Saturday, November 18, 2017

Crisis: Stupid Americans, Impeachment, Being ¨Aghast¨, Power, Trumpians

Sections                                                crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from November 18, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Saturday
, November 18, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) 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 nearly two 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 will continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from November 18, 2017
1. We’re With Stupid
2. Impeachment: A Citizen's Guide
3. We're Still Aghast at Donald Trump—but What
     Good Has That Done?

4. Corporate Power, E-Commerce, and the World
     Trade Organization

5. Whether or Not Trump Remains in Office, We Must
     Contend With the Forces That Enabled His Rise
The items 1 - 5 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. We’re With Stupid

This article is by Timothy Egan on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

It would be much easier to sleep at night if you could believe that we’re in such a mess of misinformation simply because Russian agents disseminated inflammatory posts that reached 126 million people on Facebook.

The Russians also uploaded a thousand videos to YouTube and published more than 130,000 messages on Twitter about last year’s election. As recent congressional hearings showed, the arteries of our democracy were clogged with toxins from a hostile foreign power.

But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won.

Well... the first two paragraphs are much more like propaganda than like fact as long as the numbers reached by others than ¨the Russians¨ (?!) are not mentioned.

So that is mostly baloney, but the third paragraph seems quite correct to me, at least in its two main contentions, viz. that ¨too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship¨ and also that ¨there is no such thing as knowable truth¨.

In fact, I heard for the first time that ¨there is no such thing as knowable truth¨ in August 1978, in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, at its official and public opening, when the Dutch historian Brandt said literally (when translated) that

¨Everybody knows that truth does NOT exist¨

That also was the rule that ruled the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam between 1978 and 1997, and it was - as Hannah Arendt also pointed out - a fundamental fascistic rule - except that this time it was also propounded by many Stalinist students who were members of the Dutch Communist Party, and by the sadists and fascists from the ¨Social Democrats¨ who were its Board of Directors. [2]

I protested and I made a student-party but I lost: At most 5% (5%!!) of the students and the staff agreed with me that universities are for science and for truth: everybody else collaborated with the new fashions, and did so especially because it made studying very much easier.

Also, my life was made much heavier in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, because I was scolded a lot as ¨a fascist¨ (¨a dirty fascist¨, ¨a filthy fascist¨) [3] and in the end I was even denied - quite illegally, but that is the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam - the right to take my M.A. in philosophy because - I quote - I was ¨a terrorist, a terrorist, a terrorist¨ (screamed by some 25 students) because I was - a then and there quite rare - proponent of truth, science and rationality, instead of falsity, politics and moral degeneracy.

But truth, science and rationality were quite rare in the ¨University" of Amsterdam from 1978 till 1997: The vast majority of the students preferred falsity, politics and moral degenerary, and not because they could see these clearly, but because of the quite simple palpable reason that this made their getting a degree very much easier than truth, science and rationality would have done. [4]

Back to the article:

As we crossed the 300-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency on Thursday, fact-checkers noted that he has made more than 1,600 false or misleading claims. Good God. At least five times a day, on average, this president says something that isn’t true.

We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction. But a huge percentage is also clueless about the basic laws of the land. In a democracy, we the people are supposed to understand our role in this power-sharing thing.

Yes indeed: I mostly agree with this, indeed also with the fact - which differs from the situation I found in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, where at least most professors and lecturers knew very well they were lying and deceiving so as to keep their soft and well-paid jobs - that ¨a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction¨ and indeed ¨is also clueless about the basic laws of the land¨.

Then again, if you ask what many Americans are ¨clueless¨ about, you will find these are the most common and extremely easily known facts:

Nearly one in three Americans cannot name a single branch of government. When NPR tweeted out sections of the Declaration of Independence last year, many people were outraged. They mistook Thomas Jefferson’s fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.

Fake news is a real thing produced by active disseminators of falsehoods. Trump uses the term to describe anything he doesn’t like, a habit now picked up by political liars everywhere.

Yes, although I dislike the term ¨fake news¨, and for two reasons: 1. the proper term is propaganda, and 2. propaganda is at least 2500 years old.

Here is more on the fundamental facts very many Americans are quite ¨clueless¨ about:

Suppose we treated citizenship like getting a driver’s license. People would have to pass a simple test on American values, history and geography before they were allowed to have a say in the system. We do that for immigrants, and 97 percent of them pass, according to one study.

