March 9, 2015
Crisis: Prostitution, Tory bulllshit, TPP & TPIP, Intellectuals, Corporations
  "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

Prev- crisis -Next


1. The Whoredom of the Left
2. If the Tories hate ‘hate preachers’ why do they keep
     preaching hate?

3. Will Liberals and Conservatives Unite to Defeat Fast
     Track and the TPP?

We Have a Bunch of Debauched Intellectuals Managing
     the American Empire

The Conundrum of Corporation and Nation


This is a Nederlog of Monday, March 9, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is by Chris Hedges and is about prostitution; item 2 is an article by Anonymous [2] on The Guardian I found too facetious, though I agree in part; item 3 is about the TPP and the TPIP, that Obama wants to push through Congress mostly in secret and with very little discussion; item 4 is another piece I found a bit too facetious; and item 5 is by Robert Reich, who is mostly right but is definitely wrong about European health insurances.

1. The Whoredom of the Left

The first item today is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Prostitution is the quintessential expression of global capitalism. Our corporate masters are pimps. We are all being debased and degraded, rendered impoverished and powerless, to service the cruel and lascivious demands of the corporate elite. And when they tire of us, or when we are no longer of use, we are discarded as human refuse. If we accept prostitution as legal, as Germany has done, as permissible in a civil society, we will take one more collective step toward the global plantation being built by the powerful. The fight against prostitution is the fight against a dehumanizing neoliberalism that begins, but will not end, with the subjugation of impoverished girls and women.

Poverty is not an aphrodisiac. Those who sell their bodies for sex do so out of desperation. They often end up physically injured, with a variety of diseases and medical conditions, and suffering from severe emotional trauma. The left is made morally bankrupt by its failure to grasp that legal prostitution is another face of neoliberalism. Selling your body for sex is not a choice. It is not about freedom. It is an act of economic slavery.

I do not think that "Prostitution is the quintessential expression of global capitalism", for the simple reason that there has been a whole lot of prostitution before capitalism. But I - more or less - agree with part of the rest: For one thing, I don't think women who sell heir bodies do so because they like to. Also,
I am a male of nearly 65 who never visited any prostitute, simply because I don't like the idea of sex for money at all: it seems very phony to me.

Then again, I don't know whether the following is true:
"If we accept prostitution as legal, as Germany has done, as permissible in a civil society, we will take one more collective step toward the global plantation being built by the powerful."
The problem is that when prostitution is illegal, there is a great amount of abuse. But I will turn to this below. First, here are some numbers:
Forced labor in the global private economy generates illegal profits of $150 billion, according to a report by the International Labour Organization. The ILO estimated that almost two-thirds of the profits, $99 billion, came from commercial sexual exploitation. More than half of the 21 million people the ILO estimates as having been coerced into forced labor and modern-day slavery are girls and women trafficked for sex.
I am quoting this without having much of an idea whether this is correct, except for three things that I accept: (1) sex may be sold, and selling sex makes a whole lot of money; (2) the money does not go, for the largest part, to the women who prostitute themselves for money; and (3) prostitutes are exploited.

There are three pages in the article, and a considerable amount of its text is given to a comparison between the German and Dutch models for dealing with prostitution, which was to legalize it, and the Scandinavian one which criminalized the purchasing of sex.

Here is a summary (and Lakeman is a spokesperson for Hedges):

The legalization of prostitution in Germany and the Netherlands has expanded trafficking and led to an explosion in child prostitution in those two countries.
Lakeman called what has happened in countries such as Germany and the Netherlands “the industrialization of prostitution.”
I am Dutch, and I have not read much about either that legalization "expanded trafficking" or that legalization "led to an explosion in child prostitution". Also, while I am willing to believe the former statement, I don't see much reason to believe the latter statement. [1]

What I have read some about is that, in Holland at least, the legalization did not work out as it was planned to be, it seems in part because the pimps are nearly impossible to get rid of, and in part because prostitutes still get discriminated as a matter of course.

