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Nederlog

November 15, 2015
Crisis: France, US Democrats, Reich, Terrorism, The West's Responsibility
 "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.
France Declares State of Emergency After Attacks
     in Paris Leave at Least 128 Dead

2. The Second Democratic Debate: Foreign Policy,
     Guns, Wall Street and Campaign Finance (Updated)

3. Robert Reich: The Big Struggle Is the Financial Elite
     vs. Everyone Else

4. Our terrorism double standard
5. The Age of Despair: Reaping the Whirlwind of
     Western Support for Extremist Violence

Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, November 15, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is a quite factual report on the events in France from The Intercept; item 2 is a brief exposition of the second Democratic presidential debate; item 3 is about an interesting article by Robert Reich, but I missed several things, and especially deregulations and the fact that the best way to attack "the financial elite" is to attack their propagandists and their politicians; item 4 is about the double standard that is used in the West about terrorism; and item 5 is about how "the West" (especially but not only "the USA") is responsible for the violent deaths of a million of Iraqi's.

Also, I inform you that I have reformatted all Nederlogs from November: They ought to be a bit neater than they were, especially - it seems - on the Dutch site (which seems to have a different way of dealing with Returns). And the index for 2015 also was repaired, and should look decent again.

1.
France Declares State of Emergency After Attacks in Paris Leave at Least 128 Dead

The first item today is Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept:
This starts as follows (minus bolding):
FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE declared a national emergency Friday night after a series of shootings, explosions, and a mass hostage taking left more than 128 dead in Paris. “As I speak, terrorist attacks of an unprecedented scale are taking place in the Paris region,” Hollande said in a nationally televised address during the attacks. “This is a terrible ordeal which once again assails us. We know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are.”
No, Hollande did not and does not "know where it comes from, who these criminals are, who these terrorists are", except that they are to be blamed on Isis (that confirmed it did it).

And this is at least somewhat relevant, for all the spying that Hollande plugs so much did not provide any data on "
who these criminals are, who these terrorists are" (though it may, after the fact).

But OK. Here are, at long last, given how much there was published about the attacks by very many journalists, on and off the spots, some facts:

Six separate targets were hit by as many as eight attackers, including the legendary Bataclan concert hall, a popular Cambodian restaurant and the Stade de France football stadium, which was hosting a friendly match between the German and French national teams.
Incidentally: this does not clarify whether there were eight attackers in all, or whether some target was "hit by as many as eight attackers". Also, I have read several different numbers for the number of those killed: It seems the confirmed account is 128, which no doubt will rise.

And there is this:
In response to the attacks, unprecedented in modern French history, President Hollande ordered the closing of the country’s borders, and placed the city of Paris under mandatory curfew for the first time since World War II.
I say.
 
2. The Second Democratic Debate: Foreign Policy, Guns, Wall Street and Campaign Finance (Updated)

The second item today is by Alexander Reed Kelly and Roisin Davies on Truthdig:

This starts as follows (and is on a quite different subject, though the attacks in Paris were mentioned during this debate, that happened the day after):

The three major Democratic candidates found solid footing in the second half of Saturday’s debate, with Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley challenging Hillary Clinton over Wall Street, campaign finance and gun deaths in the United States.

The exchange began with the moderators asking Clinton to explain why voters should trust her to govern the very banks that are funding her campaign for the presidency. Without giving details, she responded that she’s “got a comprehensive, tough plan” to regulate banks, and she asserted that her “proposal is much more comprehensive than anything put forth” by the other candidates.

Hillary Clinton was lying through her teeth: She is the Democratic candidate of the bankers, who is mostly financed by the bankers, and she has no plan "to regulate banks". Also, she is merely spinning fantasies.

Then there is this:

Clinton disowns the role of the United States in the current Islamic State crisis: “I don’t think that the United States has the bulk of the responsibility.”
No, and president Bush also is a mere illusion: Trust Hillary! She would never lie to you!. And finally (from considerably more) there is this:
Clinton: “Our prayers are with the people of France. But that is not enough. We need to have a resolve that will bring the world together to root out the kind of radical jihadist ideology that motivates organizations like ISIS."
Clinton doesn't have much faith in prayer. (Neither do I, but then I also do not pretend I do.) More seriously, she pretends to be completely blind to the fact that it is the USA that shaped the conditions for the arisal of Isis (and Al Qaeda, etc.) by their militarist policies, that also destroyed at least a million of lives. (See item 4 and item 5.)

But OK... I have reviewed a debate between the US candidates for presidential election.

3. Robert Reich: The Big Struggle Is the Financial Elite vs. Everyone Else

The third item today is by Robert Reich on AlterNet (and also on The Guardian):
This starts as follows:
The standard explanation for why average working people in advanced nations such as Britain and the United States have failed to gain much ground over the past several decades and are under increasing economic stress is that globalisation and technological change have made most people less competitive. The tasks we used to perform can now be done more cheaply by lower-paid workers abroad or by computer-driven machines.
I have two general remarks on this. First - as Robert Reich will also explain - the standard explanation is a pack of propaganda lies. And second, the big struggle is not so much with "the financial elite" as it is with two of the classes of people who deliberately work for them: the liars, cheats and deceivers who run and man the propaganda / public relations firms, and the liars, cheats and deceivers who run politics, left, right and center, these days.

