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Nederlog

August 9, 2015
Crisis: Soft Dictatorship, Public Ownership, Maher & Trump, APA on torture

"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.
They Live, We Sleep: A Dictatorship Disguised as a
     Democracy

2.
Jeremy Corbyn could bring back Labour’s clause IV on
     public ownership

3. Bill Maher Unloads on 'Nasty, Boorish, Sexist, Ignorant,
     Smug' Donald Trump

4. First Step for Reform: APA Votes to Bar Psychologists
     From Colluding in Torture


 
This is a Nederlog of Sunday August 9, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 4 items and 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about a good article by John Whitehead, who (also) considers the chances that the USA is moving towards fascism (of a softer kind); item 2 is about Jeremy Corbyn's stance that public ownership sometimes works, also under capitalism; item 3 is about Bill Maher, whose weekly show returned just in time to reflect on Donald Trump; while item 4 is about the APA, whose new stance on torture ("our psychologists should not be there!!") does not seem to me the best, but maybe
they can't do any better.


1. They Live, We Sleep: A Dictatorship Disguised as a Democracy

The first article of today is by John Whitehead on Rutherford.org:

Let me start with showing the beginning of the Wikipedia entry for the Rutherford Institute, in part because it clarifies and in part because that is what I got when
I put Whitehead's name in Wikipedia. I quote minus note numbers:

The Rutherford Institute is a non-profit organization based in Charlottesville, Virginia, US dedicated to the defense of civil liberties and human rights. The organization was founded in 1982 by John W. Whitehead, who continued to be its president as of 2015. The Rutherford Institute offers free legal services to those who have had their rights threatened or violated. The Rutherford Institute has a network of affiliate attorneys across the United States and funds its efforts through donations. In addition to its offer of legal services, the organization offers free educational materials for those interested in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Rutherford Institute also publishes a weekly commentary by Whitehead which is published in hundreds of newspapers and web publications, including The Huffington Post and LewRockwell.com.

While once primarily concerned with the defense of religious liberties the organization later expanded its mission to encompass other constitutional issues such as search and seizure, free speech, and zero tolerance policy. The institute has been described as "a more conservative American Civil Liberties Union."

The article itself starts as follows:

We’re living in two worlds, you and I.

There’s the world we see (or are made to see) and then there’s the one we sense (and occasionally catch a glimpse of), the latter of which is a far cry from the propaganda-driven reality manufactured by the government and its corporate sponsors, including the media.

Indeed, what most Americans perceive as life in America—privileged, progressive and free—is a far cry from reality, where economic inequality is growing, real agendas and real power are buried beneath layers of Orwellian doublespeak and corporate obfuscation, and “freedom,” such that it is, is meted out in small, legalistic doses by militarized police armed to the teeth.

All is not as it seems.

So this is about propaganda - and yes, Whitehead is quite right about propaganda and how much it has falsified:

We’re being fed a series of carefully contrived fictions that bear no resemblance to reality. The powers-that-be want us to feel threatened by forces beyond our control (terrorists, shooters, bombers). They want us afraid and dependent on the government and its militarized armies for our safety and well-being. They want us distrustful of each other, divided by our prejudices, and at each other’s throats. Most of all, they want us to continue to march in lockstep with their dictates.

Tune out the government’s attempts to distract, divert and befuddle us and tune into what’s really going on in this country, and you’ll run headlong into an unmistakable, unpalatable truth: the moneyed elite who rule us view us as expendable resources to be used, abused and discarded.

Again I agree, but there are a few things I should add (I think):

First, most of the propaganda (and there is more propaganda in your life than you think, I'm sure) works because it is accepted (or perhaps: tolerated) by the majority of the people; second, half of the population has an IQ not higher than 100 (and no college or university-degree, unless their parents are rich, and possibly not even a highschool diploma); and third, "in a democracy" the propagandists, the liars, the conmen, the rich, and the (bank-)managers need only convince the stupid half of the population to win all elections, and indeed that is what they seem to be doing (and see Bill Maher below).

I really think that is the fundamental problem: You can get power in the USA by systematically courting the stupid half with bullshit, and that is what is happening, and indeed has been happening for quite a long time.

Back to Whitehead:

In fact, a 2014 study conducted by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the U.S. government does not represent the majority of American citizens. Instead, the study found that the government is ruled by the rich and powerful, or the so-called “economic elite.” Moreover, the researchers concluded that policies enacted by this governmental elite nearly always favor special interests and lobbying groups.

In other words, we are being ruled by an oligarchy disguised as a democracy, and arguably on our way towards fascism—a form of government where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people are seen as mere subjects to be controlled.

Yes, I agree, although I'd say "plutocracy" (i.e. the rule of the rich) is a better term than "oligarchy" (rule of the few), simply because it is more specific and quite correct.

Also, I like it that Whitehead refers to the eventuality that "the American Dream" might end in a kind of fascist rule by the rich - in fact, the current USA is a system "where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and the people" - if not already rich -  "are seen as mere subjects to be controlled."

