March 13, 2018

Crisis: Drug Dealers, U.S. Meddling, Stormy Daniels, ¨Social Media¨, Destruction Of Education


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 13, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, March 13, 2018.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from March 13, 2018
1. Death to Drug Dealers 
2. 100 Years of U.S. Meddling & Regime Change
3. Stormy Daniels Appears to Have the Goods on Trump
4. First Silicon Valley Sold You Social Media—Now It’s Trying to Sell You the

5. The Mirage of Knowledge
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. Death to Drug Dealers

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction (and I am sorry but I abbreviated the title: it is not because I dislike Amy Goodman or Democracy Now! - I like them - but because I have adopted a format for Nederlog):
President Trump has reiterated his calls for the U.S. to impose the death penalty on drug dealers, praising countries like the Philippines, China and Singapore that apply capital punishment to drug traffickers. During a speech on Saturday, Trump recounted conversations with Chinese and Singaporean leaders who, he said, solved their countries’ drug problems by executing drug traffickers. Trump has also repeatedly expressed admiration for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and said he’s done an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” Last month, the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary investigation into accusations that Duterte had committed crimes against humanity by overseeing the killing of up to 8,000 people in his so-called war on drugs. We speak to Widney Brown, the managing director of policy at the Drug Policy Alliance.
Yes indeed. As to president Duterte: I think he is an obvious sadist, and he seems to be a fascist as well - and see below, in case you say ¨No¨. Also, here is a first bit by Widney Brown:

WIDNEY BROWN: Well, basically, he’s saying he wants to execute people who bring drugs into the country or otherwise sell drugs. The problem is, supply-side initiatives have failed. We have a war on drugs that started in the 1970s. If it was a success, we wouldn’t be having an opioid overdose crisis today.

Quite so.

Incidentally: I am nearly 68 and I can recall the Sixties and the Seventies very well indeed (and I never used any hard drugs) and I am convinced since 1969 (!!) that the best solution to the drugs problem is to legalize all drugs.

My reasons for adopting that solution do not and never comprehended any liking for hard drugs - heroin, cocaine, amphetamines - for I rejected these already more than 50 years ago and never used them; my reasons are that addiction is a medical problem and can only be dealt with properly if the addicts are not made into criminals because of their addictions.

There will be some more on the opioid crisis below.

But first, this is on the sadism and the fascism of president Duterte:

AMY GOODMAN: And then I want to go to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte in his own words. In 2016, Duterte likened himself to Hitler.

PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE: Hitler massacred 3 million Jews. Now, there is 3 million—what is it? Three million drug addicts, there are. I’d be happy to slaughter them. At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have [me]. You know, my victims, I would like to be all criminals.

AMY GOODMAN: So, there is the Philippine President Duterte comparing himself to Hitler. Last month, again, the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary investigation into accusations he committed crimes against humanity by overseeing the killing of up to 8,000 people in his war on drugs. President Trump praised both China and the Philippines.

WIDNEY BROWN: Exactly, which is appalling. You don’t kill your way out of a drug crisis. And what’s happening in the Philippines is you actually have death squads going around summarily rounding up or killing people based on allegations that they may use drugs. That is not how you solve a drug problem.
In fact, Hitler had some 6 million Jews murdered in a few years. And also it seems Widney Brown is quite correct that the murders Duterte orders or allows - it seems - tend to be done on the basis of mere allegations.

Then there is also this perceptive and - it seems to me - quite true remark by Juan González on the enormous problems that were created after the pharmaceutical corporations, with the strong help of quite a few lying, deceiving and deluding medical doctors, some of whom seem to have made millions by their lies, started to prescribe strongly addictive opioids on the basis of the medical lie these were not addictive:
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And isn’t the problem, especially in the United States, of drug trafficking these days, it’s even more so now—it’s not the illegal or banned substances. It’s the controlled substances, the chemicals, like—or the pills, that are being dispensed by pharmacists and doctors, in ways that are creating a massive epidemic across the country. So, this is—if you’re talking now about going after the drug dealers, you’re talking about going after the pharmacists and the doctors, not the people on the street selling drugs.
Quite so. Here is a bit on the Opioid epidemic (minus note numbers) merely as background information:
The opioid epidemic or opioid crisis is the rapid increase in the use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs in the United States and Canadapainkillers, including oxycodone (commonly sold under the trade names OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and a very strong painkiller, fentanyl, which is synthesized to resemble other opiates such as opium-derived morphine and heroin. The potency and availability of these substances, despite their high risk of addiction and overdose, have made them popular both as formal medical treatments and as recreational drugs.
beginning in the late 1990s and continuing throughout the first two decades of the 2000s. Opioids are a diverse class of moderately strong

