June 8, 2018

Crisis: Chemicals, Guantánamo, Ecuador & Assange, "Russia-gate", On The Nature of Reality


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 8, 2018


This is a Nederlog of Friday, June 8, 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 8, 2018:
1. The Chemical Industry Scores a Big Win at the E.P.A.
2. U.S. Military Plans as if Guantanamo Won't Close for Decades
3. Ecuador Continues Playing Hardball With Assange
4. Still Waiting for Evidence of a Russian Hack
5. Consensus reality has outlived its evolutionary usefulness
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. The Chemical Industry Scores a Big Win at the E.P.A.

This article is by Eric Lipton on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
The Trump administration, after heavy lobbying by the chemical industry, is scaling back the way the federal government determines health and safety risks associated with the most dangerous chemicals on the market, documents from the Environmental Protection Agency show.

Under a law passed by Congress during the final year of the Obama administration, the E.P.A. was required for the first time to evaluate hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals and determine if they should face new restrictions, or even be removed from the market. The chemicals include many in everyday use, such as dry-cleaning solvents, paint strippers and substances used in health and beauty products like shampoos and cosmetics.

But as it moves forward reviewing the first batch of 10 chemicals, the E.P.A. has in most cases decided to exclude from its calculations any potential exposure caused by the substances’ presence in the air, the ground or water, according to more than 1,500 pages of documents released last week by the agency.

Instead, the agency will focus on possible harm caused by direct contact with a chemical in the workplace or elsewhere. The approach means that the improper disposal of chemicals — leading to the contamination of drinking water, for instance — will often not be a factor in deciding whether to restrict or ban them.

I say, for I did not know this, and it seems quite crazy to me. For consider what this means:

(1) The EPA will no longer test how dangerous chemicals may cause problems for ordinary people
(2) The EPA will test only how these may be dangerous to people who come into direct contact
     with them, which means
(3) the public - ordinary people - will have to face these dangers themselves, without warnings,
     and without any knowledge.

At least, that is what is seems to mean to me. That is, in a fanciful example: If you are living close to a factory that is producing arsenic, those who are producing it directly (still) will be tested for its dangers, but none of the people living around the factory, even though it may be polluting the air with tiny amounts of arsenic (that may kill you eventually).

Here is more on this craziness:

The approach is a big victory for the chemical industry, which has repeatedly pressed the E.P.A. to narrow the scope of its risk evaluations. Nancy B. Beck, the Trump administration’s appointee to help oversee the E.P.A.’s toxic chemical unit, previously worked as an executive at the American Chemistry Council, one of the industry’s main lobbying groups.

And there you are... in brief, the profits of big firms are much more important than your health or your risks of getting poisoned by big firms. This is a recommended article, in which there is considerably more.

2. U.S. Military Plans as if Guantanamo Won't Close for Decades

This article is by Ben Fox on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
A new dining hall for guards at the Guantanamo Bay detention center has a shimmering view of the Caribbean and a lifespan of 20 years. Barracks scheduled to start getting built next year are meant to last five decades. And the Pentagon has asked Congress to approve money for a new super-max prison unit to be designed with the understanding that prisoners will grow old and frail in custody — some perhaps still without being convicted of a crime. President Donald Trump’s order in January to keep the Guantanamo jail open, and allow the Pentagon to bring new prisoners there, is prompting military officials to consider a future for the controversial facility that the Obama administration sought to close.
Yes, indeed - and I regard Guantanamo Bay as a concentration camp of the USA, and I am very much against concentration camps in part because my grandfather was murdered in one, and my father survived over 3 years and 9 months in four others, both because they resisted the Nazis between 1940 and 1945: I know how very dangerous they are.

Here is some more on the USA's own concentration camp (on Cuban territory, not on U.S. territory):

The detention center opened in January 2002 under President George W. Bush as a makeshift place to hold and interrogate people suspected of involvement with al-Qaida and the Taliban. Global outrage erupted over the treatment of prisoners and the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that anyone held there was entitled to challenge their detention in American courts, eliminating one of the main rationales for using Guantanamo in the first place.

