October 9, 2018

Crisis: Homeless America, Brazil´s Bolsonaro, Supreme Court, Kavanaugh, The New ¨Impartiality¨


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 9, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, October 9, 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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from October 9, 2018:
1. Homeless America
2. Brazil’s Bolsonaro-Led Far Right Wins a Victory
3. Historian Howard Zinn Warned Us About the Supreme Court
4. Why elite men like Brett Kavanaugh lie and cheat without

5. Bias – The New Impartiality
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. Homeless America

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
It is 8 a.m. I am in the small offices of Street Roots, a weekly newspaper that prints 10,000 copies per edition. Those who sell the newspaper on the streets—all of them victims of extreme poverty and half of them homeless—have gathered before heading out with their bundles to spend hours in the cold and rain.
The men and women, most middle-aged or elderly, sit on folding chairs that hug the walls. They are wrapped in layers of worn and tattered clothing. Some cradle small dogs. Others cup their hands around disposable coffee cups and take small sips. The weekly newspaper was founded in 1998. It focuses on issues surrounding social and environmental justice as well as homelessness. It also reprints poems and artwork by the 180 vendors, who buy the paper for 25 cents a copy and sell it for a dollar.
The average age at death for a man is 51 and for a woman 43. Nearly half succumb to alcohol or drugs, 28 percent are hit by vehicles and 9 percent commit suicide. Life expectancy plummets once you become homeless. From 50 to 80 homeless people die on the streets of Portland every year, and many more in its hospitals.
I say, which I do because I did not know most of the things mentioned in the above quotation (and Street Roots looks OK to me).

Here is more from the article:
These men and women, and increasingly children, are the collateral damage of the corporate state, their dignity and lives destroyed by the massive transference of wealth upward, deindustrialization and the slashing of federal investment in affordable housing begun during the Reagan administration. The lack of stable jobs that pay a living wage in the gig and temp economy, the collapse of mental health and medical services for the poor, and gentrification are turning America into a living hell for hundreds of thousands of its citizens. And this is just the start.
Yes, I think that is quite correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
As we barrel toward another economic collapse, the suffering endured by those on the streets will become ever more familiar, especially with the corporate state intent on further reducing or eliminating social services in the name of austerity. Nothing will halt the downward spiral other than sustained civil disobedience. The two ruling political parties are wedded to an economic system that serves the corporate rich and punishes and criminalizes the poor and the working poor. Over half the country is probably only a few paychecks away from being on the streets.
I think this is quite correct as well - and to provide one comparison between my Dutch self, who has been ill since nearly 40 years, whose illness was not regarded as real until March of this year (2018), and who has always - for 50+ years - earned less than the least possible legal income in Holland (mostly because the dole pays less, and I have been in the dole for 32 years):

I have been living very carefully indeed, but then I can - at present, at least - survive for some five months without any pay (thanks to my pension, that is also again lower than the lowest pension, but more than the dole).

And I do not know how long this will last, and in Holland pensions have been lessened as well.

Anyway... there is a lot more in this article, and most is quite depressing, but is also strongly recommended.

2. Brazil’s Bolsonaro-Led Far Right Wins a Victory

This article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept. It starts as follows (and no, I do not copy titles which are three lines in length):
For the past thirty years, Congressman Jair Bolsonaro was a fringe extremist in Brazilian politics, known mostly for outlandish, deliberately inflammatory quotes
in which he paid homage to the most notorious torturers of the 1964-1985 military regime, constantly heralded the 1964 coup as a “defense of democracy,”
told a female socialist colleague in Congress that she was too ugly to “deserve” his rape, announced that he’d rather learn that his son died in a car accident than was gay, and said he conceived a daughter after having four sons only due to a “moment of weakness.” (Last September, he used Google to translate a Brazilian epithet for LGBTs to, in essence, call me a faggot on Twitter). 

His policy prescriptions were even more deranged. Western media has often referred to him as “Brazil’s Trump” but that is wildly inaccurate, understating the case by many magnitudes. In temperament, ideology, and personal history, Bolsonaro – a former Army Captain during Brazil’s notorious 21-year military dictatorship – is far closer to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte or Egyptian dictator General Abdel El-Sisi than Trump.

I say, and I did not know most of the things mentioned in the above quotation. Here is more on Bolsonaro:

He has criticized monsters such as Chile’s Pinochet and Peru’s Fujimori – for not slaughtering more domestic opponents. He had advocated that mainstream Brazilian politicians be killed. He wants to chemically castrate sex offenders. In all respects, the hideous Brazilian military dictatorship that took over Brazil and ruled it for 21 years – torturing and summarily executing dissidents, with the support of the US and UK in the name of fighting Communists – is his model of governance.