Yet one in three Americans fail the immigrant citizenship test. This is not an elitist barrier. The test includes questions like, “What major event happened on 9/11?” and “What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?”

Instead, people who have no idea what the answers to the last two questions might be, are prodded to vote, and indeed may vote, while knowing not a thing that would have made them informed voters.

Here is one reason for the mounting degeneracy of the ordinary people: Their sources of education have been intentionally destroyed [5]:

One reason that public schools were established across the land was to produce an informed citizenry. And up until the 1960s, it was common for students to take three separate courses in civics and government before they got out of high school.

But these times are past, and indeed belong to a past that is nearly fifty years old.

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

But those initiatives will mean little if people still insist on believing what they want to believe, living in digital safe spaces closed off from anything that intrudes on their worldview.

Given the previous bit that I quoted, this is more false than true:

I agree that most Americans seem stupid and ignorant to me, but indeed many also have been made stupid and ignorant on purpose, by systematically simplifying the education they received for something like five decades.

But indeed one result of these systematic and intentional stupifications of the majority of the Americans is Donald Trump´s election as president.

2. Impeachment: A Citizen's Guide

This article is by Carlos Lozada on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Hey, let’s talk about impeachment. You know, just in case it ever comes up.

Harvard law professor Cass Sunstein has written a concise, enlightening and argumentative history and guide to getting rid of presidents, but he insists he is not thinking of anyone in particular. Or, more accurately, he won’t tell us if he’s thinking of anyone in particular. “With the goal of neutrality in mind,” Sunstein writes in his opening chapter, “I am not going to speak of any current political figure. I am going to focus on the majesty, and the mystery, of impeachment under the U.S. Constitution.”

I’m not convinced that, under different political circumstances, we’d be seeing many new how-to books on the meaning and mechanics of presidential impeachment.
Yes, I agree: I think it is likely that professor Sunstein saw the present  opportunity for sharing his legal knowledge while making some money. Then again, I don´t mind if the book he wrote is decent and informative:
And describing “Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide” as a how-to book is not quite accurate, in any case. It’s more of a why-to and when-to, and a what-were-they-thinking- when-they-decided-to kind of book. Sunstein delves into the writings, speeches and deliberations of America’s revolutionary generation and concludes that impeachment was at the core of the founders’ effort to “balance the defining republican commitments to liberty, equality, and self-rule with the belief in a strong, energetic national government.”
I am quite willing to accept this. There is more in the article and this is from near the end:
Or picture, if you can, a president who “lies, constantly and on important occasions, to the American people” regarding all manner of issues, in a repeated and egregious fashion. “We could also imagine,” Sunstein writes, “a truly bizarre political context, in which a sitting president is destroying his own party’s prospects, or in which his decisions seem, even to his own people, to be so damaging and eccentric that he has to be relieved of his duties.” In all such cases, he concludes, impeachment can and should be an option.
Yes indeed, although I´d say that at this stage, and with the present president, it probably would have been clearer if Sunstein had not written a general guide to impeachment, but rather a general guide how to impeach Trump. Then again, that might have been asking too much from an academic legal scholar.

3. We're Still Aghast at Donald Trump—but What Good Has That Done?

This article is by Thomas Frank on AlterNet and originally on The Guardian. It starts as follows:

It has been one year since the US slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum and chose as its leader the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time. Every now and then you get a bracing reminder of the crazy that has been transpiring ever since.

I agree with this bit, but I chose this to illustrate how The Guardian these days propagandizes.

Here is the first bit to illustrate this:

Pundits pronounce him dangerous, if not “F*cking Crazy”. They explore the depths of his stupidity. They apologize for him to Muslims. They compile long lists of the man’s falsehoods and misrepresentations. They look to the past and compare him to Hitler, to Mussolini, to Nero and Caligula. They look to the future and try to imagine the exact nature of the apocalypse the dunce will surely precipitate.

They are aghast, almost every one of them, and they compete fiercely with one another to say just how aghast they are. It is a “parade of the aghast”, as an acquaintance calls it, with all the skills of the journalist reduced to a performance of perturbation and disgust.

Well... is Trump dangerous? Is Trump ¨F*cking Crazy¨? Is Trump stupid? Does Trump write and speak ¨long lists of the man’s falsehoods and misrepresentations¨?

I´d say (I am not quite sure) that Thomas Frank probably thinks all of the above is exaggerated. In fact, I think that is what he means by his keynote term ¨aghast¨ (which is not quite clear to me, nor do I see it has much relevance, but Frank insists on its use, but indeed it is a hyperbole).