Bush eventually said the jail should close and released more than 500 prisoners. Obama said the facility was damaging U.S. relations around the world and was a waste of money, costing more than $400 million a year to operate, and ordered it closed shortly upon taking office. But Congress blocked closure and passed legislation that barred any of the men held there from being transferred to U.S. soil, even for criminal trials. His administration transferred 242 prisoners out of Guantanamo.

Trump has so far allowed only one prisoner to leave: a Saudi who was transferred to his homeland to serve out the rest of his sentence as part of a plea deal.

So it seems as if madman Trump's neofascistic government has decided that the USA may need fifty years more of illegal wars everywhere, with people characterized as "terrorists" simply because they oppose the USA, and being tortured if caught at Guantanamo (and many other places, for the USA has many places where it can torture people or have them tortured).

It is a sick shame
, but that is what much of the present world is. This is a recommended article.

3. Ecuador Continues Playing Hardball With Assange

This article is by James Cogan on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
On Monday Ecuadorian Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa was elected to a one-year term as president of the United Nations General Assembly. On Tuesday she declared that her government would continue blocking WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange from all communications and deny him any personal visitors. On Wednesday it became 10 weeks since Ecuador’s government deprived Assange of his rights, which it is obliged to honor after granting him political asylum in its London embassy in 2012.
After the vote, Espinosa again hinted that Ecuador is working to force Assange out of the embassy into the clutches of waiting police and the prospect of extradition to the United States on charges of espionage. She stated she was in discussion with both British authorities and Assange’s lawyers. “I think all parties are interested in finding an outlet, a solution, to this complex situation,” she declared.
I say. Well... in my opinion the Ecuadorians are now (indeed after a new government was elected) keeping Assange as if he is in prison in their embassy, simply because they are blocking "Julian Assange from all communications and deny him any personal visitors".

Here is some more:
Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno last year slandered Assange as a “hacker” and described the granting of political asylum to him by the previous president as an “inherited problem.”

Washington is demanding Assange’s head. Then CIA director Mike Pompeo, now U.S. secretary of state, asserted last year that WikiLeaks was a “non-state hostile intelligence agency,” due to its publication of documents exposing the operations of U.S. intelligence.
I say - and Pompeo was for torturing people, while the present new director of the CIA - Gina Haspel - is a torturer.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
It appears Assange is being used as a bargaining chip in sordid negotiations between the U.S. and Ecuador. On June 4, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met Moreno. Amid the stepped-up persecution of Assange, Pence issued a statement lauding their discussion on “opportunities to reinvigorate the bilateral relationship” between the two countries. In words dripping with what sounded like imperialist deceit, Pence said the two countries would work together “to protect and promote freedom” and “build prosperity, security and democracy.”

Such “freedom” apparently does not include freedom of speech or freedom of the press, at least as far as WikiLeaks is concerned. “Democracy” apparently does not include the right to expose war crimes and other misdeeds of the U.S. and other Western governments. The “freedom” espoused by Pence means submitting to the world’s wealthiest interests.
Yes indeed. And this is a strongly recommended article. 
4. Still Waiting for Evidence of a Russian Hack

This article is by Ray McGovern on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
If you are wondering why so little is heard these days of accusations that Russia hacked into the U.S. election in 2016, it could be because those charges could not withstand close scrutiny. It could also be because special counsel Robert Mueller appears to have never bothered to investigate what was once the central alleged crime in Russia-gate as no one associated with WikiLeaks has ever been questioned by his team.
I agree with Ray McGovern, indeed quite simply because I have never seen any credible evidence that Russia was responsible for Hillary Clinton's failure to win the presidency of the USA, rather than Clinton herself (which I think is the case).

Besides, I have been agreeing with McGovern and others since 2016 - o, and incidentally: I do not say Russia did nothing whatsoever; I say that whatever they did was not (by far) sufficient to make Russia responsible for Hillary's many failures.

Also, and as an aside: Russia is not a socialist state anymore, since no less than 27 years now - in fact it is as capitalist as is the USA.

