June 7, 2018

Crisis: On Kim Jong-un, Family Separations, The Census, Chomsky & Neoliberalism, Slogan Voters


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 7, 2018


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, June 7, 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 7, 2018:
1. Kim Jong-un’s Image Shift: From Nuclear Madman to Skillful Leader
2. Family Separation at Border May Be Subject to Constitutional
     Challenge, Judge Rules

3. The Unconstitutional Census Power Grab
4. Noam Chomsky Explains Exactly What's Wrong with Libertarianism
5. Slogan Voters – The Road to Political Masochism
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. Kim Jong-un’s Image Shift: From Nuclear Madman to Skillful Leader

This article is by Choe Sang-Hun on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
He ordered his uncle executed and half brother assassinated. He spent millions developing and testing a hydrogen bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles as his people suffered severe food shortages. He exchanged threats of nuclear annihilation with President Trump, calling the American leader a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”

That was last year’s image.

In more recent months, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has achieved one of the most striking transformations in modern diplomacy.

The man described by critics as a murderous dictator and nuclear lunatic has held hands and had heart-to-heart talks with South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, who has encouraged and abetted Mr. Kim’s makeover.

Yes, this is more or less true, and is so because of the way it is described, namely in terms of two different (public) images for Kim Jong-un.

Then again, some underlying relevant facts are these (it seems to me):

(1) Kim Jong-un is the dictator of North-Korea, which is a totalitarian dictatorship run by the
     Kim family since the early 1950-ies (and Jong-un is the third Kim in line), and
(2) the present approach, with Moon Jae-in, is in the end due to the fact that both North and
     South Korea will be blown up in a nuclear war (apart from whatever else will be blown up),
(3) which has been threatened by both Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

I think all of these are facts, but as I said: I agree with Choe Sang-Hun on the radical shift in the public image of - especially - Kim Jong-un.

Here is some more:

With a dazzle of diplomatic initiatives in the run-up to his historic June 12 summit meeting with Mr. Trump in Singapore, Mr. Kim has effectively redefined himself. Some South Koreans now see him as more reliable than Mr. Trump despite the decades-long alliance between their country and the United States.

Mr. Kim’s enhanced standing among South Koreans was crystallized by recent images of him walking in the woods with Mr. Moon, and on a beach with President Xi Jinping of China discussing North Korea’s nuclear program.

The optics contrasted with what many South Koreans view as Mr. Trump’s scattershot diplomacy, in which he abruptly canceled the Singapore summit meeting, then reversed himself after Mr. Kim authorized a calm statement
offering Mr. Trump “time and opportunity” to change his mind.
Well... I grant the public image of Kim Jong-un has changed somewhat (for the moment, at least), but he remains a totalitarian dictator. I think it has changed mainly because Kim Jong-un thinks it quite possible that the USA will use atomic weapons against him, in which case he is lost, as will be both Koreas, while the South-Korean leader, Moon Jae-in agrees with this analysis.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

In the West, Mr. Kim, 34, has often been caricatured as a chubby child toying with nuclear missiles. Mr. Trump, more than twice his age, has called Mr. Kim “short and fat,” a “sick puppy” and a “little rocket man.”

But when Mr. Trump meets Mr. Kim, the American leader will be dealing with the ruler of a totalitarian regime adept at political theatrics to bolster Mr. Kim’s charisma at home and advance his agenda abroad.

Yes, this is more or less correct, and there is more in this article, that is recommended.

2. Family Separation at Border May Be Subject to Constitutional Challenge, Judge Rules

This article is by Miriam Jordan on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
A federal judge in San Diego on Wednesday refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s practice of taking children from immigrants when they arrive at the border to seek asylum, ruling that the “wrenching separation” of families may violate the Constitution’s guarantees of due process.

“Such conduct, if true, as it is assumed to be on the present motion, is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency,” Judge Dana M. Sabraw of the Southern District of California wrote in his 25-page opinion.

The judge rejected the government’s claim that the practice of family separations — one of the most controversial features of the government’s crackdown on illegal immigration — cannot be challenged on constitutional grounds, though he did dismiss a separate challenge claiming that the practice violates asylum laws.

