I teach beginners’ philosophy at Barry University in Miami. I usually start my courses examining the trial of Socrates as narrated in Plato’s Apology. We discuss the Socratic method and what exactly did Socrates mean by his famous slogan “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We reflect on the concept of Sophistry distinguishing it from philosophy proper. I stress that we have to distinguish sophistry from philosophy.
The former is interested in winning arguments and persuasion; the latter is interested in searching for and finding the truth, even when inconvenient. It’s what distinguishes a Socrates, the father of Western philosophy, from a Protagoras, the father of rhetorical sophistical argumentation. I then ask this question: without a belief in truth is philosophy possible?
Most students will answer correctly. It would be impossible and I, teaching the subject, would be either a fraud (as some sophists were even in ancient times) or an hypocrite. Then I ask another question: does the media believe in truth nowadays? Here again most students answer correctly and point out that the media are interested mostly in polls and ratings, in the balancing of opinions, in utilitarian social goals and purposes, and most of them neglect the truth. I then point out that in effect they have arrived at the modern definition of sophistry. We of course do not call these people sophists nowadays; we call them politicians. Their enablers, we will argue further down, are the modern journalists.
Enter Donald Trump dwelling in the cave of delusions and ignorance. He’s the latest in a long line of American demagogues but he is the one who has come closest to the White House. He may actually become our next president, to the detriment of the nation and democracy. That makes him the most dangerous of them all. There is indeed in American history a long list of demagogues, unscrupulous political opportunists and bigots who feed on fear; it’s like a recurring virus which lies dormant for a while but then it resurges at opportune times and spread very rapidly like a wild firestorm sucking the oxygen out of democracy. Indeed, sophistry is still with us, twenty five centuries after the trial of Socrates.
Those types tend to be swaggering bullies, narcissistic self-promoters full of innuendos, false promises and hatred of others, especially the others with a different race, faith, gender or ethnic background. Today the banner is carried by Donald Trump, but other ignoramuses and charlatans have came before him. One thinks of “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, the South Carolina governor and senator who led vigilante terror attacks with a gang called the Red Shirts and praised the efficiency of lynch mobs. Also radio’s charismatic Father Charles Coughlin, the anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist Catholic priest who reached an audience of up to 30 million with his attacks on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Also the New Deal; Mississippi’s Theodore Bilbo, a member of the Ku Klux Klan who vilified ethnic minorities and deplored the “mongrelization” of the white race. One also thinks of Louisiana’s corrupt and dictatorial Huey Long, who promised to make “Every Man a King.” And of course, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama and four-time presidential candidate who vowed, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Lastly, there is McCarthy: an ego-swollen provocateur of the first order. Like Trump he would say that “I have here in hand a list” never showing the list but then later falsely accusing those whom he considered subversives and destroying many lives and careers.
They were all leading under the banner of populism: promising the people what they had been deprived of by the establishment and the rich and powerful and a fairer redistribution of wealth. Funny thing is that Trump belongs to the class of rich people and in fact got rich by exploiting the working class and often leaving them holding the bag via bankruptcy laws favorable to the rich. Superficially this may seem fair, but it came at a price. The price was nativism advocating the building of walls and keeping immigrants out. The xenophobia extends not only to people but to ideas that are deemed dangerous.
In the end, McCarthy was brought down. A brave journalist called him out on the same television airwaves that helped the senator become a powerful, national sensation. It was Edward R. Murrow, and at the end of an episode exposing McCarthy on his CBS series See It Now, Murrow said: “It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.”
There also was the brave and moral lawyer Joseph Welch, acting as chief counsel to the US Army after it was targeted for one of McCarthy’s inquisitions. When McCarthy smeared one of his young associates, Welch responded in full view of the TV and newsreel cameras during hearings in the Senate. “You’ve done enough,” Welch said. “Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?… If there is a God in heaven, it will do neither you nor your cause any good. I will not discuss it further.” That was way back in 1954.
And those are just a few examples. To the contrary what prevails nowadays is the indifference of the so called “guardians of the truth,” namely the media. Since the birther movement of three years or so ago, out to discredit the legitimacy of a sitting president, the media has not challenged the nefarious, redolent of racism, false premises of Donald Trump; they have in fact allowed the Frankenstein monster to grow and flourish. The monster now threatens the very existence of the party of Lincoln which is also responsible for the monster. They are now applying a double standard. Rather than use a common standard for all candidates, they are grading Trump on a curve as if he were a dumb third grader, unable to carry on a rational argument. Nevertheless, we are expected to trust him with his finger of the nuclear button.