There is also this:

Sweden in 1999 criminalized the purchasing of sex. Norway and Iceland have done the same. The two responses—the German model and the so-called Nordic model—have had dramatically different effects. The German and Dutch approach normalizes and expands human trafficking and prostitution. The Nordic approach contains it.
Perhaps. But criminalizing "the purchasing of sex" will not exclude the purchasing of sex, but will make it more expensive and more secretive. Then again, prostitution in Holland did not get normal or accepted when it was legalized, while indeed it may have increased the trafficking of women.

2. If the Tories hate ‘hate preachers’ why do they keep preaching hate?

The next item is an article by Anonymous [2] on The Guardian:
I have only selected three bits from this that show the writer's responses to the Tory program:
A fortnight ago, I was really shocked and depressed, not by a slasher film set in a hospice, but by the prime minister. As I wrote here, he seemed to be announcing policies that made life harder for the weak (the fat, poor, young or drug-addicted) in an odd spirit of righteous joy.

It’s getting worse. In the past few days, the Tories have been gleefully frothing with horrible new plans. On immigration, charities, universities and free speech, they’re proudly making clear that their vision of government is about shutting people up, cutting people off and keeping people out.

Yes, indeed: Everybody who does not talk or look like an English Tory may be persecuted (or prosecuted) by the next Tory government - and the anonymous author forgot to name the ill, for they too are Not According Tory Rules.

And there is this:
Charities that receive public funding, Eric Pickles has announced, will lose it if they use it to campaign against the government. That’s potentially hugely restrictive as, in many cases, a charity only exists because of a failure of government. You could argue that the very existence of, say, a food bank is an implied criticism of the state.
Yes, indeed. And there is this:
Worst of all, the Home Office is planning to force universities to ban “hate preachers” from campuses – even “hate preachers” who don’t advocate violence and who have committed no crime. The government absolutely hates hate preachers. It hates what they say but certainly won’t defend to the death their right to say it. On the contrary, they are to be silenced. Preferably before they say anything hateful.
To put it without affectation: The Tory government only wants to allow the expression of those opinions it agrees with, and wants to forbid all others.
And this intolerant approach seems to be popular with the British population.

3. Will Liberals and Conservatives Unite to Defeat Fast Track and the TPP? 

The next item is an article by Alison Rose Levy on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

In Ralph Nader’s recent book, “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State,” the longtime labor- and consumer-rights activist predicts that shared agendas will forge new alliances between liberals and conservatives that could defeat crony corporatism.

An upcoming congressional vote on whether to give President Obama the power to secretly negotiate controversial international trade deals may have the potential to prove Nader right.

Obama has asked Congress to grant him trade promotion authority—also called “fast track”—over two deals. One of them, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, would be with a group of 11 other nations; the other, called the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, would be with the European Union. The authority would allow him to negotiate and finalize the pacts without giving congressional lawmakers any input.

In fact, the specific provisions will not be revealed until after lawmakers have already voted on fast track. In addition, if the authority is granted, debate would be very limited, and members of Congress would not be able to amend the agreements; they could only vote yes or no on them.

That is, president Obama effectively wants to give the power to multi-national corporations, and take that power from the people and the courts - and he also wants to do that in deep secret, and force it through Congress with hardly any discussions or knowledge of what they agree to.

Here is Elizabeth Warren:

Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.

ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws—and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers—without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. … Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical … because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with the ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions—and even billions—of dollars in damages.

Yes indeed.

4. We Have a Bunch of Debauched Intellectuals Managing the American Empire

The next item is an article by Andrew Bacevich that I found on Alternet, but that originally was published on tomdispatch:

This is mostly a treatment of the "defense intellectuals" who got popular in the 1960ies, and notably: Rostow, Kahn, Wohlstetter, Huntington and the RAND corporation, in spite (or indeed: because) of the fact that these "defense intellectuals" got very well paid for producing loads of - essentially - bullshit and crap.

And this gets extended to Obama's admininstration, though in less detail. It ends as follows - which shows (in my opinion) it wasn't very serious:

Do we really need that chatter? Does it enhance the quality of U.S. policy? If policy/defense/action intellectuals fell silent would America be less secure?

