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Nederlog

April 26, 2018

Crisis: GOP & Senate, Nondisclosure Agreements, Plutocracy, Trump & The Press, On Sadism


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 26, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, April 26, 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from April 26, 2018
1. Is GOP Losing Its Grip on the Senate?
2. The Trouble With Nondisclosure Agreements
3. A Plutocratic Coup

4. Why Trump Is Winning and the Press Is Losing

5. Diagnosing the West with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)
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. Is GOP Losing Its Grip on the Senate?

This article is by Bill Barrow and Thomas Beaumont on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Republicans have known for months that their House majority is in genuine peril. But after another bruising showing in a special election, some in the party are reconsidering the once inconceivable notion of losing the Senate.

It’s a sobering possibility, particularly given Republican’ confidence not long ago that they probably would increase their Senate edge after the November vote. Far more Democratic senators are facing re-election in states favorable to Republicans than the other way around. That’s why the GOP held out hope of expanding its ranks and easing the path for President Donald Trump’s agenda.

This is somewhat interesting. Here is more:

Yet a Republican congressional victory Tuesday in the Phoenix suburbs has set off new alarm bells.

Republican Debbie Lesko won the special House election by 6 percentage points, though Trump captured the district by 21 percentage points in 2016. GOP turnout dropped off, and unlike Republicans’ shocking losses in a Pittsburgh-area House race and an Alabama Senate contest, there was no weak GOP nominee to blame in Arizona.

The only explanation was the most worrisome for the GOP: Trump’s presidency is activating Democrats and demoralizing some Republicans and if that trend continues, trouble is ahead.

I think this may be correct. Here is some more:

Still, there are signs that seizing the Senate is no longer a pipe dream.

Democratic incumbents are outpacing Republicans in fundraising. Of the 10 Democratic senators running in Trump-won states, nine are among the top 20 campaign fundraisers across all Senate candidates this election cycle. None of their potential Republican opponents has made that cut.

Well... I do hope that the Republicans loose the Senate and the House, but this is a rather vague article.


2. The Trouble With Nondisclosure Agreements

This article is by Paul Morantz on Truthdig. This is from close to its beginning:

These days, a tsunami of lawsuits resulting from deals made with a host of demons has clogged our courts and prompted many judges to push for settlement agreements just to keep the system afloat. The public interest is best served, they reason, by getting civil disputes resolved without the enormous time and expense of lengthy trials.

But saving time and money doesn’t always serve the cause of justice. In this rush to judgment, the courts end up rewarding defendants—often corporations accused of everything from product safety violations to environmental disasters—while punishing many plaintiffs who have suffered extensive damages from those crimes, because these settlements are often structured in ways that enable the wrongdoer to keep doing wrong.
    (..)
The problem isn’t the negotiated settlements. It’s the onerous caveats attached to them known as nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), or more commonly, gag orders. These orders prevent those who accept money in a settlement from disclosing anything negative about the defendants.
To start with, I am Dutch and not American, and while I do know some about nondisclosure agreements, indeed also before I knew about Stormy Daniels, I do not know much about them.

But they also seem to me fundamentally wrong, in that it seems as if for some payments
one can simply say to the judge: Sorry, your law does not apply to my case, for I got paid a sufficiently bug amount of money (or: I paid a sufficiently big amount) to make me (or them) shut up.

That is: Ut seems as if sufficiently big amounts of money can lock up the whole process of the law by undercutting the evidence by simply buying it.

Here is some more:
If this sounds familiar to you, that means you’re up on the latest Donald J. Trump scandals. To wit: Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, allegedly had an affair with Trump in 2006. When she started shopping the story around to magazines prior to the 2016 election, Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her $130,000 to clam up about it. Daniels now wants to break the nondisclosure agreement, which includes hefty fines for violations. Trump denies the affair and any knowledge of the payment. He insists he didn’t reimburse his lawyer.
That is all true (and why Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 is a complete riddle, at least at this point).

And to be clear, I’m not advocating the elimination of gag orders. In some cases, they are appropriate and necessary. Legitimate trade secrets must be protected, and embarrassing information can be sealed if there are no public concerns. I even favor sealing divorce settlements, absent any showing of good cause why the information should be made public. Most divorces are private matters. Even heated disputes rarely involve things the public needs to know, and their disclosure could have a negative impact on the couple’s children.

But in many cases, nondisclosure agreements inhibit the public’s First Amendment right to speak out on matters of public concern and the right of civil litigants to gain access to information from prior settlements that are directly related to their cases.
      (..)
But if no one can reveal details of the settlement publicly, how can such beneficial social goals be accomplished? The ability to conceal these details from the public and potential future litigants has prompted many corporations, cults and self-help groups to seek out possible aggrieved parties—sometimes even if they haven’t yet filed a lawsuit—and offer them princely sums of money in exchange for their signatures on nondisclosure agreements. If the potential litigants had come to the offender and demanded payment for their silence, it would be considered blackmail. But ironically, the courts have blessed wrongdoers that seek out and pay potential plaintiffs in order to prevent them from ever revealing details of a settlement, speaking to the media or otherwise aiding potential litigants. It also keeps critical documents and other evidence away from the prying eyes of other litigants.

This seems all true or reasonable, and indeed I specifically agree with the thesis that there is something quite sick and offensive in the fact that if - say - Stormy Daniels had asked
Michael Cohen for money she would have blackmailed him, whereas if - say - Michael Cohen offered her money not to speak, Cohen was perfectly in the clear.

I made my examples personal, but what I said holds in general: If rich men can assure that they will not be judged for their crimes, offenses or immoral deeds because their lawyers can buy the silence of those they offended, then the law is simply dead.

Then again, I agree that I do not know much about non-disclosure agreements, but the following from the ending does seem quite correct to me:

You can’t buy silence or suppress documents when doing so would harm the public interest.

This is a recommended article.

3. A Plutocratic Coup

This article is by Jim Hightower on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In 1933, the Great Depression was in full force, spreading mass unemployment, waves of bankruptcies and abject poverty. The people's boiling political anger was scaring the aloof denizens of Wall Street, as more and more people joined in open rebellion against all things the plutocrats considered sacrosanct: unfettered capitalism.

The year before, Franklin D. Roosevelt had scored a landslide presidential victory over Wall Street's man, then-President Herbert Hoover, by promising a New Deal for millions of Americans impoverished by the Depression. To the bankers' horror, the new president's government policies and programs to help people get back on their feet included new taxes on wealth.

Such Wall Street multimillionaires as Grayson M-P. Murphy (banker and Anaconda Copper Mining Co. head) and Robert Sterling Clark (heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune) were enraged by FDR's moves. "Class war," they wailed, claiming that their "liberty" to grab as much wealth as possible was being shackled. Calling Roosevelt a traitor to his class, these men implemented a plan to oust him by enlisting a private military force made up of thousands of destitute World War I vets who were protesting the failure to receive promised federal bonus payments.
Yes indeed, and Hightower tells the story of what happened in 1933. Here is more:
MacGuire told Butler that the Wall Street cohort plus a new group called American Liberty League (made up of the right-wing bosses of such corporate giants as DuPont, Colgate, General Foods and General Motors) were prepared to fund the cause to the tune of $300 million (about $5.6 billion in today's money), and that Remington Arms would supply the weapons. The conspirators thought that FDR would go down without a fight and would welcome the coup. Once in place, the financiers and militarists would install a "secretary of general affairs" to run the country. And one of their choices was Smedley Butler.
Precisely, and Smedley Butler was a quite interesting and courageous man. Here is also more about this story: Business Plot which in fact lists three somewhat similar reactions as Butler had, namely (apart from Butler) by Van Zandt and also by William Dodd, who was Roosevelt´s ambassador to Germany.

Here is some of what Dodd wrote to Roosevelt in 1936 (quoted from
Business Plot):
A clique of U.S. industrialists is hell-bent to bring a fascist state to supplant our democratic government and is working closely with the fascist regime in Germany and Italy. I have had plenty of opportunity in my post in Berlin to witness how close some of our American ruling families are to the Nazi regime. ... A prominent executive of one of the largest corporations, told me point blank that he would be ready to take definite action to bring fascism into America if President Roosevelt continued his progressive policies. Certain American industrialists had a great deal to do with bringing fascist regimes into being in both Germany and Italy. They extended aid to help Fascism occupy the seat of power, and they are helping to keep it there. Propagandists for fascist groups try to dismiss the fascist scare. We should be aware of the symptoms. When industrialists ignore laws designed for social and economic progress they will seek recourse to a fascist state when the institutions of our government compel them to comply with the provisions.
Then again, Dodd was soon dismissed by Roosevelt. Back to the article:

But he was the wrong general. Butler was a patriot and a lifelong soldier for democracy, and he was astounded and repulsed by the hubris and treachery of these aristocrats from Wall Street. Butler enlisted investigative reporter Paul Comly French to help gather proof of the bankers' intent. With evidence in hand, Butler got the House Special Committee on Un-American Activities to conduct an investigation, which convinced members of the committee that Butler's story was "alarmingly true." The committee then opened public hearings with Butler giving detailed testimony.

Yes. There is considerably more to this story than Hightower tells, but this is a recommended article.


4. Why Trump Is Winning and the Press Is Losing

This article is by Jay Rosen on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:

There is alive in the land an organized campaign to discredit the American press. This campaign is succeeding. Its roots are long. For decades, the Republican coalition has tried to hang together by hating on elites who claim to know things, like: “What is art?” Or: “What should college students be taught?” Or: “What counts as news?”

The media wing of this history extends back to Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964. It passes through Spiro Agnew’s speeches for Richard Nixon in 1969, and winds forward to our own time through William Rusher’s 1988 book, The Coming Battle for the Media, the growth of conservative talk radio in the 1990s, and the spectacular success of the Fox News Channel, which found a lucrative business model in resentment news, culture war, and the battle cry of liberal bias.

Yes, I think this is mostly correct. Here is some about Trump:

Donald Trump is both the apotheosis of this history and its accelerant. He has advanced the proposition dramatically, from undue influence—Agnew’s claim—to something closer to treason, in which journalists have become “enemies of the people.” Instead of criticizing “the Media” for unfair treatment, as Agnew did, Trump whips up hatred of it. Some of his most demagogic moments have been attacks on the press, often by singling out reporters and camera crews for abuse during rallies with an atmosphere of menace.

I think this is all true. Here is again a bit more:

It starts at the top, with the president’s almost daily attacks on “fake news,” and his description of leading institutions—The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, NBC—as failing and corrupt. Contempt thus has two places to settle.

At the bottom of the pyramid is an army of online trolls and alt-right activists who shout down stories critical of the president and project hatred at the journalists who report them. Between the president at the top and the base at the bottom are the mediating institutions: BreitbartDrudge Report, The Daily Caller, Rush Limbaugh, and, especially, Fox News.

Yes and no: I agree with what is being said here, but I also insist that ¨the bottom of the pyramid¨ is not ¨an army of online trolls and alt-right activists¨, although these clearly exist:

The real bottom is the combination of the stupidity or the ignorance or the wishful thinking that marks very many Americans, simply because without any of these three things the whole ¨army of online trolls and alt-right activists¨ would have no success.

Then again, this was all from the beginning of the article, and there is a lot more. This is a recommended article.


5. Diagnosing the West with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

This article is by Andre Vltchek on The Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:
Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.

By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.

Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.

One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’). Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.

Rebellion is not only discouraged, it is fought against, brutally. For the tiniest misdemeanors or errors, people end up behind bars. As a result, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita than any other country on Earth, except the Seychelles.

And as a further result, almost all conversations, but especially public discourses, are now being controlled by so-called ‘political correctness’ and its variants.

To start with, while it very probably is true that in ¨Western culture¨ ¨almost everyone is under (..) scrutiny¨ the same goes for ¨non-Western culture¨ - and I put quotation marks around the last term simply because I do not know what Vltchek means by ¨Western culture¨.

I also think the above description is a bit too strong and somewhat misleading, from my own (leftist) perspective, but I let that be.

Mr. Vltchek seems to be some 12 years younger than I am. He is billed as ¨a philosopher¨, but I did not see any academic degrees. He is not billed as a psychologist. I have - excellent - academic degrees in both subjects, and what I am concerned with in this review is the following:

Let’s look at the definition of sadism, or professionally, Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD), which both the United States and Europe could easily be diagnosed with.

This is an excerpt of a common definition of the SPD, which appears in Medigoo.com and on many other on-line sites:

…The sadistic personality disorder is characterized by a pattern of gratuitous cruelty, aggression, and demeaning behaviors which indicate the existence of deep-seated contempt for other people and an utter lack of empathy. Some sadists are “utilitarian”: they leverage their explosive violence to establish a position of unchallenged dominance within a relationship…”

It is familiar, isn’t it? The Empire’s behavior towards Indochina, China, Indonesia, Africa, Latin America, Russia, the Middle East and other parts of the world.

I am sorry, but this is nonsense for quite a few reasons. I will not list them all, but here are my main reasons:

(1) ¨The United States¨ and ¨Europe¨ (and ¨Indochina, China¨ etc.) are not persons nor do they
     have personalities. The term ¨SPD¨ simply does not apply to these entities.
(2) It is true that the the sadistic personality disorder was considered but not included in the DSM
     III (of 1980), but it was neither considered nor included in the DSM-IV nor in the DSM-5.
(3) The whole concept on which any DSM is based, namely that in the end any DSM is a
       private affair of the APA
is completely non-scientific; the DSMs are fundamentally
     mistaken and misleading; and to insist on not only classifying acts and persons as sadists
     (in some sense), but also to insist this definition must - somehow - be part of - some - DSM
     is a (rather serious) mistake.

Here are some brief explanations:

In the first place, countries are not persons nor do they have personalities. Therefore the whole idea of describing them as if they were persons is a serious and fundamental category mistake.

And while I do not disagree with some sort of thesis that quite a few of the military men, the policemen, the spies, the government officials etc. may be sadists (in some sense), all of these
are real persons with real personalities (however sick), while countries and groups simply are not.

In the second place, in case you are interested in ¨sadistic personality disorder¨ (as defined in 1980, i.e. nearly forty years ago), the last link is indeed to a definition on the medigoo.com.

Again, this applies only to real physical persons, and besides (what Vltchek doesn´t mention) the definition (in terms of numbered points) is at least supposed to be in observational terms only, while in fact the DSM III has no or very little discusion of sadism from a wider perspective.

And in the third place I think Mr. Vltchek is either confused or ignorant about what any of the DSMs is - and ¨DSM¨ = ¨Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders¨ really is. I have neither the time nor the taste to review the DSMs here once again, but I did so in 2012, and that was a good and quite long essay that I can strongly recommend to anyone with a serious interest in psychology or psychiatry: DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis". NB: This essay is over 371 Kb long and contains rather a lot of philosophy of science.

And my own - psychologist´s and philosopher´s - criticism of the DSMs is (in the end) that I completely reject the - secret, private, non-scientific - procedures that are used to set up its definitions; I completely reject the whole idea of a - private, non-scientific - DSM (there were some 50 definitions of ¨mental disorders¨ in the DSM-II; in the DSM-IV and DSM 5 there are some 450 definitions of precisely the same ¨mental disorders¨); I completely reject the virtual death of theory in psychiatry; and in fact the only thing I accept from it are the observational definitions they contain of various ¨mental disorders¨, and not because they are necessarily good (they often are not), but because (i) they are observations, and (ii) there is nothing better at the present time.

So I totally reject Mr. Vltchek´s ideas. Here is the last bit of this article:

One of the most frightening things about mental illnesses is that the patient usually does not realize that he or she is suffering from them.

It is about the time for the rest of the world to treat the West as a mental patient, not as the ‘leader of the free and democratic world’.

We have to think, to gather, to develop a strategy of how to deal with this unfortunate, in fact, terrible situation!

If we refuse to understand and to act, we may all end up in the most dangerous situation: as complacent servants of the perverse whims of a frustrated, extremely aggressive and truly dangerous SPD patient.

Well... ¨the West¨ is neither a person nor does it have a personality and this is itself more than sufficient reason to reject the whole idea of ¨the West as a mental patient¨: it simply is nonsense.



Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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 (!!).


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