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, "overdose deaths, particularly from prescription drugs and heroin, have reached epidemic levels."substance abuse treatment admissions related to opioid pain relievers all increased substantially. By 2015, annual overdose deaths from heroin alone surpassed deaths from both car accidents and guns, with other opioid overdose deaths also on the rise. Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved prescription opioids. From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales, and

Drug overdoses have since become the leading cause of death of Americans under 50, with two-thirds of those deaths from opioids.
Then again, we should thank the pharmaceutical corporations (who lied, lied and lied) and their lying though very well paid medical doctors for this crisis, and not the illegal dealers.

And here is Widney Brown again, in the last quotation from this article:

WIDNEY BROWN: So I think what you’ve got are two different issues. You’ve got: Does the U.S. government effectively regulate the pharmaceutical industry? Do they regulate both how things are distributed, and do they regulate how things are marketed? Are they paying attention to that? And I think what we’re seeing because of this crisis is the answer is a clear no.
Yes indeed. And there is considerably more in this article, which is recommended.

2. 100 Years of U.S. Meddling & Regime Change

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction (and I am sorry but I have again abbreviated the title - and see above):
As special counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, we take a look back at Washington’s record of meddling in elections across the globe. By one count, the United States has interfered in more than 80 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000. And that doesn’t count U.S.-backed coups and invasions. We speak to former New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer, author of “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.”
Quite so: while the ¨social media¨ (for morons and idiots) and the ¨mainstream media¨ all keep gushing about ¨Russian meddling in the 2016 election¨, in fact the Americans meddled - it seems - in no less than 80 countries, and if that count is not quite right, at least in very many countries.

But then these facts are largely unknown on
the ¨social media¨ and simply not dealt with on the mainstream media (I suppose on the principle: what our readers and viewers don´t know will not upset them):

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The list of countries where the U.S. has interfered is long. In 1893, the U.S. helped overthrow the kingdom of Hawaii. Five years later, in 1898, the U.S. invaded and occupied Cuba and Puerto Rico. A year later, it was the Philippines. Early 20th century interventions included Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, all in the 1910s.

AMY GOODMAN: In 1953, the U.S. helped overthrow the Iranian government. A year later, in 1954, U.S.-backed coup in Guatemala, overthrowing the democratically elected leader of Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz. Then, in the '60s, the list grew to include, once again, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and the Congo. And that's just a partial list. Even with the end of the Cold War, U.S. interference overseas did not end. Next week marks the 15th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq to topple the government of Saddam Hussein.

We now go to Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times foreign correspondent (...)
Yes indeed - and in case you want to know more about the very many interferences of the USA in other countries, there are many more treated in this article.

Here is one more bit that I quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) We’re talking about the overthrow of Iran for the British oil company that would later become British Petroleum. Is that right, Stephen Kinzer?

STEPHEN KINZER: Yes. That company is now called BP. So, you’re seeing long-term effects of these interventions, and what you’re seeing in Iran today 100 percent ties back to what we did in 1953. We like to have this idea that these operations are discreet, they’re not going to have any long-term effects. We’ll remove one government, place another favorable government in power, and anything will go fine. Everybody will forget it, and it won’t have any long-term effects. But if you look around the world, you can see that these kinds of operations to interfere in other countries’ politics, what the CIA calls “influence operations,” actually not only often wind up devastating the target country, but, in the end, undermine the security of the United States.

In fact, there is considerably more in the article, and I did not review it because most of it is historical rather than recent. But it certainly is true that the USA has been and is interfering in very many countries, and does so as a matter of course. And this is a recommended article.