Here is some more:

But the parade of the aghast is also sharply limited. In the race to depict Trump in the worst possible light, the parade of the aghast conceives his iniquity to be a thing unique and unprecedented.

Who has Thomas Frank been reading?! I wrote over 1750 articles since the crisis of 2008 (that still continues for everyone who earns less than the 3% at the top of earnings), and what I have seen was not a ¨race to depict Trump in the worst possible light¨.

In fact, I have seen most positions, from very much for Trump, to very much against Trump, with quite a few positions in between.

But this is not what Frank likes. For he is ¨aghast¨ of the ¨aghastness¨ of quite a few who are against Trump. And here are Frank´s ideas:

His tweeting? The technology is new, but the urge to evade the mainstream media is not. His outreach to working-class voters? His hatred of the press? He lifts those straight from his hero Richard Nixon. His combination of populist style with enrich-the-rich policies have been following that recipe since the days of Ronald Reagan. His “wrecking crew” approach to government, which made the cover of Time magazine last week? I myself made the same observation, under the same title, about the administration of George W Bush.

The trends Trump personifies are going to destroy this country one of these days. They’ve already done a hell of a job on the middle class.

But declaring it all so ghastly isn’t going to halt these trends or remove the reprobate from the White House.

On the one hand ¨
the US slipped through a hole in the space-time continuum and chose as its leader the most unpopular presidential candidate of all time¨ while also ¨the trends Trump personifies are going to destroy this country one of these days¨.

On the other hand, Frank objects to the being aghast (?!) of quite a few journalists who see this, but who can do little else than writing and voting (unlike Trump).

And in the end, it seems all to reduces to exaggerations from the left - or so it seems to me - for Trump brought nothing new, but the leftists are nevertheless ¨aghast¨.

At least, that´s how I see the present article.

4. Corporate Power, E-Commerce, and the World Trade Organization

This article is by Deborah James on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In the early 1990s, transnational corporations (TNCs) in the agriculture, services, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing sectors each got agreements as part of the WTO to lock in rights for those companies to participate in markets under favorable conditions, while limiting the ability of governments to regulate and shape their economies. The topics corresponded to the corporate agenda at the time.

Today, the biggest corporations are also seeking to lock in rights and handcuff public interest regulation through trade agreements, including the WTO. But today, the five biggest corporations are all from one sector: technology; and are all from one country: the United States. Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, with support from other companies and the governments of Japan, Canada, and the EU, are seeking to rewrite the rules of the digital economy of the future by obtaining within the WTO a mandate to negotiate binding rules under the guise of “e-commerce.”

Yes indeed, and this is a quite good article. I agree with the above, but I extend it as follows, and first need to quote my definition of neofascism once again:

Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system

In these terms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are neofascistic corporations that are out to get as much power and as much private information out of their users as they can get, and to use that knowledge exclusively to improve their own profits.

Incidentally, I have no idea what Deborah James thinks about neofascism, but I do think that the above definition fully applies Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft.

In fact, here is part of my reason for saying so:

However, the rules they are seeking go far beyond what most of us think of as “e-commerce.” Their top agenda is to ensure free ― for them ― access to the world’s most valuable resource ― the new oil, which is data. They want to be able to capture the billions of data points that we as digitally-connected humans produce on a daily basis, transfer the data wherever they want, and store them on servers in the United States. This would endanger privacy and data protections around the world, given the lack of legal protections on data in the US.

That is: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are trying to find out absolutely everything about absolutely everyone that could conceivably increase their profits or their power, and while doing so they are utterly (and quite intentionally) destroying all ¨privacy and data protections around the world¨, while also making two classes of people: The very few who can find out everything about anyone in their systems; and the very many who are exploited and deceived by the very few.

Here is more on these large corporations that only work for their own profits, and are for that purpose are stealing all private information from anyone:

Then they can process data into intelligence, which can be packaged and sold to third parties for large profits, are akin to monopoly rents. It is also the raw material for artificial intelligence, which is based on the massive accumulation of data in order to “train” algorithms to make decisions. In the economy of the future, whoever owns the data will dominate the market. These companies are already being widely criticized for their monopolistic and oligopolistic behaviors, which would be consolidated under these proposals.

