January 22, 2019

Crisis: Culture of Death, Corrupt Medicine, On Islam, On Billionaires, The Rule of Law

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 22, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, January 22, 2019.

As I briefly explained yesterday, my modem ceased working on Friday, January 18. I know, because I thought and explained so to my provider, who gave me a new modem, that arrived yesterday and that I got installed in 3 1/2 hours.

It was not easy, but it did work fairly well and the new modem works well. Also, it was all done in the briefest possible time (what with the weekend). I suppose this will hold me in the coming ten years (and then I´ll be 79 or dead).

And I started today with a quotation, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I found it because it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day yesterday, but I like it a lot because (1) he said what I am thinking the last 50 years or so, and because (2) he is the only one I recall in decades of reading who joins ignorance and stupidity in a very correct and sensible manner in a single sentence.

I do not yet know whether I will continue tomorrow with this quotation, but I do like it a lot for the simple reasons that it seems both true and quite important.

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 three 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 January 22, 2019:
1. Confronting the Culture of Death
2. Rest in Dissent

3. The West Has Islam Dangerously Wrong

4. 26 billionaires now own as much as the world’s 3.8 billion poorest

5. Trump’s Assault on the Rule of Law
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. Confronting the Culture of Death

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts explicitly with an editorial message that Hedges is a Presbyterian minister and that this is a sermon that he gave on January 20:

The issue before us is death. Not only our individual death, which is more imminent for some of us this morning than others, but our collective death. We have begun the sixth great mass extinction, driven by our 150-year binge on fossil fuel. The litany of grim statistics is not unfamiliar to many of you. We are pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at 10 times the rate of the mass extinction known as the Great Dying, which occurred 252 million years ago. The glaciers in Alaska alone are losing an estimated 75 billion tons of ice every year. The oceans, which absorb over 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, are warming and acidifying, melting the polar ice caps and resulting in rising sea levels and oxygen-starved ocean dead zones. We await a 50-gigaton burp, or “pulse,” of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost on the east Siberian arctic shelf which will release about two-thirds of the total carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Era. Some 150 to 200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal are going extinct every 24 hours, one thousand times the “natural” or “background” rate. This pace of extinction is greater than anything the world has experienced since the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Ultimately, feedback mechanisms will accelerate the devastation and there will be nothing we can do to halt obliteration. Past mass extinctions on earth were characterized by abrupt warming of 6 to 7 degrees Celsius. We are barreling toward those numbers. The mathematical models for this global temperature rise predict an initial 70 percent die-off of the human species, culminating with total death.

Yes, to the best of my knowledge most of the above is quite true, unfortunately.

The corporate forces that have commodified the natural world for profit have also commodified human beings. We are as expendable to global corporations as the Barrier Reef or the great sequoias. These corporations and ruling elites, which have orchestrated the largest transference of wealth upward in human history, with globe’s richest 1 percent owning half the world’s wealth, kneel, and force us to kneel, before the dictates of the global marketplace. They have seized control of our governments, extinguishing democracy, corrupting law and building alliances with neofascists and authoritarians as the ruling ideology of neoliberalism is exposed as a con. They have constructed pervasive and sophisticated systems of internal security, wholesale surveillance and militarized police, along with criminalizing poverty, to crush dissent.

Yes, again I think most of the above is true.

Then there is this,  and here I disagree (as a philosopher and an

The point of faith is not to give us hope. It is to name and defy the forces of death. Faith is not centered around the question “How is it with me?” This is part of the narcissism of the dominant culture. Faith does not reside in infantile fantasies about inevitable human progress or personal schemes for unachievable happiness. Faith defies magical thinking. It defies our cultural and historical amnesia.

No, I don't think so, and two of my reasons are that I have a rather different idea of faith than Hedges (which I do think is - at least - more correct than Hedges) and that I am an atheist and
philosopher; that my parents were atheists; and that along my mother's line her family has been atheistic from the 1850ies onwards (which was very early).