You may doubt this - although Sheldon Wolin said so, in 2003; I said so, in 2012; a few others said so - but there is also this in Whitehead (who may be following Wolin in this, although I don't know):

Rest assured that when and if fascism finally takes hold in America, the basic forms of government will remain. As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, fascism will appear to be friendly. The legislators will be in session. There will be elections, and the news media will continue to cover the entertainment and political trivia. Consent of the governed, however, will no longer apply. Actual control will have finally passed to the oligarchic elite controlling the government behind the scenes.

By creating the illusion that it preserves democratic traditions, fascism creeps slowly until it consumes the political system. And in times of “crisis,” expediency is upheld as the central principle—that is, in order to keep us safe and secure, the government must militarize the police, strip us of basic constitutional rights, criminalize virtually every form of behavior, and build enough private prisons to house all of us nonviolent criminals.

And that is what has been happening, certainly since 9/11, though I think the whole project started with Thatcher and Reagan around 1980, since when the real wages of the non-rich also have not been increasing, while the incomes of the rich have been increasing very much, just as the taxes the rich pay have grown less and less.

Then there is this:
For the final hammer of fascism to fall, it will require the most crucial ingredient: the majority of the people will have to agree that it’s not only expedient but necessary. But why would a people agree to such an oppressive regime? The answer is the same in every age: fear.
Perhaps. But what if all that is necessary is 50% of the vote + 1, of voters who can be tricked into believing almost anything because they lack intelligence, lack the education and lack the knowledge, and only follow very simple arguments; who fear terrorists because their TVs tell them so, and not because they have any evidence; who believe (as it seems 60% of the American population currently believes) in the literal truth of the story of Noah's Ark; and who live the dream lives the public relations offices have designed for them, and who basically only are interested in themselves, their social standing, their cell phones, and in seeming to be normal and average like everyone else they know?

What if one does not need transform society into an explicit dictatorship where everything is laid down and enforced from above, and one can simply do with an implicit dictatorship of the rich who have manipulated 50% + 1 by propaganda, which allows them to do as they please (with secret laws, and without a press that critically investigates them, instead of praising them, and who also can disappear anyone who is too critical, without this being reported at all because that too is done by secret laws, with explicit commandments of the "judge" no one is to be told)?

For more on this possibility see my blog of March 30, 2013 (and note Wolin's article on fascism has disappeared from Common Dreams: I am sorry) and also the series of interviews Chris Hedges did with him, that start here, and all come with my extensive comments. (In case you are interested: You can find all of them by searching the index for 2014 with "Hedges & Wolin").

Also in case you are interested, here is a summary of points I made (already in 2013), which are happening now:
  • Democratic rituals and institutions are these days largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power.
  • Academics, intellectuals and journalists these days function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers.
  • The corporations have succeeded in seizing nearly all forms of political and social power.
  • All the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.
  • What is especially missing as regards ideas is a crucial, continuous opposition that has coherent ideas.
  • What is especially missing as regards facts is any effective organized opposition: The "left" has become "Third Way", i.e. right wing lite, and helped destroy the trade unions and helped installing austerity for the poor.
  • Capitalism, or at least its ideologists, wants an autonomous economy. It wants a political order subservient to the needs of the economy, and has reduced economy to the question "what is most profitable for the rich".
  • The vast majority of the academics have sold out, already in the 80-ies,
    and have destroyed the universities and remade them into colleges were almost anyone with an IQ higher than 100 can get some sort of diploma, if only in "multimedia studies", provided he or she has the money to pay for it.
There is also this in the article:
We have allowed ourselves to become fearful, controlled, pacified zombies.
Yes and no - but as I've pointed out not all of "us" need to be convinced that way: All that is necessary is that 50% of the most stupid + 1 believe this, for
that is "The Democratic Majority In Our Democratic And Free State".

But this is a good article, and I recommend you read all of it.

2. Jeremy Corbyn could bring back Labour’s clause IV on public ownership

The next article is by Press Association on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

Jeremy Corbyn has signalled that he could restore Labour’s commitment to the public ownership of industry if he succeeds in his bid to become party leader.

The veteran leftwinger has suggested he would consider reversing Tony Blair’s decision two decades ago to scrap clause IV of the party’s constitution which committed it to “common ownership of the means of production”.

I say - and yes, I quite agree. And no, that is not socialism, and for a very simple reason: Everything is supposed to happen in a predominantly capitalist society, without attacking the capitalist modes of production. But yes - some things do run both better and are a lot cheaper if they are commonly owned. [1]

In fact this is also about two of the points I mentioned in the previous item:

  • What is especially missing as regards ideas is a crucial, continuous opposition that has coherent ideas.
  • What is especially missing as regards facts is any effective organized opposition: The "left" has become "Third Way", i.e. right wing lite, and helped destroy the trade unions and helped installing austerity for the poor.