Here are my explanations (briefly):

First, it is a complete and total lie that "
globalisation and technological change have made most people less competitive". That "people" are supposed to be "competitive" is a propaganda lie about most people, while "globalisation and technological change" did not do or decide anything:  The globalisation we see is the direct consequence of the very many deregulations - all of which were legal changes, supported by elected politicians - that have taken place systematically and on purpose since Reagan was elected president.

All of these legal changes had just one point: To help make the rich a lot richer, which they did at the cost of the non-rich (as nearly always, for that is the way of getting rich). A very great lot would have been very different if the elected politicians had made different choices. A few did, but most - left, right and center - decided to serve the interests of the rich, it seems because they paid well.

Second, while I agree that it are the needs and the values, and especially the money, of "the financial elite" that motivates and pays both the lying propaganda firms (that these days provide nearly all political lies and all the lies and deceptions of advertisements) and the lying politicians and their lobbyists, "the financial elite" is far too hazy, too vague, and too unspecific to attack: They do pay their propagandists and their politicians, but it is the propagandists and politicians who are their willing tools, and it is these that have to be attacked. [1]

Now back to Reich's text:
But the standard explanation, as well as the standard debate, overlooks the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs.
Yes and no. Yes, the "corporate and financial elite" "has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs". But no, they did that through their lying propaganda firms and through their lying politicians, and it is these you have to attack and defeat if you want the "political power" of the elites to diminish.

The following is true but both are by-products - "collateral damages" - of (especially) the corruption of most of the elected politicians in Congress:

The standard explanation cannot account for why the compensation packages of the top executives of big companies soared from an average of 20 times that of the typical worker 40 years ago to almost 300 times in the United States.

Nor can the standard explanation account for the decline in wages of recent university graduates.

This is much more important:

In the United States, financial laws and regulations instituted in the wake of the Great Crash of 1929 and the resulting Great Depression have been abandoned – restrictions on interstate banking, on the intermingling of investment and commercial banking and on banks becoming publicly held corporations, for example – thereby allowing the largest Wall Street banks to acquire unprecedented influence over the economy. The growth of the financial sector, in turn, spawned junk bond financing, hostile takeovers, private equity and “activist” investing and the notion that corporations exist solely to maximise shareholder value.

Yes indeed, this is all true, though I am also missing the keyword: deregulation - for this was the main tool and the main idea to make the rich richer at the cost of the poor, and it has been practiced for 35 years, continuously, under all governments also.

Here are - what I regard as - two (major) side effects and the main outcome:

Bankruptcy in the United States has not been extended to homeowners, who are burdened by mortgage debt and owe more on their homes than the homes are worth, or to graduates laden with student debt. Meanwhile, the largest banks and vehicle manufacturers were bailed out in the downturn of 2008–09, shifting the risks of economic failure on to the backs of average working people and taxpayers.

The first two - homeowners not bankruptable; enormous student debts - are (in my eyes) side effects that were mostly achieved by (what I think is the main reason) corruption of the elected politicians through their lobbyists. The second was a major crime that was approved by most of the elected politicians.

Here is considerably more, that could be and has been achieved through the help of elected politicians during many years (whose main job it is to see to it that good and fair laws are elected):

In America, contract laws have been altered to require mandatory arbitration before private judges selected by big corporations. Securities laws have been relaxed to allow insider trading of confidential information. CEOs have used stock buybacks to boost share prices when they cash in their own stock options. Tax laws have created loopholes for the partners of hedge funds and private equity funds, special favours for the oil and gas industry, lower marginal income tax rates on the highest incomes and reduced estate taxes on great wealth. All these instances represent distributions upward – towards big corporations and financial firms and their executives and major shareholders – and away from average working people.

Yes, indeed. And this was the mechanism - though again I am missing the term deregulation:

Public policies that emerged during the 1930s and the Second World War had placed most economic risks squarely on large corporations. But in the wake of the junk bond and takeover mania of the 1980s, economic risks were shifted to workers. Corporate executives did whatever they could to reduce payrolls: outsource abroad, install labour-replacing technologies and use part-time and contract workers.

Here is one major difference this led to:

Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars. By 2014, America’s largest employer was Walmart and the typical entry-level Walmart worker earned about $9 an hour.

While the Walton's are billionaires: the two facts - the very few mega-rich billionairs and the very many very poorly paid workers - are as intimately connected as effect and cause.