In fact, here is part of my definition of faith in my Philosophical Dictionary:

As a rule, a faith is a simplified version of a political ideology or a religion, and plays the same role for the faithful as these: It provides ideas about what the world is (a metaphysics) and what it should be (an ethics), and besides it gives coherence, agreement, and possibilities of cooperation for the faithful, whether these are political, such as Marxists or Liberals or Conservatives, or religious, whether Christian, Mohammedan, Buddhistic or Hindu.

Usually, the truly faithful are the none-too-intelligent, who have much to fear and little power of independent individual thought, and who have therefore a strong inclination towards conformism, followership, and the belief in authorities and leaders, and who are, therefore, in times of crisis also easily moved to fanaticism.

Also, by far the best guess about leaders of the faithful is that they do not really believe the faith in which they lead, and certainly not in the way they propound the faith, but are in it for the money, the status, the power or other privileges. (See: Clergy, Priests)
But clearly this is not Hedges' definition, although I do not have a clear idea about what he understands by a faith, except that he is - indeed as a Presbyterian minister - much more sympathetic to it than I am and - in my opinion - also less scientific, indeed in part because my rejection of all religion has a great amount to do with my respect for and knowledge of real science.

There is a lot more in this article, but I'll quote just one more bit from it:

Corporate culture, like all cultures of death, makes war on love, truth, justice and beauty and numbs us to the questions about the search for meaning and the struggle to face our mortality. It spreads the dark viruses of hedonism, sexual sadism, greed, the cult of the self, the lust for power, hypermasculinity and the glorification of violence. It seeks to crush the transcendent. It lacks the capacity for empathy, awe and reverence.

Well... yes - more or less - if we are talking about "corporate culture". Then again, I do not think that all corporate culture "seeks to crush the transcendent", if only because much of corporate culture seems - somehow - inspired by some (possibly quite corrupted) Christian religion. Also, I would not be amazed if corporate culture does have some "empathy, awe and reverence", at least for those people it sees as belonging to and supporting corporate culture.

But - although I do not agree with everything Hedges is saying - this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Rest in Dissent

This article is by dr. David Healy on his blog. It starts as follows:

Fifty years ago today, January 19, Jan Palach died.  He had set fire to himself 3 days earlier in Wenceslas Square in Prague in protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. The spot was close to Charles University where Jan Hus had begun a resistance to religious oppression 5 centuries before that helped ignite the Reformation.  He may have fallen as he began to die on cobblestones made from Jewish gravestones, following the obliteration of Prague’s Jewish community in the 1940s.  There doesn’t come a much greater concentration of history in a few square metres.
I did not know that Jan Palach died fifty years ago on January 19, but I do recall him quite well (and he was just 1 1/2 years older than I am). Also, as an aside: While I thought him extremely brave, I do not agree with suicides in protest, but that is indeed an aside.

But Jan Palach is only an introduction to what dr. Healy - who is a doctor of medicine himself - has to say about medicine:

In the late 1990s, Pfizer ran clinical trials for a new antipsychotic Geodon.  In one of these trials, a person on active treatment set fire to themselves.  They died several days later.  The death was coded as death from burns rather than suicide.

This scenario is pretty standard for most of the drugs used in medicine today.  The degree of mismatch between what patients experience and what the authorities claim about the reality of treatments is as comprehensive in medicine now as any mismatch between the claims of the State and lives of its citizens ever was in Eastern Europe in the 1970s.

Just as Czechs in 1970 never met those who were the Engineers of Human Souls in Eastern Europe, so patients and even doctors don’t meet the people responsible for the forces that are making encounters in healthcare worldwide today increasingly miserable.  Doctors meet managers who insist they keep to guidelines that are based on junk. Patients meet doctors who are keeping to the guidelines.  Neither managers nor doctors nor patients get to meet those who engineer the guidelines

Yes, I more or less agree with Healy, although I have considerably stronger values and opinions about modern medicine and modern doctors, for the simple reason that both my ex and myself are now over 40 years ill with "a serious and chronic disease", that we only are allowed - by Dutch medics - to diagnose as such since March 2018, and until March 2018 the opinion of almost any Dutch doctor on the "serious and chronic disease" we both have is that we were not ill but either hallucinating or lying (for forty years, in which both of us got to be excellent M.A.s in psychology without hardly ever following any university lectures).