3. Stormy Daniels Appears to Have the Goods on Trump

This article is by Jen Hayden on AlterNet and originally on DailyKos. It starts as follows:
Adult film actress and director and likely former mistress of Donald Trump says she wants to return the $130,000 in hush money to Donald Trump and/or his attorney Michael Cohen. She wants the right to tell her story and says America deserves the truth. That offer is going to put Trump and Cohen in a bind. If they refuse the money, they acknowledge they want to keep her silent. According to Daniels’ attorney, her story includes “text messages, photos and/or videos.”
I say, and I did not know that Daniels has “text messages, photos and/or videos”. Also, it seems a valid conclusion that she puts ¨Trump and Cohen in a bind¨. And I did briefly report on Daniels before in Nederlog, namely here.

Here is some on the reasons why Ms. Daniels may be more important than she seems (although it is my guess that she is playing for more money, and not to tell the truth):

Donald Trump has attacked every person who’s ever even whispered a negative word about him—everyone except Stormy Daniels? Is it because she’s got evidence of his bad behavior? Mr. Big Mouth sure is silent about Stormy Daniels and her nonstop headlines. 

Meanwhile, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) are demanding an investigation into the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels by Michael Cohen.
Yes, this all seems true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Donald Trump appears to be backed into a corner here. Fight the refund from Stormy Daniels and acknowledge Trump cheated with an adult film actress while his newlywed wife was home with their newborn son. How will that play with his base of suburban women? And if Stormy Daniels is released from the nondisclosure agreement, what does that unleash? 

Michael Cohen is also backed in a corner. If he stands by the claim that he alone paid Stormy Daniels, it could be violating federal law and punishable by up to 5 years in prison. If he admits he was reimbursed by Donald Trump, he is again confirming the affair and the hush payment.

It seems to me that the above is true. And this suggests several possible resolutions. I will sketch two. The first and the most probable outcome is that Daniels will get more hush money, and that little or nothing wil be heard about her dalliances with Trump. The second and considerably less probable outcome is that she will be hushed up otherwise.

And while it is possible that some story about Daniels and Trump will be published, I think this is less probable, but one never knows. Meanwhile, this is a recommended article.

4. First Silicon Valley Sold You Social Media—Now It’s Trying to Sell You the Antidote

This article is by Julianne Tveten on AlterNet and originally on In These Times. It starts as follows:

In recent months, a spate of current and former tech executives have taken to the media to evangelize variations of the same message: Social media is harming humanity. Sean Parker, who served as Facebook’s first president, warned that social media “exploit[s] a vulnerability in human psychology,” addicting children while interfering with productivity. Chamath Palihapitiya, once Facebook’s vice president “for user growth,” opined that social media is “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” After co-engineering the Facebook “Like” button and Google’s Gchat messaging system, Justin Rosenstein bemoaned the effects of his contributions.

The onslaught of techie contrition, however, isn’t a prelude to meaningful change—it’s a business opportunity.

Yes and no, I think. First of all, I agree with Facebook´s former employees that Facebook is both dangerous and (even more) stupefying. And second, while I agree with Julianne Tveten that this is (also) ¨a business opportunity¨, I may be more interested in the truth of what the former Facebook employees did say.

Here is more by Tveten:

What makes these grievances appealing is that they’re ostensibly antidotal. Over the course of roughly a decade, Facebook and other Silicon Valley social media platforms have mutated into ubiquitous forces. Approximately 70 percent of Americans use social media—a statistic that is concerning in light of admonitory reports about social media’s impact on mental health, particularly among younger users. That figures who helped develop those platforms now appear more scrupulous shows that Silicon Valley is now profiting from efforts to rectify its own ills.

I say, for I did not know that 7 out of 10 Americans use Facebook. For me, this means 7 out 10 Americans are either too stupid or too egoistic not to escape their chance of getting advertisememts ¨for free¨ that may save them a few cents, while they deliver untold amounts of their most private information to Facebook.

It is an utterly insane schema in my opinion, but then I am a very intelligent intellectual,  while I also can write html, which is something that not many Americans seem capable of.

Also - while I do like Tveten´s prose - I think it would have been more correct to take the complaints of former Facebook employees seriously (I think they are basically correct), and to distinguish their complaints from the - anyway predictable - response of Facebook and/or Silicon Valley that this is a new business opportunity.

Then again, I think Tveten is quite correct in describing the fundament of the Facebook problem
(which is not just a problem of Facebook) - and ¨
CHT¨ = the Center for Humane Technology:

Social-media firms are agents of the much broader system of surveillance capitalism, wherein user data is harvested and sold to advertisers. Yet, as Maya Indira Ganesh has observed, CHT frames the issue as a matter of individual concern. “They see the problem as being about individual attention,” rather than corporate predation, Ganesh writes. The solution, then, is to urge individuals to bear the onus of responsibility for their engineering and consumption of technology, while simply requesting that companies, via a few user-interface tweaks, do better.

