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Nederlog

January 22, 2015
Crisis: Obama's internet, Propaganda vs Democracy, Supreme Court, Oligarchs
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















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Sections
Introduction

1. Don't be fooled by clichés: Obama will shape the future of
     the internet

2. How Propaganda Conquers Democracy
3.
The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake
4.
The Davos oligarchs are right to fear the world they’ve
     made
 


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 22, 2015.

This is a crisis log. It has 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is a good and realistic warning about Obama's plans for the internet (which will help the rich, while pretending to be for the poor); item 2 is a good article on the very major
influence of propaganda - "public relations", advertisements: con-games, lies,
deceptions, falsifications - on politics (and economics); item 3 is a decent article about the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision (but is too friendly about the
majority of the Supreme Court: they made no mistake, they wanted to be for the rich); and item 4 is another good article on billionaires, their greed and their power.

Also, earlier today there was a brief update on the supplements I take to fight my M.E., that I have now for the 37th year, while still I am not even regarded as ill
by the moral and intellectual utter degenerates of Amsterdam dole, who do not want to even consider that with one of the most brilliant M.A.s in psychology ever awarded, and with an excellent B.A. in philosophy, both taken while I was ill, I would neither live in Holland nor be poor. [1]

1. Don't be fooled by clichés: Obama will shape the future of the internet

The first item today is an article by Trevor Timm on Tĥe Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Perhaps more than any other, the internet was the backdrop for much of President Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday night – from healthcare to hackers, and from infrastructure to education. By and large, however, Obama stuck to empty platitudes that no one could disagree with (“we need to ... protect our children’s information” and “I intend to protect a free and open internet”) rather than offering concrete new proposals.

But don’t let the president’s standard State of the Union clichés fool you: in 2015, the Obama administration will almost certainly re-shape the law around net neutrality, cybersecurity and the NSA. In doing so, the president will carve out the rules of the internetconsider for the coming decade, and his choices over the next few months will significantly affect hundreds of millions of Internet users, along with his lasting legacy.

Yes. I must say I am quite pessimistic:

What I expect is that net neutrality will be killed; the NSA will be much strengthened; the Patriot Act will be renewed; and indeed even encryption may be outlawed, simply to give the secret services of the government full control of absolutely everyone.

I strongly hope I am mistaken on all points, but Obama is - in my eyes - merely a clever liar, who is and has been consistently for the rich, and Congress is Republican in majority, so together they can do as they please (though Obama no doubt will get his bits of propaganda in: "He means well", and "He wants to protect 'our kids'" etc. etc.).

Here is one more bit of Timm, on cybersecurity and encryption:
The White House, for its part, has issued several dangerous proposals which will criminalize all sorts of mundane internet behavior, deter security research, and would do nothing to stop the hacks like the Sony debacle that every politician in the US seems so eager to exploit. 

But worse, Congress – absent almost any technical knowledge whatsoever – wants to hand even more power to US intelligence agencies to collect Americans’ private data, and the FBI director (along with his allies in the UK) bizarrely wants to outlaw encryption – the one tool we know can mitigate so much risk and protect the data every in Congress claims to hold dear.

Yes, indeed. This is a good article.

2. How Propaganda Conquers Democracy

The next item is an article by Nicholas J.S. Davies on Consortiumnews:
This has the following summary:
In recent decades, the U.S. propaganda system has grown more and more sophisticated in the art of “perception management,” now enlisting not only government PR specialists but careerist journalists and aspiring bloggers to push deceptions on the public, a crisis in democracy that Nicolas J S Davies explores.
It starts as follows:

Do we live in a country where citizens are critically informed on the issues of the day by media that operate independently of the government? Or do our political leaders deliberately plant a false view of events and issues in the mind of the public that complicit media then broadcast and amplify to generate public consent for government policy?

This is a basic test of democracy for the citizens of any country. But the very nature of modern propaganda systems is that they masquerade as independent while functioning as the opposite, so the question is not as straightforward as it seems.

Well... clearly "our political leaders deliberately plant a false view of events and issues in the mind of the public that complicit media then broadcast and amplify to generate public consent for government policy", and the major media also deliberately exclude many points of view and many speakers, simply because they don't like the views or the speakers.

Next, there is this:
In Democracy Incorporated; Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, political scientist Sheldon Wolin examined how America’s “managed democracy” has devolved into “inverted totalitarianism,” concentrating power and wealth in the hands of a small ruling class more efficiently and sustainably than 20th Century “classical totalitarianism” ever succeeded in doing.

Instead of sweeping away the structures of constitutional government like the Fascists, Nazis or Soviets, this “political coming-of-age of corporate power” has more cleverly preserved and co-opted nominally democratic institutions and adapted them to its own purposes.

Yes, I think that is true, but I also think this may be a transitional stage:
Governments and governors love their own power, and if all possible effective opposition has been killed or locked up - as will happen, with the continuously growing powers of the governent and the NSA - why pretend there is any democracy left?

But I am not certain (except that I hold it very probable that if the NSA keeps having the powers they have, which seems likely, these powers will be much abused, and will lock up or kill many opponents of the NSA and/or the government).


