Sunday, November 19, 2017

Crisis: Digital Love, On Lying, On Assange, Sadistic Bullies, Nuclear War

Sections                                                crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from November 19, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Sunday
, November 19, 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 19, 2017
1. Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over
2. The Pathological Refusal to Report the Simple
     Truth About Presidential Lying

3. Signs of U.K. Misconduct in Assange Case
4. The Backlash Against the Bullies
5. No One Man Should Be Able to Trigger Nuclear
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. Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over

This article is by David Sax on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
A decade ago I bought my first smartphone, a clunky little BlackBerry 8830 that came in a sleek black leather sheath. I loved that phone. I loved the way it effortlessly slid in and out of its case, loved the soft purr it emitted when an email came in, loved the silent whoosh of its trackball as I played Brick Breaker on the subway and the feel of its baby keys clicking under my fat thumbs. It was the world in my hands, and when I had to turn it off, I felt anxious and alone.
The first thing I wish to say about the above quotation is how extremely childish this is, and the second is that this probably is the last bit from The New York Times that I review, because the NYT now has links of three lines - it seems a rather accidental miracle that they not also demand the amount of money on my bankaccount, indeed probably because they cannot do so this way, yet - and I simply refuse to link to such links. (Spying is sick.)

Here is more utter childishness:

Many of us bought into the fantasy that digital made everything better. We surrendered to this idea, and mistook our dependence for romance, until it was too late.

Today, when my phone is on, I feel anxious and count down the hours to when I am able to turn it off and truly relax. The love affair I once enjoyed with digital technology is over — and I know I’m not alone.

I call this ¨utter childishness¨ because it explicitly denies all personal responsibilities: It is as if no one had any responsibility whatsoever about the obvious abuses of the internet - which I agree is what most ordinary people did believe and probably also do believe.

Here are a few consequences:

Ten years after the iPhone first swept us off our feet, the growing mistrust of computers in both our personal lives and the greater society we live in is inescapable. This publishing season is flush with books raising alarms about digital technology’s pernicious effects on our lives: what smartphones are doing to our children; how Facebook and Twitter are eroding our democratic institutions; and the economic effects of tech monopolies.

Yes, although this is also not well expressed. (And in any case: I never wanted a cell-phone, and I will never want to own that perfect instrument that seems to have been designed in order to spy on everybody, and to destroy democracy, and to give all power to the tech monopolies.)

But meanwhile that has happened, and given the average intelligence of both their users and the journalists, it seems this is the future of mankind:

Living in an authoritarian neofascistic world were absolutely everyone is constantly spied upon in everything he or she does, both by the secret services of many governments, and by the secret spying of Facebook, Amazone, Apple, Microsoft etc.

But that seems to be the future. I am glad I am 67 and not younger.

2. The Pathological Refusal to Report the Simple Truth About Presidential Lying

This article is by Reed Richardson on AlterNet and originally on FAIR. It starts as follows:

It is a truism to say that everyone lies to someone. Since public officials entrusted with power in our democracy are no exception to this human trait—as historical research documents—it should be exceedingly acceptable to point out that all politicians, from your local city council right up to the White House, lie as well.
Tragically, one of the most honest rhetorical tools that journalists have in the fight for truth has been struck from the lingua franca of US journalists. Within the stilted framework of mainstream news “objectivity,” the simple act of calling out “lies” or “lying” by a politician—especially a president—is now taboo.

I mostly agree with this, but I probably am older than Reed Richardson, and I well recall the times that much more was forbidden (in reality or at least by fashions (!!) amongst editors and journalists) than there is today.

For example, in Holland one just could not say in public in the 1960ies  (as e.g. in demonstrations) that Lyndon Johnson was a murderer (in view his actions in Vietnam), which meant that he was quite often called ¨a miller¨ - ¨Johnson Miller!!!¨ ¨Johnson Miller!!!¨ - because the Dutch word for miller looks rather like the Dutch word for murderer.

Then again, this is not quite the same as trying to avoid to call presidential liars liars:

Last fall, NPR editorial director Michael Oreskes constructed his own Orwellian logic to defend his news organization’s refusal to use “liar,” asserting that the word constitutes “an angry tone” of “editorializing” that “confirms opinions” (FAIR.org3/1/17).  In January, Maggie Haberman, one of the New York Times’ preeminent political reporters, said much the same, claiming that her job was “showing when something untrue is said. Our job is not to say ‘lied.’”

I´d say that Michael Oreskes and Maggie Haberman are cowards who like their incomes and their nominal jobs much more than doing their job responsibly, for doing it responsibly entails that you call liars liars also if they are very powerful.

It is precisely this that Oreskes and Haberman refuse to do. And the following quote is about what they do do: Substituting euphemisms for truthful terms:

This phrasing, “falsely claims”—or “falsely asserted”—has become corporate media’s default alternative to directly accusing the powerful of lying. But the journalistic instinct to vary a story’s language also works in favor of the powerful, allowing euphemisms for official lies to multiply throughout coverage. And rarely do these replacements do anything but weaken the indictment against the liar.