Also, my own factually based opinion on Dutch doctors is that 90% are incompetent about rare diseases and that 90% also lie and lie and lie against patients such as my ex and myself.

Here is some more: 

There is a resistance that is non-violent that can seem to transcend the politics and struggles of men and can apparently lead to success as with Gandhi in South Africa, turning the other cheek, or Havel and Walesa in Prague and Gdansk. This looks like it can work when we stand together but we rarely stay standing together for long – without our “leaders” having to bribe us with something.

The morality of this way of doing things sits in the balance along with what can be for some a more psychologically fitting way – a turn to violence. Rather than set fire to yourself, bring the fire down on them.   But whether with violence or without, the enduring problem is how to ensure that after the Revolution things don’t end up worse than they were before.

How do [we] restore caring to health, and how do we ensure it remains at the heart of what happens there?

Well... here are three brief remarks on the above quotation:

First, I think Gandi, Havel and Walesa failed in the end, after initial opposition and initial success (and at least Havel seems to have agreed with me, in 2010).

Second, there are serious problems with violence anyway, and Healy is correct that even if there will be some sort of revolution of the many poor against the few rich, it is not at all certain this revolution will bring what its revolutionaries hoped it would bring.

And third, my own opinion on the last question is: By changing the medical education that medics get, notably by making it more difficult to become a medical doctor. Then again, I agree that will take a long time (if it ever happens within 100 years), and it also is not by far the only thing that is required. But my ex and I have met 30 medical doctors of whom at most 10% were competent, in a rational, scientific and moral way. And this is a recommended article.

3. The West Has Islam Dangerously Wrong

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In January of 2017, one week after he was sworn into office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. Approximately 18 months later, the United States Supreme Court voted, 5-4, to uphold a revised version of Trump’s Muslim ban—a decision that Omar Jadwat of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project has lambasted as one of the worst in our nation’s history, on par with the Korematsu v. United States decision during World War II.

If nothing else, Trump’s political ascent has served as a potent reminder of Islamophobia’s pervasiveness throughout 21st century American society. How then do we dismantle these harmful stereotypes, which threaten Muslim communities both at home and broad? For Juan Cole, author of the riveting new history “Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires,” the answer would appear to be a greater understanding of the religion’s founder and formation.

I like Robert Scheer and I more or less agree with the first paragraph (although I also think that the Korematsu decision to lock up American citizens of Japanese descent because of their descent and for no other reason was more serious than the present - also serious - nonsense Trump indulges in).

But I do not agree with the second paragraph, and my main reason is that "
a greater understanding of the religion’s founder and formation" is relevant only to a quite small part of the population, while the existing Islamophobia extends over much larger groups of persons.

In fact, this is in the article as well:

In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Cole explores some of the dangers of letting hatred and bias go unchallenged. “They just did a poll in Germany where they found 44 percent of Germans think that Islam should not be practiced in Germany,” he notes. “Any time you single out a group of people as different from others, and as posing a unique kind of danger to society, that leads in very bad directions. And we have seen over and over again in modern history the directions that it can lead.”

Well... yes and no: No, you will not make a large portion of the 44 percent of Germans think that Islam should not be practiced in Germany” change their opinions about the Islam by writing books about (what you think is) the true meaning of Islam or Muhammed. And yes, "44 percent" is an awful number, and reminds me strongly of the fact that slightly over 70 years ago a similar proportion of Germans thought the same about the Jews.

Also, while I disagree with Cole, this is nevertheless a recommended article.

4. 26 billionaires now own as much as the world’s 3.8 billion poorest people

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

With Wall Street titans, tech moguls, and other members of the global financial and political elite set to gather in Davos, Switzerland this week for the annual World Economic Forum, a report published late Sunday found that the planet's richest people saw their fortunes soar by $2.5 billion per day last year as the world's poorest lost wealth.

Titled "Private Good or Public Wealth?" and conducted by Oxfam, the new analysis found that 26 billionaires now own as much wealth as the world's poorest 3.8 billion people combined.

According to Oxfam, the number of billionaires has doubled since the global financial crisis of 2008, even as average families have struggled mightily to recover.

In contrast to the soaring fortunes of the global financial elite, the wealth of the world's poorest fell by $500 million each day in 2018—an overall decline of 11 percent.