Here is an aside about the factual illegality these large corporations pursue:

Another key rule these corporations are seeking would allow digital services corporations to operate and profit within a country without having to maintain any type of physical or legal presence. But if a financial services firm goes bankrupt, how can depositors seek redress? If a worker (or contractor) for the company’s rights are violated, or a consumer is defrauded, how can they get justice?

And this is what these large corporations desire:

The business model of many of these companies is predicated on three strategies with serious negative social impacts: deregulation; increasing precarification of work; and tax optimization, which most would consider akin to evasion of taxes. All of these downward trends would be accelerated and locked in were the proposed rules on “e-commerce” to be agreed in the WTO.

That is: By deregulations they want to avoid all legal controls on their corporations; by precarification they simply force the workers to work more for less money, which much increases their profits; and by tax evasion they evade virtually all financial responsibilities for anything they do.

It is neofascism - all power to the few richest corporations - except that hardly anyone says so.

5. Whether or Not Trump Remains in Office, We Must Contend With the Forces That Enabled His Rise

This article is by William C. Anderson on Truthout. It starts as follows:
The Trump presidency didn't fall out of thin air, nor was it a coup or a deviation from "American values." This presidency is a manifestation of many of this nation's core values, fully exposed for the entire world to see. If Donald Trump's white supremacist nationalism were not an American value, he wouldn't be the president. His supporters are not apparitions. The GOP, Tea Party and other far-right elements that created him did so using the US political system which is "democratic." With the support of US capital's oligarchs and political administrators, Trump secured the White House.
This is all true, but since I am a psychologist who does think, it seems now with more than 63,000 other psychologists and psychiatrists (as regards his lack of sanity) that Trump is not only deplorable, but he is both insane and a neofascist, and it is especially his insanity that frightens me. (But I am a mere psychologist, and what is a mere psychologist compared with at least a 1000 anonymous writers on Facebook or Twitter with an average IQ of 85?! [6])

Here is some more:
Donald Trump -- who makes up for what he lacks in critical thinking with showy arrogance -- is influenced by several right-wing camps. White nationalists who want a sympathetic White House have had their dream realized in the form of a president who not only understands their movement, but encourages it.
Yes indeed, and to support this, here is Gary Cohn who explains why he (the top of Goldman Sachs) helps Trump:
"Why am I here? I am here just for this reason," Cohn said.... "Think about the opportunity that I'm involved in with President Trump and being able to rewrite the tax code. Something hasn't been done in 31 years.... "
And the revised tax code will bring Cohn and his extremely rich associates further millions. Incidentally: How does this differ from corruption?


[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 1 1/2 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 (!!).

[2] In fact, this was not quite clear to me when these things happened to me in 1980ies, but I do like to point out why calling me ¨a filthy fascist¨ (which was quite common since the 1960ies: Those you disagreed with, if you were a leftist, were often called ¨fascists¨ for that reason) was a sick lie:

Both of my parents were communists for some 45 years; both of my parents were in the real anti-fascist resistance in WW II; both my father and my grandfather were betrayed to the SS in June 1941, arrested, and convicted to concentration camp imprisonment as ¨political terrorists¨, which my grandfather did not survive; while I was all my life a leftist, except that I ceased being a Marxist when I was 20.

Those who called me ¨a filthy fascist¨ were - to the best of my knowledge, but I do not know most of them - the children of rich parents who hardly knew anything about Marx or politics other than their fanatic beliefs, and who merely practised what most students at that time practised.

In any case, I was both by background and by education the least fascistic of everybody who studied in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam in the 1980ies.

[3] This is also why I return it now: I got no reply whatsoever since 1988 (!!) and I do think that quite a few who scolded me for ¨filthy fascist¨ in the early 1980ies (many) were in fact rather fascistic themselves.

[4] Until 1965, you needed an IQ of at least 125 to get an M.A.; in 1984 the average IQ of the students at the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam was 115; since then it probably has sunk till 105 or so.

[5] In fact, this is a hypothesis of mine: I think that the total reshufflings of ALL education that has been happening since the middle 1960ies, not only in Holland but everywhere in the West, were contrived on purpose to keep the poor and the non-rich stupid.

I do know this is a large hypothesis, but it does cover the known facts (that few know, unfortunately) the best.

[6] I am sorry if you are offended, but what I am doing here is pointing out how profit - each of the 1000 anonymous writers is personally known to the big corporations and does have an income, and collectively these incomes are much larger than that of one psychologist, even if he or she is a professor - puts aside almost all referrals to competence, intellect or knowledge.
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