I basically agree, and namely with my opposition to all surveillance of anyone, except for good, tested, and judicially approved reasons: Surveillance of everyone or of most persons by the secret services or by utter horrors like Facebook (in my opinion) will only help the development of neofascism more than anything else.

As to CHT: I probably agree with Ganesh, but I agree that users do have some onus or responsibility for their own choices, while also my own main difference with speakers for CHT is not on whom they put the responsibility, but on the whole fact of surveilling everyone: I think that is (neo-)fascistic, and should be forbidden - and see the late Senator Frank Church for opinions very similar to my own.

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

The iniquities of social media, of course, won’t disappear if they’re briefly ignored or contained. Instead, addressing them will require companies like Facebook and Google to be viewed holistically: Rather than an isolated scourge, they’re symptoms of an economic system in which profit supersedes public health and societal stability. The answer lies not in a micro-economy of pseudo-conscious nonprofits, books, and startups, but in structures independent of and contrary to the values of capitalism.

Whether championing an hour of smartphone severance or a revised iPhone menu, the trend of tech repentance isn’t a challenge to the bane of surveillance capitalism; it’s merely an upgraded version of it. The smartphone makers, meditation-app companies and other appointees of the tech-reform vanguard will continue to track and monetize user data—the very issues they claim to address—while crowing about business ethics and preaching personal responsibility. While tech executives may admit to creating the problem, they most certainly won’t be the ones to solve it.

In fact, I agree with most of this - except that I insist that almost all surveillance that I know of is or ought to be completely illegal. But this is a recommended article.

5. The Mirage of Knowledge

This article is by Tom Nichols on Harvard Magazine. It starts as follows:
Several years ago, Tom Nichols started writing a book about ignorance and unreason in American public discourse—and then he watched it come to life all around him, in ways starker than he had imagined. A political scientist who has taught for more than a decade in the Harvard Extension School, he had begun noticing what he perceived as a new and accelerating—and dangerous—hostility toward established knowledge. People were no longer merely uninformed, Nichols says, but “aggressively wrong” and unwilling to learn. They actively resisted facts that might alter their preexisting beliefs. They insisted that all opinions, however uninformed, be treated as equally serious. And they rejected professional know-how, he says, with such anger. That shook him.
I say, and in fact I basically agree with Nichols, while I really like it that he was writing a book about the ignorance and the unreason (I would have said: stupidity, but I agree ¨unreason¨ sounds a lot more academic).

Then again, I have also several qualifications, but will limit myself to two.

The first is that I found out that I am 10 years older than Tom Nichols, while I found out about the massive stupification of Dutch education between 1965 and 1967, when the Dutch preparatory schools for the universities were simplified from: three or five foreign languages, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geography and history, all taken in writing, plus some subjects that were only examined orally (with 14 to 16 subjects in all) to: one foreign language, plus biology OR history OR geography (with 6 examined subjects in all, of which at least 2 were only examined orally).

I found that radical simplification of all education (you can now get a B.A. in some nonsense subject in Holland with almost any IQ, provided you have the money to pay it) an utter disgrace, but then I was one of the very few who thought so.

Here are the things I ¨learned¨ at the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam:

  • everybody knows that truth does NOT exist'
  • cultural relativism: every culture is supposed to be an equivalent attempt to create some human society
  • objective knowledge is impossible

These doctrines, let it be repeated, where the staple good that emanated for 25 years from the Board of Directors, publicly lecturing professors, and the University-Parliament, always as THE central teachings that the UvA had to give to the world, indeed next to many courses in feminism, emancipation, queer studies, and environmental studies. (Real science simply did not exist outside the faculties for physics and mathematics).

The second qualification is that while I protested from 1967 onwards (when I left my highschool because I thought it was much too stupid), I found very few people who agreed with me until 1989. I did take part in the university elections of 1981/1982, in which I participated with a pro- science and pro-rationality plan, but I found about 5% of all students (that voted) agreed with me and my party, the other 95% supported the ASVA, that at that time consisted mostly of members of the Dutch Communist Party, and not so much because all felt like communists, but because most wanted to do as little as possible to get ¨a scientific degree¨.