"The economy we have today is fundamentally inhuman," Paul O'Brien, vice president for policy and campaigns at Oxfam America, said in an interview with the Huffington Post.

I say, for I did not know it was as bad as this, although I like (and support) Oxfam.

Here is more - and my own remedy for this gross and major injustice is to legally forbid billionaires, namely by a law that insists that no one should earn or owe more than 20 times as much as the poorest do in a given society, on the additional understanding that these poorest must have an income that is sufficient for their fair needs (food, warmth, housing, education and health care).

Then again, I admit that such a law is quite contrary to capitalism, which means that the only way to introduce it as a law is after capitalism has died. (For more, see my Crisis: On Socialism.)

Back to the article:

Singling out U.S. President Donald Trump and the Republican Party's $1.5 trillion in tax cuts for the rich as the kind of upward redistribution that has worsened inequality at the expense of the world's poor and working class, O'Brien said that only transformative political and economic changes across the globe will be sufficient to close the gap between the rich and everyone else.

"The recent U.S. tax law is a master class on how to favor massive corporations and the richest citizens," O'Brien said in a statement. "The law rewards U.S. companies that have trillions stashed offshore, encourages U.S. companies to dodge foreign taxes on their foreign profits, and fuels a global race to the bottom that benefits big business and wealthy individuals."

"The only winners in the race to the bottom on corporate tax are the wealthiest among us. Now is the time to work towards a new set of tax rules that work for the many, not the few," (..)

I agree with O'Brien, though indeed he is less radical than I am, which indeed in the present situation also seems more realistic. And I totally agree with him on the American taxes.

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

"People generally are beginning to realize that they have been sold a bad bill of goods," O'Brien said. "Today, 262 million kids are going to stay home because there is no funding for their education, 10,000 people today will die because they don’t have access to basic healthcare that could easily be funded through proper fiscal systems."

Oxfam's analysis concludes that only a "human economy" that guarantees essential services like healthcare, education, and housing to all—funded by higher taxes on the ultra-rich—can begin to resolve the inequities that are producing mass suffering and threatening the existence of the planet.

According to Oxfam, "if the richest one percent paid an additional 0.5 percent tax on their wealth, an estimated $418 billion would be raised a year. This alone would ensure an education for the 262 million children currently not in school and provide healthcare that could save the lives of more than three million people."

"Inequality is not inevitable," Oxfam's report concludes, "it's a political choice."

I agree with Oxfam - although I consider it quite unlikely that the rich billionaires will agree that they should pay 1/2 of 1 percent of their incredible riches for the millions of starving and uneducated people. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Trump’s Assault on the Rule of Law

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

The “rule of law” distinguishes democracies from dictatorships. It’s based on three fundamental principles. Trump is violating every one of them.

The first principle is that no person is above the law, not even a president. Which means a president cannot stop an investigation into his alleged illegal acts.

Yes indeed. Here is more:

The second principle is that a president cannot prosecute political opponents.  Decisions about whom to prosecute for alleged criminal wrongdoing must be made by prosecutors who are independent of politics.

Yes, this is also correct. Here is more:

The third principle is that a president must be respectful of the independence of the judiciary.  Yet Trump has openly ridiculed judges who disagree with him in order to fuel public distrust of them.

He recently referred to the judge who halted Trump’s plan for refusing to consider asylum applications an “Obama judge,” and railed against the entire ninth circuit in which that judge serves.

John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, condemned Trump’s attack. “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges,” Roberts said. An “independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

I agree with Reich, but I do not agree with Roberts. In fact, Roberts may be verbally correct that there are no "Obama judges or Trump judges", but then again there certainly are conservative judges and non-conservative judges, and Trump tries to nominate as many conservative judges into the Supreme Court as he can.

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

Almost a half-century ago, I watched as another president violated these three basic principles of the rule of law, although not as blatantly as Trump. The nation rose up in outrage against Richard Nixon, who resigned before Congress impeached him. 

The question is whether this generation of Americans will have the strength and wisdom to do the same.

Yes, I agree - and like Reich (or so it seems) I am quite pessimistic, but hope to be mistaken.
[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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