As a result of last night’s truly stunning national election in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has been instantly transformed from marginalized clown into the overwhelmingly dominant force in the country’s political life. Bolsonaro himself fell just short of winning the 50% needed to win the presidency without a run-off.

Well... I conclude two things from this quotation: First, Bolsonaro is a very dangerous total idiot (not in the sense that he is without brains but in the sense he is without any morality or ethics) and second, but with much less certainty, that either most of the Brazilians are utter idiots (intellectually) who have been grossly deceived by their media or else that these elections have been frauded.

I do not know which of the last two possibilities is more realistic, and my main reason is that I do not know enough about Brazil.

Here is more from the article:

But given the margin of victory, he is the overwhelming favorite to win on October 28 against the second-place candidate, ex-São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad. Haddad is the previously unknown, hand-picked successor anointed by Lula, the ex-two-term President who had been leading all polls until he was convicted on dubious corruption charges and quickly imprisoned so as to bar his candidacy, then silenced by Brazil’s right-wing judiciary with a series of remarkable prior restraint censorship orders barring all media outlets from interviewing him.

Bolsonaro won with most demographic groups. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, Bolsonaro won a shocking 60% of all votes cast, winning every neighborhood and district, most with more than 50% of the votes cast.

I must say that I find that pretty suspect, as is the following:

What was most startling was how wildly inaccurate Brazil’s typically reliable polling data turned out to be, under-estimating the far-right wave by such a massive quantity that it’s difficult to describe in words.

Well, one plausible answer is that Bolsonaro won so much because the elections were fraudulent. And no, as I said above, I do not know how likely this was for lack of information about Brazil.

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

It’s all part of a global trend, undermining liberal democracies, fueled by their own failures, that has no end in sight. Quite the contrary: the trend seems to be accelerating, with each country’s similar movement synergistically feeding and strengthening one another.

I do not think I agree with this, in part because I myself think that any halfway intelligent person who likes democracy (and that should be the most) can and should know that even a failing democracy is considerably better and safer than a tyranny, which is what Brazil seems to get as its next government.

And besides, if I were Glenn Greenwald (who is not only an opponent of Bolsonaro, but also a homosexual who lives with his Brazilian friend in Brazil) I would want to move out from Brazil. And this is a recommended article in which there is considerably more.

3. Historian Howard Zinn Warned Us About the Supreme Court

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

These are the facts. The Senate majority, which the Republican Party currently holds with 51 seats, presently represents 18 percent of the country’s population. Following Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, four of the Supreme Court’s nine justices have been appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote. Two of those justices attended the same D.C. area prep school.

If the United States government faces a legitimacy crisis, it’s one that has been building for 18 years, if not longer than that. In 2000’s Bush v. Gore decision, five conservative justices determined that Florida could not conduct a recount of its heavily disputed election results—a decision that effectively handed the presidency to the Republican candidate. “Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear,” John Paul Stevens, who was appointed by Gerald Ford, wrote in his dissent. “It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

I more or less agree, although I think I should remark that many judges and many prosecutors are elected in the USA, which does not seem to me the best way to select them, simply because most voters will not have adequate ideas about the law.

Here is Howard Zinn:

“It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds,” he wrote. “Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.”
“The Constitution gave no rights to working people: no right to work less than twelve hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions,” he continued. “Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance.”

Actually, I do not think it is naive to believe that it is the duty of the Supreme Court to - also - ¨defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds¨ although I probably agree with Zinn that it is naive to depend for this on the Supreme Court.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article (and it is by Zinn):

“No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence—an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—be fulfilled.”

Well... yes and no: Yes, I agree that ¨fundamental changes¨ probably do depend ¨on the actions of an aroused citizenry¨, but then again ¨equal rights¨ of any kind are legal rights, so the law does get involved - somehow - in any case. But this is a recommended article.

4. Why elite men like Brett Kavanaugh lie and cheat without consequences

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on Salon. It starts as follows:

Brett Kavanaugh is now a Supreme Court justice. The FBI's limited investigation of the sexual assault accusations against him was clearly inadequate. Numerous leads were ignored and dozens of potentially important witnesses were not interviewed. Moving beyond a political cover-up to a level of gross malfeasance, the FBI -- at the direction of Donald Trump's White House -- did not interview either Christine Blasey Ford or Julie Swetnick, two of Kavanaugh's three known accusers.