Anyway, here is some more:
On January 18, 2017 President Obama admitted that the “conclusions” of U.S. intelligence regarding how the alleged Russian hacking got to WikiLeaks were “inconclusive.” Even the vapid FBI/CIA/NSA “Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections” of January 6, 2017, which tried to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for election interference, contained no direct evidence of Russian involvement.  That did not prevent the “handpicked” authors of that poor excuse for intelligence analysis from expressing “high confidence” that Russian intelligence “relayed material it acquired from the Democratic National Committee … to WikiLeaks.”  Handpicked analysts, of course, say what they are handpicked to say.

Never mind. The FBI/CIA/NSA “assessment” became bible truth for partisans like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, who was among the first off the blocks to blame Russia for interfering to help Trump.  It simply could not have been that Hillary Clinton was quite capable of snatching defeat out of victory all by herself.  No, it had to have been the Russians.
Precisely. Here is the ending of McGovern's article:
In view of the highly politicized environment surrounding these issues, I believe I must append here the same notice that VIPS felt compelled to add to our key Memorandum of July 24, 2017:

“Full Disclosure: Over recent decades the ethos of our intelligence profession has eroded in the public mind to the point that agenda-free analysis is deemed well nigh impossible. Thus, we add this disclaimer, which applies to everything we in VIPS say and do: We have no political agenda; our sole purpose is to spread truth around and, when necessary, hold to account our former intelligence colleagues.

“We speak and write without fear or favor. Consequently, any resemblance between what we say and what presidents, politicians and pundits say is purely coincidental.” The fact we find it is necessary to include that reminder speaks volumes about these highly politicized times.
I think the VIPS's article - that I earlier reviewed here - is correct, and this is a recommended article.

5. Consensus reality has outlived its evolutionary usefulness

This article is by Catte on The Off-Guardian. It starts as follows - and I decided to review this article, rather than another one, because academically speaking I am a philosopher and a psychologist:
The nature of reality used to be a philosophical, metaphysical contemplation. But now it’s political. There’s a struggle going to to take ownership of what defines it. And our most instinctive ideas about what it is need to re-evaluated.

Reality beyond our immediate awareness is constructed from information received via personal anecdote to some extent, and beyond that, by information streaming services such as news outlets, blogs, independent journalists.

A process of reality-modification is ongoing, continuously updated, on a personal and a collective level. On the collective level reality is constructed through assimilation. Daily announcements are made – usually via mainstream or social media – that certain events have occurred or that a trend is being observed somewhere. These events/trends will be analysed, debated, compared to other similar or contrasting events/trends, and gradually synthesised into the ever-evolving thing we call “the real world.”

Yes, this is more or less correct. (For a somewhat more precise but still abstract analysis see the bits in my Philosophical Dictionary on natural realism, naturalism and also postmodernism.)

That is, each of us lives in his or her own world composed of his or her own sensations from the external world or his or her own body, together with inferences and guesses based on these sensations and ideas from others about these sensations.

Also, conversely, if we get some sort of theory, inference or guess from somebody else about something (which we do about most things that are important for considerable numbers of people, if we belong to these people), we may criticize or embrace the theory, inference or guess, but we also tend to find evidence from people who claimed to have been there when the things were (supposedly) being sensed.

Here is why this is - in principle, and with quite a few unstated qualifications - a rational process:

There’s a good reason for this. In evolutionary terms, accepting collective narrative testimony as being broadly true is a rational thing to do.
It’s equally rational, on this basic human level, to think that the larger the number of individuals telling you something, the greater the likelihood this something will be true. In a world view dominated by direct observation and – at most – second hand testimony, such multiple certitude is very very likely to be broadly grounded in fact.
So our innate tendency to believe “majority” statements that are authenticated by collective observation is actually very sound and grounded in our evolution as a societal creature.

Where it begins to fail us is when increasing civilisation removes the proximity between the reporters of events/trends and the events/trends themselves.
And at this point our instinct to trust the majority view becomes more of a hindrance than a help. Because when our thirty relatives come and tell us where the best berries are they are no longer offering you thirty individual firsthand testimonies. They are offering you the same, unverified, testimony thirty different times.

