Oct 30, 2016

Crisis: Truth & War, AT&T, Obama & Hillary, Gorbachev & Nuclear War
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Why the Truth Might Get You Fired
2. Will the DOJ or FCC Stop the AT&T Merger from Creating
     World's Largest Media Conglomerate?

Obama, Who Let Citigroup Staff His First Cabinet, Calls
     for Voter Solidarity

4. Mikhail Gorbachev Appeals for Sanity, Dialogue


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, October 30, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about truth and war, and I didn't like it; item 2 is about AT&T's planned merger to Time Warner; item 3 is about - I take it - Hillary Clinton's cabinet (that probably is ready now, but won't be released till January); and item 4 is about Gorbachev and nuclear war.

-- Constant part, for the moment --

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: I do not know, but it may be you need to click/reload twice or more to see any changes I have made. This certainly held for me, but it is possible this was caused by the fact that I am also writing it from my computer. (It was OK yesterday, but not the week before.)

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: It now works again (!), but I do not know how long it will keep working. The Dutch site still is a mess.

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.


1.  Why the Truth Might Get You Fired

The first item today is by Lawrence Davidson (<-Wikipedia) on Consortium- news:
  • Why the Truth Might Get You Fired

This has a summary with which I'll start:

The tension between intelligence analysts and political policymakers has always been between honest assessments and desired results, with the latter often overwhelming the former, as in the Iraq War, writes Lawrence Davidson.

Really now? I think this summary seems to forget a few relevant things - and in formulating the following points "all" must be read as saying "nearly all or most prominent politicians" - and I explain myself after the points, albeit briefly:

(1) all politicians are liars
(2) all politicians are ideologists of some kind
(3) all politicians have propagandists who popularize their policies
(4) very few politicians are really accountable for what they did in power

The first point applies to politicians who pretend they are able to lead towns or countries, rather than small villages, and applies to their character rather than their strict veracity.

My main reason for it, apart from the fact that most politicians do lie a lot, is that no one is reasonably able to guide the lives of hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions or hundreds of millions in any rational way with 1440 minutes a day, in which he or she has to sleep 1/3rd of the time, and in fact has hardly free time, and needs to decide most issues in minutes, rather than hours, days or weeks. [2]

To believe that you can guide so many people in so little time in any rational and reasonable fashion is to have fundamental illusions about your capacities.

The second point denies politicians are philosophers or scientists. First of all, they rarely are philosophers or scientists: Most politicians are lawyers, it seems, and law is neither a science nor a philosophy.

And they rarely have any worked out philosophy or science. What they do have is a small set of ideas about what reality is (metaphysics) and a small set of ideals (values) about what reality and human beings should be like (ethics), but it is rarely worked out.

The third point is about the interface between politicians and people: Politicians nearly always lie to the people, even if they tell them the truth (which doesn't happen all that often), namely because what they tell tends to be carefully decontextualized, and does not mention many things that are relevant as a matter of fact.

And the fourth point has most to do with power: If you belong to the factually very few who do have the real political power in your country, everyone else in your country normally has considerably less power, and while they may criticize you verbally, they normally lack the power to make you behave otherwise than you do. And after you have ceased to be powerful, generally most attention is not on you anymore, but on those now in power. [3]

Next, there is this:

For those who might wonder why foreign policy makers repeatedly make bad choices, some insight might be drawn from the following analysis. The action here plays out in the United States, but the lessons are probably universal.

No, I don't think so and my reasons are that the United States were rather different in the first Iraq war, in 1991, and quite different in the second Iraq war, and that the differences were especially in (1) having a professional army much rather than a drafted one (which was effected by Richard Nixon) and in (2) denying most journalists real access to the war zones (they were "embedded", if they were there at all) while both the army and the government mostly delivered propaganda rather than truth.

And I think both differences are quite relevant and quite large, and in fact amounted to a closure on most real information from war zones in which the United States now is involved (for 15 years, as well).

Then there is this:

Back in the early spring of 2003, George W. Bush initiated the invasion of Iraq. One of his key public reasons for doing so was the claim that the country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons and was hiding other weapons of mass destruction. The real reason went beyond that charge and included a long-range plan for “regime change” in the Middle East.