Only by the end of 1989 I found one man who said roughly similar things as I had done (and also several dissimilar things): Allan Bloom, who wrote
"The Closing of the American Mind - How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students." (The reference is to the Wikipedia, with which I partially disagree.)

I wrote about him in my Truth and Value of 1989, but as usual this made very little difference.

Back to Tom Nichols:
Skepticism toward intellectual authority is bone-deep in the American character, as much a part of the nation’s origin story as the founders’ Enlightenment principles. Overall, that skepticism is a healthy impulse, Nichols believes. But what he was observing was something else, something malignant and deliberate, a collapse of functional citizenship. “Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue,” he would write in the preface to The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Expertise and Why It Matters, which was published by Oxford last year and quickly became a bestseller. “To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything.” Further down the page, he would add: “I’m worried.”
I think I partially disagree with Nichols on the values of skepticism: I think that is quite OK for an M.A. with an IQ over 140, but I think it is utter bullshit from an anonymous idiot who scolds and demeans very many because he (or she) is anonymous and also is almost completely ignorant.

But I strongly agree with the rest he says - and I know that position extremely well from the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam between 1980 and 1983. (Also, since I have seen it since nearly forty years, I am not just ¨worried¨: I am extremely worried, besides being sure that the universities in Holland are mostly quite dead (outside physics, mathematics, and a few other subjects that require real talent).

Then there is this:
The indictments the book levels are numerous: misguided egalitarianism run amok; the “protective, swaddling environment” of higher education, whose institutions increasingly treat students as customers to be kept satisfied; the 24-hour news cycle and the pressure on journalists to entertain rather than inform; the chaotic fusion of news and punditry and citizen participation. Meanwhile, the Internet’s openness offers a “Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden” mirage of knowledge, Nichols argues, and an inexhaustible supply of “facts” to feed any confirmation bias. “The Internet encourages not only the illusion that we are all equally competent,” he says, “but that we are all peers. And we’re not. There was once a time when saying that would have been considered unremarkable.”
I mostly agree with this as well, but do want to underline that I have seen most of the above both on the highschool level and the university level (and in case you don´t know: I did get an excellent M.A. in psychology while ill, after having been illegally denied the right to take my equally excellent M.A. in philosophy, also while ill).

That is, in my experience this was the case since 1967 in the Dutch highschools, and this was the case since 1977 in the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam.

Then there is this:
At the bottom of all of it, Nichols finds “a growing wave of narcissism.” Voters increasingly see political figures as extensions of themselves—“He’s just like me!”—imagining shared personalities and values. Narcissism elevates feelings above facts, and it breeds social resentment, a major driver, Nichols believes, of the revolt against expertise. “People cannot accept ever being at a disadvantage in a conversation with anybody else,” he says.
No, I disagree - and I am a psychologist. One reason to disagree is that narcissism is a pathology, and I don´t believe 95% - or 60% or 40% - of all people or of all students are pathological. And my other reason is that stupidity and ignorance are not pathologies, and are together more than sufficient to explain their enormous popularity. [2]

Here is more by Nichols that I agree with:
“In the longer term, I’m worried about the end of the republic,” he answered. Immense cynicism among the voting public—incited in part by the White House—combined with “staggering” ignorance, he said, is incredibly dangerous. In that environment, anything is possible. “When people have almost no political literacy, you cannot sustain the practices that sustain a democratic republic.”
Finally, this is from near the end and is quite justified:
Nichols reminded his students that American casualties in World War II totaled about 470,000. Worldwide, that war killed 65 million people. With a nuclear attack, “In 20 or 30 minutes, you’re talking about many multiples of the total American casualties in World War II.…A global exchange would probably kill 500 million to 600 million in a few minutes.” The room fell totally silent.
Yes indeed. (But then many students may prefer to disbelieve him: he is a real intellectual). And this is a strongly recommended article.


[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 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] Perhaps I should outline my ethics (once again) for my readers, that I summarized 34 years ago as follows:

Do not be MAD; do not SIN.

Here "MAD" abbreviates Meanness (or Greed, but than the pattern fails); Anger and Dishonesty, while "SIN" abbreviates Stupidity, Ignorance and Negligence.

You may disagree, but this is the summary of my ethics.

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