The ruling in the case, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, suggests the court would be open to considering a claim that taking children away from parents who are legally trying to seek asylum in the United States constitutes a violation of the family’s rights to due process.

Well... I completely agree with Judge Dana M. Sabraw (though perhaps not on the asylum laws, but this is merely an aside, here and now).

Here is what presently is happening in the USA:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last month that the administration would criminally prosecute everyone who illegally crosses the Southwest border, in what he called a “zero tolerance” policy intended to deter new migrants, mainly from Central America.

In most of those cases, children traveling with those immigrants are now taken to separate detention facilities, often hundreds or thousands of miles away.

One of the plaintiffs in the case was a Congolese woman who had been separated from her 7-year-old daughter after applying for asylum at the border in San Ysidro, Calif. According to the lawsuit, the pair had turned themselves in to agents at the port of entry, but after about five days, the child was taken away “screaming and crying, pleading with guards not to take her from her mother,” according to the suit. The child was sent to a shelter in Chicago.

I'd say myself this is plain terrorism, by the American police, directed against families who committed no crimes (other than - perhaps - illegally crossing some border).

Here is more on the case served before Judge Sabraw:

Only parents who are abusive or unfit to care for their children can legally have them taken away, the suit argued.

“In the strongest possible language, the court rejected the Trump administration’s claim that these families have no constitutional right to remain together,” said Mr. Gelernt, who argued the case.

I agree with Gelernt, and this is a recommended article.

3. The Unconstitutional Census Power Grab

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

The Trump administration’s decision to alter the 2020 Census to ask people if they are American citizens is an unconstitutional power grab that would hurt many disadvantaged Americans. It must be stopped. 

The U.S. Constitution calls for “actual enumeration” of the total population for an explicit purpose:  To count the residents – not just citizens, residents – of every state to properly allocate congressional representatives to the states based on population.

Asking whether someone is a citizen could cause some immigrants — not just non-citizens, but also those with family members or close friends who aren’t citizens — not to respond for fear that they or their loved ones would be deported. In the current climate of fear, this isn’t an irrational response.

I completely agree with Reich. Here is more:

The result would be a systemic undercounting of immigrant communities – with two grossly unfair results.

First, these communities and the states they’re in would get less federal aide. Census data is used in over 132 programs nationwide to allocate over $675 billion each year.

An undercount would deprive many immigrant communities and their states of the health care, education and assistance they need and are entitled to.  

Second, these communities and the states they’re in would have fewer representatives in Congress. The Census count determines the distribution of congressional seats among states. Under the Constitution, these seats depend on the total number of people residing in the state, not just citizens.

Again I completely agree. Here is the ending of the article:

This is nothing but a Republican power grab orchestrated by the White House. Tell your members of Congress, it must be stopped.

Quite so, and this is a recommended article. 

4. Noam Chomsky Explains Exactly What's Wrong with Libertarianism

This article is by Michael Wilson and Noam Chomsky on AlterNet and originally on Modern Success. This is from near the beginning:
As an out-spoken, actual, live-and-breathing anarchist, I wanted to know how he could align himself with such a controversial and marginal position.

Michael S. Wilson: You are, among many other things, a self-described anarchist — an anarcho-syndicalist, specifically.  Most people think of anarchists as disenfranchised punks throwing rocks at store windows, or masked men tossing ball-shaped bombs at fat industrialists.  Is this an accurate view?  What is anarchy to you?

Noam Chomsky: Well, anarchism is, in my view, basically a kind of tendency in human thought which shows up in different forms in different circumstances, and has some leading characteristics.  Primarily it is a tendency that is suspicious and skeptical of domination, authority, and hierarchy.  It seeks structures of hierarchy and domination in human life over the whole range, extending from, say, patriarchal families to, say, imperial systems, and it asks whether those systems are justified.  It assumes that the burden of proof for anyone in a position of power and authority lies on them.  Their authority is not self-justifying.  They have to give a reason for it, a justification.  And if they can’t justify that authority and power and control, which is the usual case, then the authority ought to be dismantled and replaced by something more free and just.  And, as I understand it, anarchy is just that tendency.  It takes different forms at different times.
Yes, this is a decent articulation of a fundamental intuition on which anarchism (of which there are many different kinds) is based. It may be shortened by saying that anarchists question power, and dislike situations and societies where some have much more power (which usually coincides with: much more wealth) than others.