Next, there is this:

Self-serving politicians and parties compete for funding in election campaigns run by the advertising industry, to give political investors the most corrupt President, administration and Congress that money can buy, while courts uphold new corporate and plutocratic political rights to ward off challenges to the closed circle of wealth and political power.

Oligarchic corporate control of the media is a critical element in this dystopian system. Under the genius of inverted totalitarianism, a confluence of corrupt interests has built a more effective and durable propaganda system than direct government control has ever achieved.

I quite agree. There is considerably more, and it is good and should be read.
 
3. The Supreme Court’s Billion-Dollar Mistake

The next item is an article by David Cole on The New York Review of Books:
This starts as follows:

Five years ago this week, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court decided to allow unlimited amounts of corporate spending in political campaigns. How important was that decision? At the time, some said criticism of the decision was overblown, and that fears that it would give outsize influence to powerful interests were unfounded. Now, the evidence is in, and the results are devastating.

To coincide with the decision’s fifth anniversary, eight public interest organizations—the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Demos, US PIRG, Public Campaign, Justice at Stake, and the Center for Media and Democracy—have simultaneously issued reports that demonstrate the steadily growing influence of money on elections since the Court’s decision. Their findings show that the case opened the spigot to well more than a billion dollars in unrestricted outside spending on political campaigns, by corporations and individuals alike. It has done so at a time when wealth and income disparities in the United States are at their highest levels since 1928. Increasingly, it’s not clear that your vote matters unless you’re also willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to support your preferences.

Yes, indeed - though I would have written a different last statement: "It is now quite clear that neither your vote nor your person have any importance, if you are neither rich nor known from TV, unless you are one of the very few on whose votes the outcomes of some key state depends." (And in that case, you will be repeatedly asked, and your desires will be mouthed by presidential candidates as if they really believe it. And once they've won, all they will be interested in is "looking forward", and forget all about any promises they made.)

There is also this:

According to the Brennan Center report, over the five years since these decisions, super PACs have spent more than one billion dollars on federal election campaigns. And because these organizations are free of any limits, they have proved to be magnets for those who have the resources to spend lavishly to further their interests. About 60 percent of that billion dollars has come from just 195 people.

And there is a considerable amount more, that I recommend you read all of.

But there is one thing I disagree with, that is also in the title: I do not think that the majority of the Supreme Court who ratified the Citizens United decision made a "mistake".

More precisely, I think they were mistaken, but I also think that the majority wanted to take the decision that was taken, and considered they did the right thing: the majority wanted a much bigger influence of very rich people on politics. To think otherwise is to deny they are quite intelligent people, which I think everybody in the Supreme Court is.

 
4. The Davos oligarchs are right to fear the world they’ve made

The next and last item today is an article by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

The billionaires and corporate oligarchs meeting in Davos this week are getting worried about inequality. It might be hard to stomach that the overlords of a system that has delivered the widest global economic gulf in human history should be handwringing about the consequences of their own actions.

But even the architects of the crisis-ridden international economic order are starting to see the dangers. It’s not just the maverick hedge-funder George Soros, who likes to describe himself as a class traitor. Paul Polman, Unilever chief executive, frets about the “capitalist threat to capitalism”. Christine Lagarde, the IMF managing director, fears capitalism might indeed carry Marx’s “seeds of its own destruction” and warns that something needs to be done.

The scale of the crisis has been laid out for them by the charity Oxfam. Just 80 individuals now have the same net wealth as 3.5 billion people – half the entire global population. Last year, the best-off 1% owned 48% of the world’s wealth, up from 44% five years ago. On current trends, the richest 1% will have pocketed more than the other 99% put together next year.

Here is a bit more, that shows the sickeningly obscene wealth of the billionaires is taken from everyone, also from the poorest of the poor:

This is a wealth grab on a grotesque scale. For 30 years, under the rule of what Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, calls “market fundamentalism”, inequality in income and wealth has ballooned, both between and within the large majority of countries. In Africa, the absolute number living on less than $2 a day has doubled since 1981 as the rollcall of billionaires has swelled.

Is this necessary? Not at all: In Latin America things go relatively well for the poor, but then they succeed in voting in (real) leftist parties.

Anyway...this is a good article you should read all of.

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Note

[1] Since that ought to be extremely obvious, I take it the real reason for the thirty years of discrimination by the Amsterdam dole is - especially - that I objected strongly to the illegal drugsdealing organized, protected and helped by mayor Van Thijn, from the bottom floor of the house where I lived, instead of from his own house, and that was kept in force by alderman Oudkerk, mayor Patijn, mayor Cohen, and mayor Van der Laan, who all are "social democrats" (if you believe them, but indeed social democracy is completely dead in Holland, and was killed by Wim Kok, who imitated Blair and Clinton). Tell me, honest "social democrats": How many millions did you make?! (For no: I cannot believe that with the power to assign places from which illegal drugs could be dealt without any objection for 30 years now, none of you profited any penny, but indeed I have no proof, nor can such a proof be expected or demanded of me. But yes: I do believe you are all very rich.)
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