For our purposes, we will concentrate on the belief that Iraq was about to become a hostile nuclear power. Why did President Bush and his close associates accept this scenario so readily?

The short answer is Bush wanted, indeed needed, to believe it as a rationale for invading Iraq.

No, I don't think so. First, I am not particularly interested in Bush Jr.'s needs, beliefs or desires, but much more in his government. And second, his govern- ment took the decision to pretend that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons because they wanted to convince the public that the war they were planning was morally justified. And they did so, initially, speaking all the time of "Weapons Of Mass Destruction". This was plain propaganda from the very start - and it worked, certainly in the beginning.

But the nuclear weapons gambit proved more fruitful, not because there was any hard evidence for the charge, but because supposedly reliable witnesses, in the persons of exiled anti-Saddam Iraqis (many on the U.S. government’s payroll), kept telling Bush and his advisers that the nuclear story was true.

No, I don't think so at all: Of course Bush Jr and his government were quite capable of thinking that anti-Saddam Iraqis (on the U.S. government's payroll as well) are far from reliable when testifying about Saddam. But Bush Jr and his government nevertheless acted as if they believed them simply because this fit in with their propaganda.

Then there is this:

(...) it is almost certain that the “social and behavioral sciences” cannot give the spy agencies what they want – a way of detecting lies that is better than their present standard procedures of polygraph tests and interrogations. But even if they could, it might well make no difference, because the real problem is not to be found with the liars. It is to be found with the believers.

I believe the beginning but not the end of this bit: First, truth remains all important even if it has been replaced by propaganda: In the end, politicians are judged by what they did, rather than what they told they did, at least in countries which are non-totalitarian and not authoritarian. And second, while it is true that all leading politicians are ideologists, propagandists and liars to some extent, and often to a large extent, it is also true that the present United States, since Bush Jr., is far more propagandistic and far less concerned with the real truth than previous American governments, (i) because they succeed- ed in locking out most independent journalists from the war zones, (ii) because the papers are far more compliant than they used to be when they still had money from advertisements, and (iii) because the US governments since 2001 simply relied much more on propaganda than on fact, and especially about a war that now takes 15 years and is faught effectively in some seven countries (with drones).

Then there is this:

(..) Gaukel has declared, “We’re looking for truth. But we’re particularly looking for truth that works.” Now what might that mean?

I can certainly tell you what it means historically. It means that for the power brokers, “truth” must match up, fit with, their worldview – their political and ideological precepts. If it does not fit, it does not “work.” So the intelligence specialists who send their usually accurate assessments up the line to the policy makers often hit a roadblock caused by “group think,” ideological blinkers, and a “we know better” attitude.
Yes and no, and my negative point again is related to the fact that all American governments since the first one of Bush Jr, that started the war with Iraq on false propaganda reasons, have isolated themselves far more from factually informed criticisms of its policies than earlier American governments, and is also far more relying on propaganda than earlier American governments.
What does this sad tale tell us? If you want to spend millions of dollars on social and behavioral science research to improve the assessment and use of intelligence, forget about the liars. What you want to look for is an antidote to the narrow-mindedness of the believers – the policymakers who seem not to be able to rise above the ideological presumptions of their class – presumptions that underpin their self-confidence as they lead us all down slippery slopes.

No. All prominent politicians lie to the public and do so much of the time, if not directly than indirectly, namely by not saying very many things they know to relevant; all prominent politicians are ideologists; all prominent politicians have presumptions they probably will stick to no matter what evidence they get, but the problems with the present USA are that it has been deliberately engineered so as to have far more space for military operations, and far more space for propaganda than before.

2. Will the DOJ or FCC Stop the AT&T Merger from Creating World's Largest Media Conglomerate?

The second item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!

  • Will the DOJ or FCC Stop the AT&T Merger from Creating World's Largest Media Conglomerate?