Or to put this in my terms: The whole process of testing the theories, inferences and guesses we hear from others starts to fail (as tests) when two conditions are being met:

(1) the theories, inferences and guesses we hear are no longer produced by reports about
, but by reports about theories, inferences and guesses, and especially if
(2) there also is the theory that "everybody knows that truth does not exist", that is - in
     other words - no sensations by anyone (also not by scientists) are ever to believed (e.g.
     because these all are private and personal).

Togetether these two notions - and I have been hearing that
"everybody knows that truth does not exist" ever since August of 1978, when that was asserted by the neofascist madman professor Brands during the official opening of the "University" of Amsterdam's academic year 1978/1979, and yes: this utter bullshit remained the ideology of the "University" of Amsterdam till 1995 (or later)  - means that there is no standard of truth whatsoever; that all standcards of truth are personal; and that the only thing that is there are texts and theories, and no facts whatsoever.

And indeed this is what also has been happening in the a-social media like Facebook: Someone starts a - sensational - theory, and this soon becomes a widely believed "fact" not because there is any evidence for it, but simply because many people believe it (or say they believe it, which may be the case in totalitarian countries like China).

Here is more on the process by Catte:

A strange truth about humanity is, once enough people have read something or heard something, and passed it on, our hardwired instinct to trust what our trusted people tell us begins to reinforce that information irresistibly, even in the face of refutation or evidence to the contrary, even in the face of clear proof it isn’t, and never was true.

Our consensus reality is stuffed with such anomalies. Relic “truths” that aren’t true. Relic “events” that never happened as recounted or never happened at all. Because collective, consensus “knowledge” trumps individual observation. It needed to for eons while we evolved. And now we can’t turn it off, even though it no longer makes any sense.

I agree with the second paragraph, but not with the first, and here are my reasons.

First, "our hardwired instinct to trust what our trusted people tell us" is not so much a "strange truth", but is simply based on how we learned to talk: Everybody learns to talk from his or her parents and family by learning names for sensations (and not for theories, inferences or guesses) and it is in fact this basic trust that we know what we are talking about that persists when we are adults.

Second, because very few people want to become known as liars or deceivers, it is more or less natural (though indeed often irrational) that persons who have publicly claimed something to be so, will tend to persist in public in these statements, especially if there is a group of people who support them.

And third, the problem is especially with the majority that does not know any science, that does not know any philosophy, that does not know any logic, and that does hardly know any mathematics beyond counting, while each and everyone from that majority has been lately promoted to be publishers by Facebook and other a-social media:

In fact, the major forces that are responsible for their opinions are 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 the last bit from Catte's article that I review:

It’s less that we are being intentionally deceived and more that the system itself has lost its grasp on what is real, and doesn’t much care. Real is now nothing more or less than what someone says it is. The right someone in the right place at the right time. Maybe in pursuit of an agenda. Maybe just because it’s easier or cheaper. Maybe because they really think it’s true. It doesn’t matter. No one ends up knowing the difference.

The point is our ancient concept of consensus reality isn’t working any more, and probably hasn’t been for longer than we are comfortable contemplating.
I more or less agree that - at least on the a-social media and in the mainstream media - is no longer what is really there that is discussed by the majorities, but that the "Real is now nothing more or less than what someone says it is."

But the reason is mainly that the present majorities are no longer qualified to think rationally (because they are limited by their untrained
stupidity, ignorance, conformism, egoism and wishful thinking) but nevertheless all are capable of publishing their usually stupid and uninformed opinions, and that they therefore come to accept in majority what - properly considered - are lies, dreams or fantasies.

And the problem - in my view - is not that "
our ancient concept of consensus reality isn’t working any more", but that what is reality is often no longer based on direct experiences of someone, but only on the theories or guesses someone - usually not properly qualified - that people make and believe because (once more) they are moved by their untrained stupidity, ignorance, conformism, egoism and wishful thinking.

So I do not agree with Catte, but I do recommend her article, because it at least faces some very important issues.


[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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail