June 5, 2018

Crisis: Ceasar Trump *2, Deregulations, US Ambassadors, Lying Zuckerberg, Defeated Reason


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 5, 2018
     B. One Extra Bit

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, June 5, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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 June 5, 2018:
1. Trump Says Appointment of Special Counsel is ‘Totally Unconstitutional’
2. Reagan, Deregulation and America’s Exceptional  Rise in Health Care

3. Germans Appalled by Threat From Trump’s Ambassador to Help
     Far-Right Nationalists Take Power Across Europe

4. Did Mark Zuckerberg Lie to Congress About Facebook's User Privacy?
5. Is Donald Trump Above the Law? He Clearly Thinks So — and the Threat
     to Democracy is Real
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. Trump Says Appointment of Special Counsel is ‘Totally Unconstitutional’

This article is by Michael Shear on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
President Trump declared on Monday that the appointment of the special counsel in the Russia investigation was “totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” and asserted that he had the power to pardon himself, raising the prospect that he might take extraordinary action to immunize himself from the continuing inquiry.

In a pair of early-morning tweets, Mr. Trump suggested that he would not have to pardon himself because he had “done nothing wrong.” But he insisted that “numerous legal scholars” had concluded that he had the absolute right to do so, a claim that vastly overstated the legal thinking on the issue.

I say - but yes: Caligula Trump said so. Since he was elected (not by a majority) he has behaved as a Ceasar, and the above is more of the same, for now he asserts that he is totally beyond any law.

Then there is this (and of course Trump lied):

Mr. Trump’s assertion that “numerous legal scholars” believe he could pardon himself ignores the one official opinion on the subject. In August 1974, just days before former President Richard M. Nixon resigned, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Mary C. Lawton, said in a memorandum that “it would seem” that Mr. Nixon could not pardon himself.

She wrote that such a pardon would appear to violate “the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.” But she did not explain how that principle would limit the constitutional power of the president to pardon.

Well... Lawton is a legal scholar, and as one who has been exposed to the (Dutch) laws regularly (which I mostly won, but that is an aside) I know that legal scholars doubt that 2+2=4 or that it either rains or else does not rain, until a judge approves these mathematical and logical truths.

I have studied logic and say that of course no one can be his own judge in a legal case in any decent democracy. Then again, I agree that democracy has been mostly killed in the USA, and not just by Trump but by Reagan, Clinton, Bush Jr. and Obama as well, though indeed it is also true that Trump is the worst of the lot, probably in part because he is insane (I say, as a psycho- logist - and please check the last link).

Here is some more, this time by the leader of the Democrats:

“No president has the power to pardon himself or herself, if they did the presidency would function above and outside the law,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, on the Senate floor. “If a president can pardon himself, then it’s virtually a monarchy, as far as the president is concerned.”

I don't like Schumer, but he is quite correct in the above, and this is a recommended article.

2. Reagan, Deregulation and America’s Exceptional  Rise in Health Care Costs

This article is by Austin Frakt on The New York Times. This is from near its beginning:

The 1980s divergence in health costs, some readers and experts observed, coincided with a broad push toward deregulation.

Gary Gaumer, an associate professor at Simmons College School of Business, pointed to changes in how hospitals and doctors were paid. Before the early 1980s, payments by Medicare and other insurers were tied to costs. If it cost a hospital, say, $5,000 for a patient’s surgery, that’s what the hospital was paid, plus a bit more for reasonable profit.

But then payers (private insurers and government health care programs like Medicare) began to shift financial risk to providers like hospitals and doctors. It started with a law that began affecting most hospitals in 1983, changing how Medicare paid hospitals to a fixed price per visit, regardless of the actual costs. This approach later spread to other Medicare services and other payers, including private insurers. If providers could get costs down, they made money. If they couldn’t, they lost money.

“Hospitals and other providers began to behave more like businesses,” Mr. Gaumer said. “And the culture of health care delivery began to change.”

In fact, this article is about health care costs in the USA, and refers back to an earlier article that I have not read. But yes, the above quotation is quite right - I think, and have argued at length in the last 5 years of Nederlog - in stating there is a strong relation between deregulations (which amounts to taking down laws that protected the many non-rich from the depradations the few rich could impose on them) and the enormous health care costs in the USA, that started to rise since Reagan became president.