I am also an anarchist in this sense (in fact: since 1971) and I may refer you to my Nederlog article "On Socialism", in which I discuss various kinds of socialism, including Chris Hedges's, George Orwell's and my own.

Here is some more on Noam Chomsky's own kind of anarchism:
Anarcho-syndicalism is a particular variety of anarchism which was concerned primarily, though not solely, but primarily with control over work, over the work place, over production.  It took for granted that working people ought to control their own work, its conditions, [that] they ought to control the enterprises in which they work, along with communities, so they should be associated with one another in free associations, and … democracy of that kind should be the foundational elements of a more general free society.  And then, you know, ideas are worked out about how exactly that should manifest itself, but I think that is the core of anarcho-syndicalist thinking.  I mean it’s not at all the general image that you described — people running around the streets, you know, breaking store windows — but [anarcho-syndicalism] is a conception of a very organized society, but organized from below by direct participation at every level, with as little control and domination as is feasible, maybe none.
I more or less agree with anarcho-syndicalism (see my "On Socialism"), but I do not think I am an anarcho-syndicalist, and that is mainly because if I have to opt for a specific kind of anarchism I opt for a kind of philosophical anarchism, that - quite probably, but I don't know - is less optimistic than Chomsky's anarchism.

It is so because I believe that while intelligent, well-educated, people of good will towards others, will be sympathetic of a kind of society that will be anarchistic in some senses (such has being against large differences in wealth, large differences of power, and for social and personal freedom), I have also concluded, again already in 1971, that so far there have not been enough
intelligent, well-educated, people of good will with anarchic inclinations to create anything like an anarchistic society (on any large scale).

Also - and this very probably is based on my personal experiences - I have been educated in a communist family (by sincere, intelligent, very courageous parents, but with little formal education), and one of the lessons I learned from that is that I deeply detest what seems to me the basic activity of many leftist groups, which is to attack other leftist group as traitors of some social ideal.

And I did not want to be part of any such a leftist group anymore, since I was 21, also not if I nominally agreed with its presumptions.

Back to Wilson and Chomsky. Here is Chomsky on (neo-)libertarianism:

Wilson: (...) Why should we choose anarchy, as opposed to, say, libertarianism?

Chomsky: Well what’s called libertarian in the United States, which is a special U. S. phenomenon, it doesn’t really exist anywhere else — a little bit in England — permits a very high level of authority and domination but in the hands of private power:  so private power should be unleashed to do whatever it likes.  The assumption is that by some kind of magic, concentrated private power will lead to a more free and just society.
I more or less agree, although I think this is mainly about neoliberalism, which in fact is a kind of neo-conservatism, that in practice often - not: always - comes down to neofascism (in my sense, and check the link if you haven't done so: it is a good definition, unlike many others, and indeed virtually all "definitions" - of anything whatsoever - that I have seen from any journalist).

Here is more by Chomsky, who starts in fact speaking about what I prefer to call
Chomsky: Yes, and so well that kind of libertarianism, in my view, in the current world, is just a call for some of the worst kinds of tyranny, namely unaccountable private tyranny.  Anarchism is quite different from that.  It calls for an elimination to tyranny, all kinds of tyranny.  Including the kind of tyranny that’s internal to private power concentrations.  So why should we prefer it?  Well I think because freedom is better than subordination.  It’s better to be free than to be a slave.  It's better to be able to make your own decisions than to have someone else make decisions and force you to observe them.
I basically agree, although I think my sum-up of most kinds of anarchism - against large differences in wealth, against large differences of power, and for social and personal freedom - seems to me to be a bit clearer.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:
(Chomsky:) And the other means of control are control of beliefs and attitudes.  And out of that grew the public relations industry, which in those days described itself honestly as an industry of propaganda.