Here is some more Corbyn:

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday, Corbyn suggested he could consider bringing back the original clause IV as part of a commitment to take back some “necessary things” into public ownership.

“I think we should talk about what the objectives of the party are, whether that’s restoring the clause IV as it was originally written or it’s a different one, but I think we shouldn’t shy away from public participation, public investment in industry and public control of the railways,” he said.

“I’m interested in the idea that we have a more inclusive, clearer set of objectives. I would want us to have a set of objectives which does include public ownership of some necessary things such as rail.”

Such a move would be every bit as symbolic as Blair’s original decision, marking a final break with the New Labour era.

I hope Corbyn wins the leadership elections (even though I am sure I disagree with him on many points), for he is the only candidate who is a genuine and credible leftist in the present "New Labour" party. (And you need a really leftist party to have a hope you can defeat or at least curb the really rightist Tories.)

3. Bill Maher Unloads on 'Nasty, Boorish, Sexist, Ignorant, Smug' Donald Trump

The next article is by Sofia Tesfaye on AlterNet (originally, it seems, on Salon):
This starts as follows:

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” is back for it’s 13th season just in time to deliver the comedic takedown of this week’s first Republican primary debate that we’ve all been missing since Jon Stewart’s final sign-off and Maher did not hold back, blasting centerstage ham Donald Trump as a “nasty, boorish, sexist, ignorant, smug.”

On last night’s episode, Maher thanked Jesus for timing his shows return with the Fox News Republican primary debate which he described as “a Comedy Central Roast of the U.S. Constitution.”
Here is a quote from Bill Maher:
That’s all they have to sell: fear. Hope and change meet pee and poo. The entire slate of them up there seemed entirely unaware of the fact that women can now vote. Megyn Kelly asked Trump right off the bat about Trump calling women ‘fat pigs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘dogs.’ Trump’s answer? ‘I don’t have time for political correctness.’ He’s like one of those construction workers from the ‘70s who goes, ‘Nice tits. Oh, what? I can’t compliment a lady anymore?’ It’s crazy.”
Here are a two highlights:
  • Real Time with Bill Maher: Monologue – August 7, 2015 (HBO)
  • Real Time with Bill Maher: The Sick Culture of Wealth (HBO)
  • I liked them. (And each takes around 6 min.)

    4.
    First Step for Reform: APA Votes to Bar Psychologists From Colluding in Torture

    The last article of today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

    Aside: As you may know: I have a Dutch (excellent) M.A. in psychology, which makes me a bit more interested in things related to psychology than might have been the case when this were not so.

    Anyway, it begins like this:

    The American Psychological Association (APA) on Friday voted overwhelmingly to bar its members from participating in the interrogation of U.S. prisoners on foreign soil, officially ending the association's complicity in torture of detainees and taking the first step out of "the dark side."

    All but one member of the APA's 173-person Council of Representatives voted to end the association's collusion with the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies in abusive interrogations as well as the so-called "noncoercive" kind now being carried out by the Obama administration.

    Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib military psychologist Col. Larry James cast the sole dissenting vote. There were also seven abstentions and one recusal.

    The debate among members at their annual meeting in Toronto was reportedly emotional as they rehashed the bombshell internal investigation, published earlier this year, which exposed the APA's participation in the CIA's brutal methods of imprisonment and questioning. The Hoffman Report led to the swift resignations of several top APA officials, including its CEO, who stepped down in July.
    (...)
    The vote was met with a standing ovation. The ban states that psychologists "shall not conduct, supervise, be in the presence of, or otherwise assist any national security interrogations for any military or intelligence entities, including private contractors working on their behalf, nor advise on conditions of confinement insofar as these might facilitate such an interrogation."

    You may think that I agree with the ban. Not so. In fact, as I have indicated earlier:

    Personally, I see no reason why psychologists - and I mean ethical psychologists - should not be present when people are interrogated by military folks. The condition - "ethical" - only means that they should do and say as they are supposed to do: You may not use violence, not use sleep deprivation, not use stress positions, nor consent or agree to any other degrading, painful or humiliating treatment of prisoners, for that is illegal and immoral.

    So while I think the decision was a lot better than blindly and silently helping the government to interrogate those they arrested, I think that the APA probably does not believe in the possibility that there would be a majority in favor of ethical psychology, who would do their - legal and moral - duty to oppose torture. They just don't want members of the APA to "be in the presence of" torture.

    I say. Then again, it is quite possible that the APA understands the moral qualities of its members even better than I do, and it may be this is the best they could do.

    --------------------------------------
    Notes

    [1]
    Trains are just one example: Both the British and the Dutch trains have been privatized, since when - in Holland - every autumn "trains get square wheels from leaves", so the schedule is off, just as when there is any snow, for that "freezes the switches" and so the schedule is off, while trains drive without toilets, filled to the brim with nearly everyone standing, and at twice or thrice the prices that were. The blessings of privatization. (The quotations are from the privatized management of Dutch Rail, who all earn fantastic salaries, quite unlike their menials, also.)

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