I agree, and there is a considerable lot more to illustrate this that I leave to your interests.

Here is Richardson on what is and has been happening in much journalism (and especially with the journalism of the mainstream media):

It might be tempting to view this egregious double standard as merely a debate about journalism semantics. One could argue that whether or not a news story reports a president or his attorney general “lied” versus “falsely asserted” or “refined his testimony” are simply distinctions without a difference. But top editors and managers inside the corporate media certainly don’t believe that; why else would they so consistently counsel choosing the latter and avoiding the former in their news reports? It is precisely because words like “lie,” “lying” and “liar” resonate so strongly with the public that newsrooms have developed a separate set of often informal, but nonetheless robust, institutional bans against their usage.

Yes, of course - and choosing euphemisms instead of accurately descriptive terms simply is propaganda, and that is what these journalists do: Rewriting painful but true terms into euphemistic and false terms, while pretending they are merely talking ¨semantics¨.

And this is the end of this article:

If the press can’t tell the public what’s a lie on any given day, how can it be trusted to tell the truth when it really matters?

Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.

3. Signs of U.K. Misconduct in Assange Case

This article is by Dennis J. Bernstein on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:

A British court proceeding on a freedom of information request regarding how the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dealt with the case of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange has revealed that CPS deleted relevant emails from the account of a now-retired CPS lawyer, Paul Close.

However, one email that wasn’t destroyed shows the CPS lawyer advising Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny not to interview Assange in London, a decision that has helped keep Assange stuck for more than five years in Ecuador’s London embassy where he had been granted asylum. Finally, in late 2016, after Swedish prosecutors did question Assange at the embassy, they dropped sex abuse allegations against him, but he still faces possible arrest in the U.K. as well as potential extradition to the U.S., where officials have denounced him for releasing classified material.

Yes indeed. And Dennis Bernstein decided to interview a lawyer who acts for a journalist who acts for Julian Assange. This is a good idea, and here is the first of two quotes:

Estelle Dehon: A number of pieces of correspondence between the Crown Prosecution Service and the Swedish Prosecution Authority have been released, some of them with only slight redaction and some of them very heavily redacted.  One of the things they are arguing today at the tribunal is that these redactions should be removed.  That correspondence really looks at the flow of information from Sweden to the Crown Prosecution Service and back again.  This information revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service had advised the Swedish prosecutor not to travel to the United Kingdom to interview Mr. Assange, despite the fact that that offer had been made. That advice was provided very early on, in January 2011.

In fact, the whole correspondence between the British Crown Prosecution Service and the Swedish Prosecution Authority seems to have been completely deleted (!!), and the only things that remain from it are a few printed bits, that also may have been redacted.

And here is Estelle Dehon´s general explanation of what is happening:

Estelle Dehon: (...) In terms of what I think is at the heart of this case, I believe it is the clash between free speech and freedom of the press versus an official culture of secrecy.  One of the great hopes of the information access regime which was put in place in 2000 in the United Kingdom was that it would foster a culture of openness.  There wouldn’t be any area where the stock response was to shut down and not to engage with the media.

Unfortunately, in certain areas such as extradition matters, it hasn’t had that effect.  The ethos of the freedom of information act, the important watchdog role that journalists play, simply hasn’t featured on their radar.

And then, of course, Julian Assange’s case is a very particular one.

I quite agree that ¨it is the clash between free speech and freedom of the press versus an official culture of secrecy¨ that is involved, although I have never believed that the internet would ¨foster a culture of openness¨.

And I also agree that ¨Julian Assange’s case is a very particular one¨. This is a recommended article. 

4. The Backlash Against the Bullies

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Why are so many women now speaking out about the sexual abuses they’ve experienced for years? Is there anything unique about the time we’re now living through that has encouraged them to end their silence?

I can’t help think their decisions are part of something that’s happening throughout much of American society right now – a backlash against what has been the growing domination of America by powerful and wealthy men (and a few women) who came to believe they can do whatever they want to do, to whomever they choose.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy,” said Donald Trump in the infamous 2005 Access Hollywood tape.

Sexual assault is one obvious assertion of dominance. Other forms include economic bullying and the stoking of bigotry to gain political power.
I only quote this single bit from Reich, but this will give rise to four remarks, the first two about the initial two questions:

First, is it true that there ¨
are so many women now speaking out about the sexual abuses they’ve experienced for years¨?

I´d say: Yes and no, for there are at least two and in fact several more contributory factors: There now is the internet, that in a very short time has produced over two billion persons who can (normally quite anonymously) ¨write¨ [2], which has had and will have enormous influences,  and second there is - probably - at present a stronger tendency to report sexual abuse than there was before.

And in fact there is a third factor, which is probably the most important:

Journalists and editors on the internet write more about sexual abuse than happened before, and they did not do so until well in the 2000s. (I think this is very probably the most important factor, for it were journalists and editors who decided - until the internet arrived - what the news was, and in which styles it was reported.)

Second, is it true that ¨
there [is] anything unique about the time we’re now living through¨?