Where are the profiles in courage of today? Nowhere to be seen. Most of the Republican Party has acquiesced in the nomination of a bigot as its final choice. Should we be surprised? Not really, considering that their years of kowtowing to extremism in the appeasement of their base, have allowed Trump and his nightmarish sideshow to steal into the tent and take over the circus. Once again, the virus has spread through the body politic contaminating all. What is desperately needed is the sunlight out of the cave of ignorance, the clearing torch of truth. But are today’s journalists capable of such a feat? One wonders.
To my knowledge, no journalist has mustered enough courage and integrity to ask Trump outright “Have you no decency, sir?” None has dare to call him what he is to his face: an chronic liar; one that uses lying as a an amoral strategic tool to crush his opponents. None has reprimanded him publicly and to his face for his ignorance, and most disturbing, for glorying in his ignorance.
Lately Trump has taken to praising Putin on Russian TV. And journalists simply acquiesce. We will soon have political debates wherein garbage will be thrown on the wall hoping that it sticks with the moderators doing no fact checking and determine if what was proffered has any connection to reality. Perhaps they’ll assign a Pinocchio nose the next day and Trump will use that to double down on what he said the night before.
The question arises: why do we continue to see these sad scenarios. Well, as a philosophy professor I’d have to say that presently the media seems incapable of rendering objective judgments based on the truth of the facts. Somehow, that is seen as “taking sides” and “being partial,” or not being “fair and balanced.” It all revolves about balance parading as fairness. In reality what we have is an incredible skepticism about truth; a skepticism about the possibility of arriving at truth, a truth which by an and large has become relativistic. Truth is relative to one’s convenience or one’s utility, or one’s “progress” understood materially and instrumentally. This is what every philosophy teacher who believes that philosophy is the search for the truth, has to contend with nowadays. He/she has to contend with the affirmation that reality is biased against one’s opinion, and that opinion is more important than the truth. We are of course all entitled to our opinion but the distinction of opinions based on facts and knowledge and opinions based on ignorance is somehow overlooked. In other words we don’t believe in truth any longer. Like Pilate we ask the question: what is truth? What we expect is a Machiavellian answer based on geo-political relative considerations and therefore relative itself.
In conclusion, the media has to decide if they wish to be in the truth business or in the business of reality shows, polls, ratings, false equivalences to keep everybody happy and consuming their product. If they decide not to decide, that in itself will be a decision. When democracy is finally lost, we will then realize that the issue cannot be avoided: either the truth makes one’s free, or the denial of the truth will makes us slaves while parading our love of country and freedom. Time is running out.
Officers Exchanged Fire With Troops Near National Palace As Government Announced Carnival
According to reports, Haitian police officers exchanged gunfire for hours on Sunday (February 23th, 2020) with soldiers of the newly reconstituted army outside the National Palace, in a dangerous escalation of protests over police pay and working conditions.
Police officers began protests for weeks from now, and some of the protests being led by Former police officer Madame Yanick Joseph who was fired and other political leaders.
At least three police officers were wounded, fellow officers told AP and other media across the country. The army’s high command said in an online statement that a soldier had been wounded by a bullet in the back.
Haiti’s raucous three-day Carnival celebration was to have started Sunday afternoon in Port-au-Prince and other major cities but the government announced Sunday night that Carnival was canceled in the capital “to avoid a bloodbath.” Police protesters and their backers had burned dozens of Carnival floats and stand at recent protests, saying they did not believe the country should be celebrating during a crisis.
As the afternoon wore on, uniformed officers joined their colleagues in the street outside the palace, firing at the military base with semi-automatic pistols and rifles. Many wore masks along with their uniforms to hide their identities.
Other armed men spotted a drone that appeared to be taking images of the violence and followed it to the offices of Radio Caraibes, then began shooting at the broadcaster’s building. There were no immediate reports of casualties in the attack.
“These protests won’t stop until the current Haitian Government resigns.”, said Mr. Werley Nortreus, a political leader and the founder of Vanyan Sòlda Ayiti and A New Haiti Before 2045 (ANHB 2045).
Police protests began this month after a half-dozen officers were fired over their attempt to unionize. The demonstrations are not directly linked to anti-corruption protests that roiled Haiti for most of last year, but they draw on the same widespread dissatisfaction with Haiti’s shrinking economy and President Jovenel Moise’s inability to improve the quality of life.