Let me propose an experiment. Put them on furlough. Not permanently -- just until the last of the winter snow finally melts in New England. Send them back to Yale for reeducation. Let’s see if we are able to make do without them even for a month or two.

In the meantime, invite Iraq and Afghanistan War vets to consider how best to deal with ISIS.  Turn the op-ed pages of major newspapers over to high school social studies teachers. Book English majors from the Big Ten on the Sunday talk shows. Who knows what tidbits of wisdom might turn up?

But this will never happen (until after a major revolution).

5. The Conundrum of Corporation and Nation

The last item today is an article by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

The U.S. economy is picking up steam but most Americans aren’t feeling it. By contrast, most European economies are still in bad shape, but most Europeans are doing relatively well.

What’s behind this? Two big facts.

First, American corporations exert far more political influence in the United States than their counterparts exert in their own countries.
The second fact is most big American corporations have no particular allegiance to America. They don’t want Americans to have better wages. Their only allegiance and responsibility to their shareholders — which often requires lower wages  to fuel larger profits and higher share prices.

Yes, indeed. Then again, Robert Reich also says:

I’m not blaming American corporations. They’re in business to make profits and maximize their share prices, not to serve America.

That seems to me excessively narrow:

If American corporations are headed by Americans (and they usually are), then you would expect that Americans do both: making profits and serving America.

And my reasons for that are (1) they are Americans, and every American may be expected to serve America in some ways, and (2) they make their profits not only by their own activities, but by the contributions of the American tax-payers in general, who funded roads, railroads, infra-structures, etc. etc. that are all used by any company that operates in the U.S.

He also says:

And because of the overwhelming clout of American firms on U.S. politics, Americans don’t get nearly as good a deal from their governments as do Canadians and Europeans.

Governments there impose higher taxes on the wealthy and redistribute more of it to middle and lower income households. Most of their citizens receive essentially free health care and more generous unemployment benefits than do Americans.

No, that last statement simply is not true:

First, I do not believe that most Europeans "receive essentially free health care" at all, and I know this is certainly not the case for the Dutch: I have now to pay euros 157,80 each month to be insured, which I can't escape because I am legally forced to; this is around 8 times as much as it was until the 1990ies (when healthcare was at least as good and a whole lot cheaper than it is now); and I also have to pay the first 350 euros of healthcare myself. [3]

Also, I owe this state of affairs mostly through European ministers and health insurers copying parts of the - indeed quite sick and quite sickening - American system. ("The blessings of The Free Market!")

But this is correct:

The U.S. middle class is no longer the world’s richest. After considering taxes and transfer payments, middle-class incomes in Canada and much of Western Europe are higher than in U.S. The poor in Western Europe earn more than do poor Americans.

Finally, when at global negotiating tables – such as the secretive process devising the “Trans Pacific Partnership” trade deal — American corporations don’t represent the interests of Americans. They represent the interests of their executives and shareholders, who are not only wealthier than most Americans but also reside all over the world. 

Which is why the pending Partnership protects the intellectual property of American corporations — but not American workers’ health, safety, or wages, and not the environment.

Then again, here are Robert Reich's concluding paragraphs:

What’s the answer to this basic conundrum? Either we lessen the dominance of big American corporations over American politics. Or we increase their allegiance and responsibility to America.

It has to be one or the other. Americans can’t thrive within a political system run largely by big American corporations — organized to boost their share prices but not boost America.

Well... perhaps. But I see no evidence that either will happen.


[1] And that mostly for two reasons: There is considerably less tolerance of sex with children than there used to be in Holland (which is OK with me, since I've always considered sex with children as a perversion that seems a lot like sadism, simply because children are far less strong than adults, and do not judge many things - including sex - in the same ways as adults can and do), and it also seems to me that the interest in sex with children is limited to a rather small minority (but I am less certain of that, in this age where 'everything is relative').

[2] The writer is a male and says he is 40. Apart from that, there is no information in the article, which is, I take it, the Blau-policy that has destroyed most of the usefulness of The Guardian's website. (I suppose I could find the writer's name, but no: I am not going to do the basic work The Guardian should have done.)

[3] Who profits? The health insurers and the medical doctors, but especially the health insurers. Who looses? The people.

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