Evidently, there is: internet. I merely remark it here, as I merely remark this pulls in several different and partially opposing directions, and that without internet the whole situation would be quite different.

Third, I do not doubt that there have always been ¨
powerful and wealthy men (..)¨ who did believe, within a few mostly legal or moral  ramifi- cations, that they could do most things they wanted to do.

But I don´t have any adequate ideas about how things were - say - in the Thirties in Hollywood, compared with 80 years later, indeed mostly because the press has tended to avoid writing about the sexual abuses that very powerful men could engage in, and I also admit that I found Trump´s statement that he could grab women by the pussy both quite crude and quite shocking.

Fourth, about the last paragraph: Yes indeed, and in fact I have more:

It would seem to me (and has seemed to be so for a long time) that not only is ¨[s]
exual assault (..) one obvious assertion of dominance¨: it would seem to me that it is quite narrowly connected with sadism.

And I am not saying all sexual abusers are sadists, but I certainly do think - and Donald Trump is one obvious example - that those who do engage in sexual abuse are considerably or far more often sadists or sadistically inclined than males who do not engage in sexual abuse.

This is from the article on sadism in my Philosophical Dictionary:
Indeed, there is much more sadism in human beings than  most are willing to admit: Very many people derive much pleasure from being in positions of power and by hurting, denigrating, demeaning or displeasing others. It probably does not arouse most of them sexually, but they wouldn't do it if it did not please them. And this kind of pleasure seems to be one of the strongest motivators of those who desire to be boss: To let others feel they are inferior.
Together with stupidity, sadism explains two famous and mostly correct observations on history:

"History is little else but the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind"

"Presque toute l'Histoire n'est qu'une suite d'horreurs."

For clearly most of the harm that human beings have done to human beings - millions upon millions killed, tortured, raped, exploited, starved, persecuted - was done on purpose, and willingly, and for the noblest sounding moral pretexts.

Accordingly, this 'human-all-too-human' desire to hurt, harm, demean, denigrate, abuse or exploit others is one of the normally unacknowledged forces of history, as is stupidity.

It is probably the normal human reaction to personal unhappiness: Make others suffer at least as much as one does oneself; demean those who seem better of than oneself, if one can do so without danger to oneself; and take vengeance for one's own pains, miseries and disappointments by wrecking even more of the same on the supposed enemies of one's society, or on social deviants or dissidents, since then one also gains moral credits easily, with the majority of one's peers.

But I also realize that I am i.a. a psychologist, so this connection of sexual abuse with sadism may well be too difficult to grasp. [3]

5. No One Man Should Be Able to Trigger Nuclear War

This article is by Eric Margolis on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Amidst the rising clamor in the US over groping and goosing, America’s Congress is beginning to fret about President Donald Trump’s shaky finger being on the nation’s nuclear button. 

The air force officer that dutifully trails the president carries the electronic launch codes in a black satchel that could ignite a world war that would largely destroy our planet.
Yes indeed. But the following - I did demonstrate against nuclear weapons for the first time in 1959, I think - is wishful thinking:
Nuclear war is absolutely unthinkable.  Totally crazy. Yet serious discussion is underway in military and neocon war circles about a nuclear war against North Korea and, even crazier, against Iran and Russia.  Welcome home, Dr Strangelove.
Nuclear war was quite thinkable for Truman (for he decided to blow up Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear arms); it was quite thinkable for Bertrand Russell; it was quite thinkable for Albert Einstein; and it was quite thinkable for very many others who started to demonstrate against nuclear arms in the second half of the 1950ies.

Also, Dr. Strangelove is one of the best films I ever saw, and I strongly recommend you try to see it if you didn´t, but indeed it also is - very clever and quite realistic - sarcasm.

But these are again real facts:
Nuclear-armed China and Russia are right next door to North Korea.  Trump’s threats to attack North Korea might force them to challenge the US in a major confrontation.
Yes indeed. And here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
According to the US Constitution, Congress has the power to declare war.  But the president has a residual right to initiate military action in the event of a sudden threat.  The fate of the globe cannot be left in the hands of one man.  Even Russia and China require some checks and balances before nuclear war is unleashed.  The US apparently does not.
I say.

Well... this means that the situation as regards the absolute power of the USA has been unchanged since 1959 or so, for the US president can still decide, on his own, to start the blowing up of 7 billion people + the total destruction of human civilization.

The difference is that the power of the nuclear arms has been multiplied tenthousands of times, and there are quite a few more nations with nuclear weapons than there were in the 1950ies.


[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] I am merely registering this in passing, but on the basis of my own experiences in Holland as a critic of the university and of the extremely large - and quite illegal - drugsdealing that is done now for thirty years by politicians, judges and bureaucrats from Holland, to the best of my knowledge - my guess is that almost everyone who is not powerful may be threatened, abused and scolded by many anonymous devotees of sadism, if only because there may very well be hundreds of millions of anonymous devotees of sadism, and they now all can write, and do so in full anonymity, except for the anonymous secret services and the anonymous overseers of Facebook etc.

[3] I am sorry if I am a bit ironical, if indeed I am.
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