A uniformed police officer in a black-and-white clown mask told reporters outside the palace that officers were demanding the reinstatement of their fired colleagues as well as a pay raise for all officers.
“Until this is done we will not sit and talk,” said the officer, who declined to provide his name. “The president has proven that he does not care about our demands.”
President Jovenel Moise said at a news conference on Saturday (Feb 22th, 2020) that he recognized the legitimacy of many police complaints and would increase some collateral benefits for officers, but police said Sunday that the concessions were not enough.
According to reports of the shootout between police officers and troops on Feb 23, at least three men were taken to a hospital near the shooting with wounds to the legs and feet that did not appear to be life-threatening. Uniformed police officers told journalists that the wounded men were fellow officers. The uniformed officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
How Bernie Sanders Will Destroy the Deep State if He Becomes President
Joe Lauria at Consortium News headlined on February 21st, “Apparent US Intel Meddling in US Election With ‘Report’ Russia is Aiding Sanders”, and he noted that,
If the story is true and if intelligence agencies are truly committed to protecting U.S. citizens, the Sanders campaign would have been quietly informed and shown evidence to back up the claims.
Instead the story wound up on the front page of the [Washington] Post, “according to people familiar with the matter.” Zero evidence was produced to back up the intelligence agencies’ assertion.
“It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken,” the Post reported. That would tell any traditional news editor that there was no story until it is known.
Instead major U.S. media are again playing the role of laundering totally unverified “information” just because it comes from an intelligence source. Reporting such assertions without proof amounts to an abdication of journalistic responsibility. It shows total trust in U.S. intelligence despite decades of deception and skullduggery from these agencies.
Despite the untrustworthiness of the intelligence agencies that had told President George W. Bush that they would be able to present to the American public a “slam-dunk” case that Saddam Hussein had WMD and was to blame for the 9/11 attacks, and despite their similar serial lying up to the present time, Senator Sanders issued a public statement that “Unlike Donald Trump, I do not consider Vladimir Putin a good friend. He is an autocratic thug who is attempting to destroy democracy and crush dissent in Russia.” Regardless of whether he actually believes that Putin is an “autocratic thug,” his saying this was necessary in the context of the ceaseless anti-Putin propaganda in America’s ‘news’-reporting and from America’s ‘intelligence’ agencies, all of which have for decades been effectively controlled by America’s billionaires, who are now terrified that Sanders might actually become President. Their agents are consequently smearing him. America’s hundreds of billionaires ARE America’s Deep State, and those hundreds of individuals are the only people who are actually represented by their media and ‘our’ Government.
This is the reason why we invaded and occupy and destroyed Iraq, all on the basis of lies.
This is the reason we invaded and destroyed Libya, all on the basis of lies.
None of the American billionaires’ fronts — not the CIA, nor any others — have publicized, but they instead all have hidden, all of these realities and basically all of the really important historical events during the past twenty years which shape the international world in which we all are living. Democracy in America is impossible under such circumstances as this.
Back in 2002, Sanders was able to refuse to authorize George W. Bush to invade Iraq and yet still not have his career in Congress destroyed by that ‘unpatriotic’ (actually courageously patriotic) act. But in today’s environment, any member of Congress who fails to demonize Vladimir Putin is ‘unpatriotic’ — as if the Cold War which was ended by Russia in 1991 has secretly continued by America ever since — which it HAS.
America’s billionaires are even more opposed to ending the Cold War than they are opposed to increasing taxes on the rich up to international standards for industrialized nations. They will accept high taxes — and during the 1950s the super-rich accepted even a 90% marginal rate of taxation — but they will not, under any circumstances, accept ending America’s recent quest to replace the U.N as the basis of international law and order; they DEMAND that the U.S. Government, which they control, must control the entire world, including Russia. This is essential to their all-encompassing global empire, the global dictatorship by America’s international corporations. That is the core belief of the Deep State, and no Sanders Presidency will be able to succeed unless a President Sanders will strip America’s billionaires of the control they enjoy over the American Government through the Deep State. The Deep State is the U.S. billionaires; it is the control they have over the U.S. Government. Only by ending that control will America’s Deep State be brought to an end. Sanders is the only viable U.S. Presidential candidate who authentically does threaten the billionaires’ control over ‘our’ government; and the only way that he will be able to succeed is by destroying their Deep State, their control over the Government and over their press or ‘news’ media. This is an internal U.S. war, right now, between the Deep State and not only Donald Trump on the right (who constantly caves to their demands) but also Bernie Sanders on the left (who has yet to be in a position really to challenge their control over America).