This starts with the following introduction:
Telecommunications giant AT&T has agreed to purchase Time Warner for $85 billion. If approved by federal antitrust regulators, the megamerger would give AT&T control over Warner Bros. film and television studios, along with CNN, TNT, HBO and many other brands. Critics warn of further limits to competition and higher prices for customers. The merger could also allow AT&T to give preferential treatment to streaming video from Time Warner’s companies, which would violate the principles of net neutrality. Meanwhile, AT&T is bracing for what is expected to be a lengthy antitrust review of the deal, which must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department and possibly by the FCC. "If you’re not a Time Warner shareholder, ... if you’re not a Wall Street banker, there is very little in this deal for you," says Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, which has come out against the multibillion-dollar merger.
This is a good summary introduction, and there is more on AT&T and on its Project Hemisphere, that has been stealing all data from all AT&T's customers and from anyone that appeared on its servers, since 1989 (!!!) at least.

Here is first some more on both:

AMY GOODMAN: AT&T has clashed with the FCC in recent years on a number of fronts. The company was among those that sued the FCC in 2015 to block the Obama administration’s landmark rules on net neutrality, which bar internet service providers from obstructing or slowing down consumer access to web content.

Meanwhile, new details have emerged about how AT&T has been spying on Americans for profit. The Daily Beast reports AT&T is keeping private call records and selling the information to authorities investigating everything from the war on drugs to Medicaid fraud. The secret plan is called Project Hemisphere.
And here is Craig Aaron, who is the president and CEO of Free Press, who is against the merger for reasons he explains:
CRAIG AARON: Well, megamerger is right, Amy. I mean, I think the first thing for people to keep in mind is just how big this deal is. In addition to the $85 billion that is going to the shareholders at Time Warner, AT&T is taking on another $22 billion in debt. So this is over $100 billion. And we need to ask ourselves: For what? What is the benefit? If you’re not a Time Warner shareholder, if you’re not a senior executive, if you’re not a Wall Street banker, there is very little in this deal for you except higher prices and a new gatekeeper over what you watch, see, hear and read every day. And so that’s why we’ve come out strongly against this merger. We don’t think it’s in the public interest. And we think it has huge problems, putting this much media power in—under one corporate umbrella.
And if AT&T can get this deal done—they’re already, after taking over DirecTV, the biggest satellite TV company in the country. They have the most video subscribers in the country. They’re the second-biggest wireless company. They have a huge internet footprint. And now they want to own big channels like CNN, HBO, TNT, so that they can really control how that information flows, and so they can cross-subsidize themselves, move—they get to move the money from one pocket to another while raising the costs on everybody else.
Yes, I entirely agree. And this is a recommended article.

3. Obama, Who Let Citigroup Staff His First Cabinet, Calls for Voter Solidarity

The third item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
  • Obama, Who Let Citigroup Staff His First Cabinet, Calls for Voter Solidarity

This is from near the beginning:

An email sent in October 2008 and hacked from the personal account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta showed Citigroup executive Michael Froman submitting names for dozens of positions in then-candidate Obama’s anticipated presidential Cabinet.

“The cabinet list ended up being almost entirely on the money,” wrote David Dayen of the New Republic about the leaked message. “It correctly identified Eric Holder for the Justice Department, Janet Napolitano for Homeland Security, Robert Gates for Defense, Rahm Emanuel for chief of staff, Peter Orszag for the Office of Management and Budget, Arne Duncan for Education, Eric Shinseki for Veterans Affairs, Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services, Melody Barnes for the Domestic Policy Council, and more.”

“For the Treasury, three possibilities were on the list: Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Timothy Geithner.”

I say, which I do because I did not know these matters were effectively decided before Obama was elected. And I think the article is very probably correct in assuming the same holds for Hillary Clinton's cabinet.

There also is this:

“Who gets these cabinet-level and West Wing advisory jobs matters as much as policy papers or legislative initiatives. It will inform executive branch priorities and responses to crises. It will dictate the level of enforcement of existing laws. It will establish the point of view of an administration and the advice Hillary Clinton will receive. Its importance cannot be stressed enough, and the process has already begun.”

