which include: globalization versus sovereign-state; values-based foreign policy versus interests-based foreign policy; a global order established by the all-out victory of liberal democracy over all other forms of national governance versus a balance of forces and respect for local differences; idealism versus realism. The West generally has favored the first of these options while Russia and China lead a bloc of nations generally favoring the second options.
I am sorry, but this is mostly on the level of propaganda (best indicated by "the all-out victory of liberal democracy over all other forms of national governance" - and note the "liberal democracy", which is mostly a simple lie).

In brief, again I did not learn anything
.

5. Senate Might Let Internet Companies Sell User Data to 'Highest Bidder'

The fifth article is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The Senate is set to vote this week whether to let broadband companies sell user information to the highest bidder—overturning rules implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and possibly banning the agency from passing similar restrictions in the future.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R–Ariz.) introduced a resolution earlier this month that would overturn the FCC's rules, passed in October, that block providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon from selling personal information like web-browsing and app usage history to third-party vendors without users' consent.

I say! Well... as I wrote yesterday:

Personal computers - since around 2000 - are by far the best way to make all 7 billion people there are totally subservient - mostly without knowing it - to the secret services in their vicinities.

Since very few are seriously interested in computing, and the vast majority is both conformistic and also may be very happy to be abled to discriminate anybody who is not quite like them in the crudest and "anonymous" (anonymous for every ordinary user, but not for the secret services) way possible, I am quite pessimistic.

So indeed it seems as if Flake and his mates want to change everybody except the extremely rich into a sub-human [3] whose total privacies are completely known to the secret services (forever, also) and also to anyone who is rich enough to buy them
from the commercial thieves that also gather them.

In case you disbelieve my inference, here is more:

"With this move, Congress is essentially allowing companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to sell consumers' private information to the highest bidder," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) legislative counsel Neema Singh Guliani said at the time. "Members of Congress should not bow down to industry pressure. Consumers have a right to control how these companies use their sensitive data."

The ACLU and other rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Free Press, as well as a slew of progressive lawmakers, launched a campaign urging senators to reject Flake's legislation.

I hope they succeed, but since some 60 million American voters gave all powers to the Republicans and their neofascistic president, I fear they will not. Here is what then will happen:

"If they win, every U.S. internet provider will be monitoring you and selling your online habits to advertisers, without your permission," the digital rights group Fight for the Future wrote on its campaign website, savebroadbandprivacy.org.

Yes indeed - and soon you also will have to have a computer and a cell-phone that are built so that the internet providers and the secret services can get absolutely everything you wrote or did with any of these ("so that Our Fine Noble Government can check whether you are a terrorist"). You may believe that you are not a sub-human, but I am sorry: I believe everyone who has been brought into the position that both the government secret services and the internet providers know everything there is to be known about you, you are less than a slave (for these still  had some privacies: you will not have any, for you will be completely known).

Here is Nadia Prupis's sum-up:

If the rules are reversed, it would mark the latest blow to internet privacy and freedom in the Trump administration. Under former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the agency put a number of landmark regulations into place, including codifying the internet as a public utility and implementing strong protections for net neutrality.

But the new Republican chairman Ajit Pai has already launched an attack on these and other protections—leaving many to fear that he is aiming to dismantle the commission's major recent gains.

I think that is entirely correct, and this is a recommended article.

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

[1] And in fact many psychologists and psychiatrists have said so: Trump is unfit to be president of the USA because he has megalomania, which psychiatrists identify as "grandiose narcissistic personality disorder". Check out this if you haven't.

[2] This - that the great majority is very badly educated, but is allowed to
vote - seems to me to be a fact, and I am not by far the only one to think so. Here
is a simple question: If you agree that the majority is badly educated, how do you think real democracy, that is based on a majority of intelligent people that understand their situation and can rationally judge political events, is possible?!


[3] In case you don't like the concept of sub-human, I entirely agree. But that is not my point: My point is that if those in power know everything there is to be known about you, while you do know hardly anything about them, because most is kept secret and much that is not gets served as propaganda and not in real and proper factual terms, then how do you differ from a sub-human compared with the secret service men or the extremely rich whom the secret services are in fact defending?!
I am merely asking.

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