The guru of the PR industry, Edward Bernays — incidentally, not a reactionary, but a Wilson-Roosevelt-Kennedy liberal — the maiden handbook of the PR industry which he wrote back in the 1920s was called Propaganda.  And in it he described, correctly, the goal of the industry.  He said our goal is to insure that the “intelligent minority” — and of course anyone who writes about these things is part of that intelligent minority by definition, by stipulation, so we, the intelligent minority, are the only people capable of running things, and there’s that great population out there, the “unwashed masses,” who, if they’re left alone will just get into trouble:  so we have to, as he put it, “engineer their consent,” figure out ways to insure they consent to our rule and domination.  And that’s the goal of the PR industry.  And it works in many ways.  Its primary commitment is commercial advertising.
Yes indeed. In fact, Edward Bernays's "Propaganda" is on my site, under the last link. But his basic view was as Chomsky indicated: There is only a small number of really intelligent people; these are always the rich; and the few and intelligent rich should have virtually complete control over the “unwashed masses”, because these cannot be trusted to think for themselves.

There is considerably more in this article, and it is strongly recommended.

5. Slogan Voters – The Road to Political Masochism

This article is by Ralph Nader on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Nearly a year and a half into his presidency, Donald Trump continues to hold his base and maintain an approval rating of around 40% – close to the same percentage he polled at just after his inauguration.  Let’s try to figure out why. 
Yes indeed, this is - alas - quite true. Then again, I think I have figured out why, and I put it under five headings: stupidity, ignorance, conformism, egoism and wishful thinking. Each of these five has been defined in my Philosophical Dictionary, and I strongly advise you to read all five if you have not done so.

Here is a part of Nader's explanation of why 40% of the U.S. voters voted for Trump, and in large majority still do (and I say: because of satisfying one or more of the above five grounds):
It can’t be because he lies as a matter of daily routine.  It can’t be because he’s giving away our store to big business – engaging in crony capitalism, creating more tax loopholes for corporations, shredding corporate crime enforcement, knowingly exposing Americans to more toxic pollution, committing more business fraud, adding more hazards to the workplace, cutting access to health insurance, and thereby making America dread again. 
It can’t be because he’s taking your tax dollars away from repairing your infrastructure back home – schools, public transit, bridges, highways, airports, power grids, drinking water systems, etc., and pouring money into the bloated Pentagon budget beyond what even the Generals requested.  (The huge “infrastructure project”  he promised has yet to be proposed to Congress.)
It can’t be because he is soiling our society’s moral and ethical fabric and breaking the Golden Rule.  (Trump is a peerless Oval Office bully, lashing out against the weak, powerless and defenseless.)
I agree with Nader on what " It can’t be", and in fact there are more such arguments in Nader's article.

Here is Nader on what he thinks is one important reason why so many Trumpian voters in 2016 still support Trump:
President Trump’s words and deeds have not changed the minds of 40 percent of people polled.  What else is going on here?
One answer is Slogan Voters.  I’ve spoken to  many people who are still for Trump despite all of his lies and misdeeds.  They don’t pay much attention to politics.  When they do, they reveal themselves as Slogan Voters.  They are content with Trump’s rhetoric and rarely look beneath the surface at the details.  That is, they are not bothered by being fact-deprived in political matters.
Here is what they tell me:  They hate Hillary.  They like Trump.  They repeat the three slogans:  Make America Great Again, Drain the Swamp, and Lock Her Up!  Over and over again.
Well... I agree with Nader that there is a large group of Slogan Voters. But then again, I think I explain there existence by insisting on the presence of large groups of Americans (voters and non-voters) who are in fact suffering from stupidity, ignorance, conformism, egoism and/or wishful thinking.

The article ends as follows:

One thing you have to credit these Slogan Voters for:  THEY VOTE!!
Yeah, “Making America Great Again, Drain the Swamp, and Lock Her Up!”​
Yes indeed - but then I think my explanation makes sense, and indeed besides that there is the fact that half of all Americans have an IQ of maximally 100. And this is a 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 (!!).
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