And the article is right about Medicare as well. Here is what has been happening in health care in the USA since the 1980s:

The 1980s deregulatory agenda was evident in states as well. Many abandoned health care price and capital investment controls. Managed care — in the form of health maintenance organizations — was the free-market replacement to government regulations. Investor-owned, shareholder-driven, for-profit companies became common in health care for the first time. They focused on revenue and profit maximization, not cost control.

“‘Greed is good’ was more than a catchy movie line — it was the Me Decade’s dominant theory,” Professor McDonough said. “No other advanced democracy embraced deregulated health care markets in the way that the U.S. did. It swept through health care as it did every other part of the U.S. economy.”

I think Donough is quite right, although I must add that the Dutch (I happen to be Dutch, unfortunately) also know how to do this:

In 1975 my health care insurance cost 20 euros a month and was complete, without me having to pay anything; in 2018 my health care insuranxe costs 170 euro a month, and I have to pay almost 400 euros of my own costs before getting restituted anything, and meanwhile the glasses I got for free from 1975 till 2000 now cost 800 euros.

These are enormous advances for the few rich, and that is one reason why I see neofascism (in my sense: check the link) arising from Reagan and Thatcher onwards. There are many more reasons and this is a recommended article.

3. Germans Appalled by Threat From Trump’s Ambassador to Help Far-Right Nationalists Take Power Across Europe

This article is by Robert Mackey on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

The German government demanded a formal explanation from the United States on Monday of what, exactly, the new U.S. ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, meant when he promised to use his office to help far-right nationalists inspired by Donald Trump take power across Europe.

In an interview with Breitbart News, published on Sunday, Grenell said he was “excited” by the rise of far-right parties on the continent and wanted “to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders.”

As I have been saying for over two years now, I think Trump is a neofascist madman. It does not quite follow logically that his ambassadors must be men (or women) like Trump, but this Grenell sure sounds as if he is Trump-alike.

Here is more on him:

Grenell, a former Fox News pundit whose abrasive Twitter style had already alienated many Germans, tweeted on Monday that it was “ridiculous” to suggest that he would endorse candidates or parties, but stood by his claim to Breitbart that Europe, like America, was “experiencing an awakening from the silent majority — those who reject the elites and their bubble. Led by Trump.”
Of course a president and a bilionaire like Trump does not belong to the elite ... according to Trump himself, and according to his spokesman Grenell, that is. (How idiotic can you be in politics these days? As idiotic as you please, seems to be the correct answer.)

Finally, here is Verhofstadt, a European I do not like:
Guy Verhofstadt, a former prime minister of Belgium who now leads the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a free-market group in the European Parliament, tweeted: “We have to defend Europe against Trump. It’s not up to his ambassador to influence our elections and steer our society. We respect the sovereignty of the U.S., they have to respect ours.” Verhofstadt added the hashtag #GrenellRaus — “Grenell Out” — to his tweet.
But Verhofstadt is right in what was quoted above, and this is a recommended article.

4. Did Mark Zuckerberg Lie to Congress About Facebook's User Privacy?

This article is by Julia Conley on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

At least one member of Congress regarded new information about Facebook’s data-sharing partnerships with tech companies as evidence that the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, lied to lawmakers in April about the control users have over their information on the social media platform.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Facebook formed deals with at least 60 makers of cell phones and other devices allowing them access to users’ personal information and that of their Facebook friends, without explicit consent.

Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Samsung were among the companies Facebook reached agreements with, allowing the companies to access users’ relationship status, religion, political views, and upcoming events they attend.

Of course Mark Zuckerberg lied to Congress. And incidentally, it is my - strongly confirmed - guess that the vast majority of the 2 billion members of Facebook do use cell phones or tablets, both of which seem still to be open to all manner of advertisers.

Here is some more (and "other devices" comprises tablets):

Facebook prohibited tech developers from accessing the data of users’ friends after discovering the Cambridge Analytica breach in 2015, but the makers of cell phones and other devices were not subject to the restriction.

“It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant, told the Times of the new revelations.

And therefore Soltani is quite right: Pretended locksmith Zuckerberg handed out their keys to protect their privacies to his paying friends who can still steal their privacies. (And that is how it is with all Zuckerberg's deceptions of the "dumb fucks who trusted" him.)

Here is the last bit I quote from this article, which is abput a former advertising and privacy official of Facebook:

Sandy Parakalis, a former advertising and privacy official at Facebook who left the company in 2012 and has raised concerns over its use of users’ data, posted on twitter about Zuckerberg’s earlier statements and urged lawmakers to hold the CEO accountable for the newly uncovered privacy breach.