Finally, here is Robert Reich's sum-up:
Those whose income derives directly or indirectly from profits – corporate executives, Wall Street traders and shareholders – have done exceedingly well. Those dependent primarily on wages have not.
I agree, but both were effects from conscious policies, and what I have missed in this fairly decent sketch are the lying propaganda firms who tricked so very many, the lying and corrupt politicians, who consented to so very much, and the main tool by which this was realized: the many legal changes that were deregulations, that again were very much lied about by the propaganda firms and the politicians.

4.
Our terrorism double standard

The fourth item today is by Ben Norton on Salon:
This is from near the beginning:

On Friday the 13th of November, militants massacred at least 127 people in Paris in a series of heinous attacks.

There are many layers of hypocrisy in the public reaction to the tragedy that must be sorted through in order to understand the larger context in which these horrific attacks are situated — and, ultimately, to prevent such attacks from happening in the future.

Well...yes and no: Yes, there is an enormous amount of hypocrisy "in the public reaction to the tragedy" but no, much of the public will not understand this, and also no: these "attacks" will (very probably) continue.

I am saying it as I see it, and have removed several other selections on which I could make the same comment. But I retain two quotations. The first is this, and is completely justified:

More strikingly, where were the heads of state when the Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition bombed a Yemeni wedding on September 28, killing 131 civilians, including 80 women? That massacre didn’t go viral, and Obama and Hollande did not apologize, yet alone barely even acknowledge the tragedy.

Do French lives matter more than Lebanese, Turkish, Kurdish, and Yemeni ones? Were these not, too, “heinous, evil, vile acts”?

Actually, the answers to the last two questions seem to be: "Yes", and "We don't know what you are talking about". For I am pretty certain that all nations contain a large segment that is nationalistic (as many Americans are "Ex-Cep-Tio-Nal", which is also embraced by president Obama), and they will care more for their fellow nationals than for others, and also most Westerners did not get anything or else got very little about the bombing of the Yemeni wedding in their media.

The following list of points also seems to me wholly correct (to the best of my knowledge):

Western countries, particularly the U.S., are directly responsible for the violence and destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen, from which millions of refugees are fleeing:

  • The illegal U.S.-led invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of at least one million people, destabilized the entire region, and created extreme conditions in which militant groups like al-Qaeda spread like wildfire, eventually leading to the emergence of ISIS.
  • In Afghanistan, the ongoing U.S.-led war and occupation — which the Obama administration just prolonged for a second time — has led to approximately a quarter of a million deaths and has displaced millions of Afghans.
  • The disastrous U.S.-led NATO intervention in Libya destroyed the government, turning the country into a hotbed for extremism and allowing militant groups like ISIS to spread west into North Africa. Thousands of Libyans have been killed, and hundreds of thousands made refugees.
  • In Yemen, the U.S. and other Western nations are arming and backing the Saudi-led coalition that is raining down bombs, including banned cluster munitions, on civilian areas, pulverizing the poorest country in the Middle East. And, once again — the story should now be familiar — thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
5. The Age of Despair: Reaping the Whirlwind of Western Support for Extremist Violence

The last item today is by Chris Floyd on Counterpunch:
This starts as follows (and I select only two pieces):
We, the West, overthrew Saddam by violence. We overthrew Gaddafi by violence. We are trying to overthrow Assad by violence. Harsh regimes all — but far less draconian than our Saudi allies, and other tyrannies around the world. What has been the result of these interventions? A hell on earth, one that grows wider and more virulent year after year.
Well... no, I am a Westerner, but I did not overthrow Saddam or Gaddafi nor am I trying to overthrow Assad. In fact, the same holds for the vast majority of Westerners, indeed regardless of their political or moral feelings: Very few Westerrners have anything to say about the decicisions "their" (elected) politicians and "their" (non-elected) generals make.
Without the American crime of aggressive war against Iraq — which, by the measurements used by Western governments themselves, left more than a million innocent people dead — there would be no ISIS, no “Al Qaeda in Iraq.” Without the Saudi and Western funding and arming of an amalgam of extremist Sunni groups across the Middle East, used as proxies to strike at Iran and its allies, there would be no ISIS. Let’s go back further. Without the direct, extensive and deliberate creation by the United States and its Saudi ally of a world-wide movement of armed Sunni extremists during the Carter and Reagan administrations, there would have been no “War on Terror” — and no terrorist attacks in Paris tonight.
This is better - to put it in the style of the article: "We, the West" killed more than a million people (about 10,000 times as many as were killed in Paris),  and did so merely in Iraq.

I don't think the style is right, but military from "the West" have killed an enormous amount of people in Iraq, and indeed it seems very probable that there would be no Isis without Bush Jr.'s war in Iraq.

About the other causal explanations I am a bit more skeptical, but this is in part because my lack of sufficient knowledge about the Saudis, and in part because I think there are other causes for the "War on Terror" than just Carter's and Reagan's policies.

---------------------------------------------

[1] Because they are the army that is paid and commanded by the rich. You have to defeat the army to defeat the rich, and besides most of the rich are too nebulous, circumspect and indirect to have a good chance to attack them.
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