It was clear from the beginning that this "reopened" background check was used by Donald Trump's White House to provide a fig leaf and an excuse for those Republicans whose consciences were "troubled" by the numerous and credible allegations by multiple people that Brett Kavanaugh actively participated in a culture of excessive drinking, sexual harassment, violence and perhaps rape while a young man at Georgetown Preparatory School and then Yale University.

This ploy worked. Like Trump himself -- indeed more so -- Kavanaugh is a member of the white male elite. As such he has been taught that he is entitled to power as a birthright. The Supreme Court is his destiny. Like other elite white men in America, Kavanaugh and Trump have also proven themselves to be master liars for whom the rules of normal society do not apply. There is to be no accountability for the rich and powerful in America.

I think this is more or less correct, but I did not like the interview that follows with a professor of education (which I am sorry, but is not a science) and I totally skip that.

5. Bias – The New Impartiality

This article is by Kit on The Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:
Impartial: n. not partial or biased, treating or affecting all equally.
That’s the dictionary definition of the word “Impartiality”. Up until very recently, it was not a complicated or controversial concept in any way. But these days meanings are rather more fluid than they used to be. Free speech doesn’t necessarily involve being able to speak freely. Democracy doesn’t necessarily involve voting.

And “impartial journalism” doesn’t necessarily involve being impartial.

At least, according ITV’s political editor Robert Peston. Speaking at the Cheltenham literature festival, he’s quoted in the Guardian as saying:

Impartial journalism is not giving equal airtime to two people one of whom says the world is flat and the other one says the world is round. That is not balanced, impartial journalism.”

Well... the ¨example¨ Preston gives is boloney, and he might as well have said that 2+2=5, which also is not believed by anyone except by the near brain dead. What Peston really seems to believe, if he is honest, is this:

But that’s not TRUE impartiality anymore, according to Robert.

[impartial journalism is about] weighing the evidence and saying on the balance of probabilities…this is the truth. It is the role of a journalist to say, ‘we’ve got these two contradictory arguments, I’m now going to advise all of you which is likely to be closer to the truth.’”

Under Robert’s new and improved version of “impartial journalism”, one side would get more air time because they are probably right. The other side, the wrong side, would get some time to make their case, but afterwards a friendly (and “impartial”) servant of the state would tell all their viewers to ignore it. That it had been declared officially wrong by the powers that be, and all good citizens should disregard it entirely.

This is, of course, nonsense.

Well... in a solid sense I agree with Kit, but I also think it is less nonsense than totalitarianism (on which no one sane can believe the Wikipedia anymore, which seems to grow worse every day) and it is totalitarianism because deciding what the truth is is not a function of journalists, nor of editors, nor of those who pay these, but must be done (correctly or incorrectly) by the readers or viewers of the journalists.

Then there is this in the article:

Television news has a simple task: Provide an unbiased, open and honest platform to supply the public with information.

Robert’s words attack this very idea, instead turning the news into a means to enforce state-sanctioned consensus through emotional blackmail and manipulative corporate virtue-signalling.

This follows a disturbing trend, a direct flow from no-platforming on campuses, to calls to shut down RT or banning Alex Jones from social media. It can all be read as one thing: a direct, media-driven push toward state-backed censorship under the guise of protecting the public. Enforcing a one-sided consensus under the false-flag of a sacred duty to “truth” or a hallucinatory public virtue.

Whatever mask it wears – whatever veneer is layered on its surface – the solid body of the issue is still the same: censorship.

I agree mostly with Kit, except that I do not think Preston´s journalism is either nonsense or censorship, though I agree it probably entails these, but it is totalitarianism, and indeed quite explicitly so.

Here is the last quotation I provide from this article and it occurs near its end:

The truth doesn’t require a shield. The truth isn’t fragile or vulnerable or soft. It doesn’t need guards to protect it, a filter to clarify it or a marketing campaign to promote it. The truth doesn’t need a bullhorn to blare it out or censorship to prop it up. The truth is a lion, not a lamb.

Yes and no, and my point is easily seen if you ask ¨how is the truth presented (in journalism, or in any other instance)?" And the answer to that is - alas - that even what seems to be the truth according to the vast majority of scientists (as in climatology) may these days either be not reported at all, or else gets often reported in a strongly biased way.

Finally, there is also the point that there are several other definitions of being impartial, two of which are these.

First, here is the definition from the Cambridge English Dictionary (under ¨American English¨):
able to judge or consider something fairly without allowing your own interest to influence you:

And second, this is from the Wikipedia:
Impartiality (also called evenhandedness or fair-mindedness) is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the benefit to one person over another for improper reasons.
I think either definition is better than the one offered by Kit, but her article is recommended. 

[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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