Yes, I think Parakalis is quite right - but I am not going to quote his series of Tweets because I hate Tweets. There are some in the article, which is recommended.

5. Is Donald Trump Above the Law? He Clearly Thinks So — and the Threat to Democracy is Real

This article is by Chauncey De Vega on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from near its beginning:

Beginning with Trump's 2016 campaign and now through to the second year of his presidency, for Salon and my podcast I have spoken with dozens of the world's leading historians, sociologists, political scientists, philosophers, psychologists, psychiatrists and journalists, as well as former intelligence and other national security experts about the crisis and threat to American democracy posed by Trump.

There is a consensus: Donald Trump is an authoritarian and a demagogue. He means what he says. None of Trump's words or threats are empty or mere hyperbole.

The rule of law is the only thing protecting America and the country's citizens from Trump, the Republican Party and their allies' campaign against democracy, civil rights, and the common good.

Well... I agree that "Donald Trump is an authoritarian and a demagogue", but in fact - as I have been arguing since the beginning of 2016, with academic degrees in philosophy and in psychology - I think he also is a neofascist (in my sense: see the link) and a madman (in the sense of the DSM-5, for in those terms he is a narcissist, which is a serious personality disorder).

Also, I don't quite agree with "None of Trump's words or threats are empty or mere hyperbole" but here my argument is less conclusive, for I think that Trump is a madman, but he also knows that many of his lies are lies - or else he is even more mad than I think, namely if he still (for example) genuinely believes there were more people attending Trump's presidential inauguration than Obama's. (I admit I do not know.)

Here is a summary of Trump plus Trump's lawyers asserting that Trump's election elected a Ceasar rather than a president:

On Saturday afternoon, the New York Times published a confidential memo from Trump's attorneys which was sent to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year. This document is ominous: It reveals how just how imperiled under assault the Constitution and rule of law are under Trump's presidency. Once more it is tempting to announce that a type of Rubicon has been crossed in America. But in truth every day seems to bring a new low in our ongoing civic disaster.

Trump's lawyers, the Times reminds us, have asserted "that he cannot be compelled to testify" either to Mueller or before a grand jury, and argued in the confidential letter "that he could not possibly have committed obstruction [of justice] because he has unfettered authority over all federal investigations."

Here is more on Ceasar Trump's presumptions:

As the Times reporters drily continue, Trump’s "broad interpretation of executive authority is novel," and may ultimately be tested in court. In essence, Trump's lawyers have claimed that the Trump is the law, an American king who may not rule by divine right but certainly believes that he is the embodiment of the State and the ultimate decider of what justice.

Quite so. Then again, you and I may agree this is crazy, illegal, undemocratic, unreasonable, etc. but Trump and his lawyers disagree, while the mainstream media all lie at least in the direction of Trump, namely by not saying he is lying:

The American corporate news media, for the most part, continues to aid and abet Donald Trump by refusing to name his lies as such (they are often described instead as "misstatements," "falsehoods," "exaggerations" or "deflections"), offering a platform for his professional liars and other propagandists and engaging in dangerous exercises of "both sides do it" or "what-aboutism." The media's professional commitment to "balance" and "fairness" becomes meaningless when one side of the debate has utter disdain for democracy and the very idea of a free and independent press.

And not only that, for if Trump's lies reach the Supreme Court, the last 50 years of moves towards neofascism (in my sense: see the link) have produced a supreme court that may agree with Trump in majority and indeed also on completely incoherent grounds.

O well... This is a strongly recommended article.

B. One Extra Bit

This is an extra bit in the crisis series. I did so before a few times. This time it is about physics, mathematics and philosophy, which are three subjects I have been seriously interested in for 50 years now.

This is the article, which is over 100 Kb, but it is quite good and well-written:

In fact, it is a review of two books, both of which seem to be quite good. The writer of the article is an American philosopher of science and physicist called Tim Maudlin. I did not know of him before today, but I liked his article a lot, which is the reason I review it.

Then again, I immediately admit I cannot properly review it in the context of Nederlog because the article takes over 100 Kb, and therefore I shall give just three quotations.

The first is the start of the article:

People are gullible. Humans can be duped by liars and conned by frauds; manipulated by rhetoric and beguiled by self-regard; browbeaten, cajoled, seduced, intimidated, flattered, wheedled, inveigled, and ensnared. In this respect, humans are unique in the animal kingdom.