Citing former Obama budget director Peter Orszag’s suggestion this week that progressive Democrats, led by Elizabeth Warren, should be given the power to appoint their people to certain positions in exchange for certain concessions to the Wall Street-aligned wing, Dayen writes that progressives have a greater chance to shape policy in 2016 than they did at the start of the Obama administration. And they should fight for it: “The demand to only hold one thing in your head at a time—that Trump must be stopped—would squander this opportunity.”

I agree progressives "should fight", but I don't think they will have much to say about Clinton's cabinet. In fact, I think it probably has been put together already, judging this on the basis of Obama's 2009 cabinet (that was assembled by October 2008).

4. Mikhail Gorbachev Appeals for Sanity, Dialogue

The fourth and last item today is by John Scales Avery on Common Dreams:

  • Mikhail Gorbachev Appeals for Sanity, Dialogue
This starts as follows:
President Mikhail Gorbachev, former leader of the Soviet Union and recipient of the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize, has appealed to world leaders to reduce the dangerous tensions, which today threaten to plunge human civilization and the biosphere into an all-destroying nuclear war.

In an October 10 interview with RIA Novosti, Gorbachev said: “I think the world has reached a dangerous point, I don’t want to give any concrete prescriptions, but I do want to say that this needs to stop. We need to renew dialogue. Stopping it was the biggest mistake.”

“It is necessary to return to the main priorities. These are nuclear disarmament, the fight against terrorism, the prevention of an environmental disaster,” he continued. “Compared to these challenges, all the rest slips into the background.”

Later the same day, in Iceland, President Gorbachev said: “The worst thing that has happened in recent years is the collapse of trust in relations between major powers, The window to a nuclear weapon-free world…is being shut and sealed right before our eyes.”

I like Gorbachev, indeed not because I agree with him but because he seems and seemed to be a sensible man, and I think he is right in three out of four points: He is right a nuclear war is more likely now (and this would destroy civilization); and he is right nuclear disarmament and preventing an environmental disaster are the main political priorities for the USA, Russia and Europe. (I think he is wrong on terrorism.)

But the main reason to review this is the following, which I know since the early 1960ies, but which seems less well-known now than it was in the 60ies, even though the dangers and the amounts and strengths of nuclear weapons have grown a lot since then:

The danger of a catastrophic nuclear war casts a dark shadow over the future of our species. It also casts a very black shadow over the future of the global environment.

The environmental consequences of a massive exchange of nuclear weapons have been treated in a number of studies by meteorologists and other experts from both East and West.

They predict that a large-scale use of nuclear weapons would result in fire storms with very high winds and high temperatures, which would burn a large proportion of the wild land fuels in the affected nations.

The resulting smoke and dust would block out sunlight for a period of many months, at first only in the northern hemisphere but later also in the southern hemisphere.

Temperatures in many places would fall far below freezing, and much of the earths plant life would be killed. Animals and humans would then die of starvation.

Professor Bernard Lowen of the Harvard School of Public Health, one of the founders of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), said in a recent speech:

“…No public health hazard ever faced by humankind equals the threat of nuclear war. Never before has man possessed the destructive resources to make this planet uninhabitable… Modern medicine has nothing to offer, not even a token benefit, in the event of nuclear war…”

“We are but transient passengers on this planet Earth. It does not belong to us. We are not free to doom generations yet unborn. We are not at liberty to erase humanity’s past or dim its future. Social systems do not endure for eternity. Only life can lay claim to uninterrupted continuity."

I think that is all correct and quite important.
[1] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[2] Note that the main point is that a very few politicians (say: 15 to 20 in government, a few hundreds in parliament) are supposed to decide many things for many millions (hundreds of millions in the USA). I do not think that is feasible, in a rational and reasonable way. (It does happen, of course - but not rationally, and mostly also not reasonably.)

[3] This has to do rather a lot with power and with the press and the media. Logically speaking, this might all be quite different from what it is, but one of the things that struck me about power is that those who did become members of parliament (in Holland, which I know best) from that time on get special treatment in the press and by other leading politicians, also long after they were members of parliament. So in Holland, at least, it seems as if the few who became members of parliament, even if that is a long time ago, are protected most of their lives by those who are in power (for which reason they get special titles, easy money, professorships etc). 

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