So: how can Sanders do it, if he becomes the President? Fight like hell and be willing to sacrifice even himself, if need be, so as to destroy their control over America. Be what Trump only pretends to be. This is the only way that it might be able to be done. Sincerity. Determination. Mono-focus. And great courage. Never backtracking.
Right now, America accounts for about half of the entire world’s military expenditures, and that can’t go on if America is to take care of its real problems. Those corporations, such as Lockheed Martin, are not going to yield without there being now a second American revolution, a revolution of control. It will have to be a total revolution of control — not just over Wall Street, and not just over the hedge funds, and not just over the private equity funds, and not just over the healthcare system, and not just over the universities, and not just over the private foundations and other ‘non-profits’ (which largely privatize to billionaires the decisions as to what ‘needs’ to be done for the good of the entire country). Why do billionaires get tax-breaks for funding ‘nonprofits’ which expand their own power not only over commerce but especially over national priorities and the government itself? The corruption is so deep and so pervasive.
Right now, the corruption is focused on getting the Democratic Party’s superdelegates, instead of the voters in the primaries and caucuses, to choose whom the Party’s nominee for the U.S. Presidency will be.
Can Anyone Beat Trump?
Donald Trump may make fun of Elizabeth Warren and dub her Pocahontas but he better watch it. She may be gunning for him in November.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, or as he prefers to be called, ‘Mike’, spent $400 million of his $60 billion fortune on ads, raising himself to third place among candidates as a can-do ‘Mighty Mike’. It bought him a place at the Democratic debate last Wednesday. But that $400 million, a colossal fortune for any of us, and in lottery terms what would count as one of the biggest wins ever, was blown away in a few minutes by Warren as she went after him on his racially-charged stop-and-frisk policy to fight crime in New York City. That his efforts worked was made irrelevant by his clearly limited ability to debate. Yet with $59.6 billion still in his kitty, probably growing at several billion a year, who can write him off in this age of TV ads?
Then there were his non-disclosure agreements with numerous women — though asked repeatedly he never gave a number. His lame defense that these were voluntary, seemed to assume the audience were dupes. Everyone knows the persons charging him with unwarranted advances received money as settlements and in exchange signed the agreements.
The Bloomberg charge thwarted, Bernie Sanders could be counted the real winner for leaving the debate unscathed. He leads nationally by double digits with Biden second.
A botoxed Biden with whitewashed teeth tried to put a spring in his step with purchased ‘youth’. He talked of present and past presidents of Mexico, and of other countries, he was acquainted with and how personal connections get things done — a mindset reminiscent of the Burisma job in Ukraine son Hunter was given when his father was Vice President with a major policy role in the Ukraine. As board member of Burisma, Hunter Biden was paid up to $50,000 per month. His function was to advise on corporate governance and legal issues yet never found it necessary to attend a board meeting or visit the company in Ukraine. The company’s owner has been recently charged with corruption in obtaining licenses and tax fraud over the period of Hunter Biden’s tenure at his firm.
It’s all in a day’s work. Personal connections, that’s how things get done. Imagine the labels Trump will attach to him should he win the nomination.
A normally chirpy Pete Buttigieg was skewered by Amy Klobuchar and appeared chastened. Not too well prepared, he ascribed an astronomical $25 trillion cost to Bernie Sanders’ health plan. Sanders responded the plan would save $400 billion and had the figures to prove it. Not a successful outing for Pete.
But then Senator Klobuchar appeared to lose her cool when pressed on a case during her job as prosecutor, before she became a senator. Visibly angry, she continued to press her claim as being highly electable but Sanders and Warren are elected senators too, and Sanders for much longer. Senator Klobuchar also has the highest turnover of staff (36 percent) of any senator, and a rumored reputation of being abusive towards them. Not the kind of quickly angered temperament one would choose to have in the White House, or for a person with a finger on the dreaded nuclear button.
Seems the best option we have is Sanders and Warren but political demographics preclude two liberals from the northeast on a ticket. Born in 1941, Sanders will be almost 80 when he takes office, an age when Warren would have left the White House were she to win and serve two terms. Bernie is eminently likeable and a staunch fighter but it seems like Hillary Clinton stole his best shot at the presidency.
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