Aristotle emphasizes another characteristic. Humans alone, he tells us, have logos: reason. Man, according to the Stoics, is zon logikon, the reasoning animal. But on reflection, the first set of characteristics arises from the second. It is only because we reason and think and use language that we can be hoodwinked.

Not only can people be led astray, most people are. If the devout Christian is right, then committed Hindus and Jews and Buddhists and atheists are wrong. When so many groups disagree, the majority must be mistaken. And if the majority is misguided on just this one topic, then almost everyone must be mistaken on some issues of great importance. This is a hard lesson to learn, because it is paradoxical to accept one’s own folly.
Quite so and well put, except for the last statement: I agree that "if the majority is misguided on just this one topic, then almost everyone must be mistaken on some issues of great importance", and in fact strengthen it to the thesis that absolutely everyone must be mistaken on some issues (including myself), but I deny that it follows (or is true) that "it is paradoxical to accept one’s own folly".

My reason is basically that one may be quite rational - as indeed many philosophers of science and many academic skeptics
have been - in saying one does not know everything, and indeed also in saying that one is uncertain about many things.

Anyway... Here is what this article is about (but I deny it is a "paradox", other than in the sense of "unexpected consequence"):

The two books under consideration here bring the paradox home, each in its own way. Adam Becker’s What Is Real? chronicles the tragic side of a crowning achievement of reason, quantum physics. The documentarian Errol Morris gives us The Ashtray, a semi-autobiographical tale of the supremely influential The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) by Thomas S. Kuhn. Both are spellbinding intellectual adventures into the limits, fragility, and infirmity of human reason. Becker covers the sweep of history, from the 1925 birth of the “new” quantum physics up through the present day. Morris’s tale is more picaresque. Anecdotes, cameos, interviews, historical digressions, sly sidenotes, and striking illustrations hang off a central spine that recounts critical episodes in the history of analytic philosophy.

I have written about Errol Morris (plus Thomas Kuhn) before, and agree with Morris (and personally rejected Kuhn (and Feyerabend) already in 1971, on what were then and now quite good grounds from my knowledge of philosophy of science).

I do not know Becker, but I have spend considerable attention on quantum mechanics, especially in 1982 and in 2000, and have seen now that my arguments from then currently belong to a group of persons who distinguish between two senses of saying no: One can deny things, as in saying "it is not true that p" and one can also falsify things, as in saying "it is false that p" (and the latter logically implies the former, but not conversely).

And I discovered the distinction myself in February of 1975, but did not succeed in properly working out its consequences for quantum mechanics.

There is also this about Errol Morris:

The subtitle of Errol Morris’s new book is, “Or the Man Who Denied Reality.” That might suggest a biography of Bohr, but the face on the cover is that of Thomas Kuhn. A renowned documentarian known for his dogged pursuit of truth that got one man off death row, Morris had a short-lived stint as Kuhn’s graduate student at Princeton. The cut-glass ashtray of the title was hurled at Morris’s head by Kuhn in a fit of pique. Morris has never forgiven Kuhn. And the ashtray is the least of it. Morris loathed Kuhn’s relativism and abandonment of reason and evidence, and Kuhn loathed Morris back.

Morris’s book is a settling of scores, both personal and philosophical. It is also delightful, digressive, unpredictable, engrossing, amusing, infuriating, and visually stunning.

As I said, I am completely with Morris, and indeed despise Kuhn myself since 1971, and indeed not because of what he said so much as because he said so much quite unclearly (while pretending to be clear).

Here is the last bit I quote from this fine article, which is in bold because it is set apart from the main text, in bold:

Errol Morris’s clash with Thomas Kuhn was preordained: it is one thing to remark how hard truth can be to establish, and quite another to deny that there is any truth at all.

Quite so - and I say once again that from 1978 onwards the following was the ideology of the "University" of Amsterdam, for then I (and hundreds of others) was told the following by a professor opening the academic year 1978-79, and he did so literally, though in Dutch:
  • "Everybody know that truth does not exist."
I said that was an utter lie, and in thanks was called "a dirty fascist" and "a terrorist", until I was denied the right of taking my - excellent - M.A. in philosophy in 1988. Also, almost no one else in Holland agreed with me, and in fact I have concluded that most Dutchman agree there is no truth: For them ignorance, stupidity, conformism and wishful thinking defeated reason.

This is a strongly recommended article, at least for intelligent persons.


[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 (!!).
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