November 30, 2015
Crisis: Demagogues, TTIP, Corbyn Undermined, Hedges-videos * 2
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This is a Nederlog of Monday, November 30, 2015.

This is a crisis file.

But first about a small but important addition to the opening of the site:

There is now a small file called Settings (on the left, in the middle) that
specifies what are the preferences for displaying my site well (in Firefox or Seamonkey). (Basically: Verdana 13 points in the Firefox Preferences menu.)

In case the site does not display well one quite probable cause is the settings of your browser, and this may avoid some problems. (The choices in settings are fairly standard, except for the background colors, that relate to the years of my eye problems, that started in 2012, and still continue, though they are considerably less than they were. And you do not need to set the background color to my preference.)

Next, there are 5 crisis files with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a recent essay by Chris Hedges that is quite good; item 2 is about a fine article by Polly Jones on the TTIP that I managed to miss in July when it first appeared; item 3 is about an
article that shows that Jeremy Corbyn was systematically undermined in the British Press (and I quite agree: he was, and he still is); and item 4 and item 5 are both videos with Chris Hedges, from July and October 2015, that each last a quarter of an hour and are quite important (there is some overlap).

1. The Age of the Demagogues

This first item is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The increase in nihilistic violence such as school shootings and Friday’s lethal assault on a Planned Parenthood clinic, the frequent executions of poor people of color by police, and the rise of thuggish demagogues such as Donald Trump are symptoms of the collapse of our political and cultural institutions.

These institutions, which once made possible piecemeal and incremental reform, which sought to protect the weak from the tyranny of the majority and give them a voice, acted as a safety valve to ameliorate the excesses of capitalism and address the grievances of the underclass. They did not defy the system of capitalism. They colluded with the structures of privilege and white supremacy. But they provided some restraints on the worst abuse and exploitation. The capturing of major institutions by corporate power and the moral bankruptcy of our elites, especially members of our self-identified liberal class, have shattered this equilibrium.

I agree, although my analysis of the process that brought this "collapse of our political and cultural institutions" does not quite agree with Chris Hedges' analysis, because I distinguish between capitalism-with-a-human-face, and capitalism-without-a-human-face.

But I agree that - apart from a whole lot of propaganda (!) - the West now lives in the era of
capitalism-without-a-human-face. [1]

Then there is this:

A faux liberal class, epitomized by amoral politicians such as the Clintons and Barack Obama, has led many disenfranchised people, especially the white underclass, to direct a legitimate rage toward liberals and the supposed liberal values they represent. Racism, bigotry, religious intolerance, homophobia, sexism and vigilante violence, condemned by liberal, college-educated elites, are embraced by those who have been betrayed, those who now speak back to liberal elites in words, gestures and acts, sometimes violent, designed to denigrate the core values of a liberal democracy. The hatred is the product of a liberal class that did nothing to halt corporations from driving tens of millions of families into poverty and desperation as it mouthed empty platitudes about rights and economic advancement.

No, not quite. I think Hedges may confuse the propaganda about the liberal class, and the (American) ideas of "liberalism", with the liberal class.

The following seems to me more correct and is about the propaganda from the Republican party:

The Republican business elites, which declared war on the liberal class’ call for cultural diversity, allied themselves with an array of protofascists in the Christian right, the tea party, groups such as the National Rifle Association and The Heritage Foundation, the neo-Confederate movement, the right-to-life movement and right-wing militias. The elites in the Republican Party, who needed an ideological veneer to mask their complicity in the corporate assault, saw these protofascists as useful idiots. They thought, naively, that by demonizing liberals, feminists, African-Americans, Muslims, abortion providers, undocumented workers, intellectuals and homosexuals they could redirect the growing rage of the masses, sending it against the vulnerable, as well as against the only institution that could curb corporate power, the government, while they greedily disemboweled the nation.

But what the Republican elites have done, as they now realize to their horror, is empower a huge swath of the public—largely white—that is gripped by magical thinking and fetishizes violence.

Perhaps. First, the term "useful idiots" also was much beloved by Lenin, but I doubt whether it is accurate for the more intelligent Republicans. Second, I also doubt whether the - more intelligent - Republicans are that much horrified: it seems to me that they want large sections of the public "
gripped by magical thinking". After all, this is also what large sections of the public are taught by advertisements.

Then there is this:

The dictates of the market, the primacy of corporate profit and the military-industrial complex remained sacrosanct. The mounting distress of the underclass was ignored or manipulated during the culture wars. Liberals who embraced cultural diversity did so within a neoliberal framework. Feminism, for example, became about placing individual women in positions of power—this is Hillary Clinton’s mantra—not about empowering poor, marginalized and oppressed women. Post-racial America became about a black president who, as Cornel West says, serves as “a black mascot for Wall Street.”

This seems mostly correct from my own Dutch point of view, especially with the proviso that these deep falsifications started with post-modernism in the universities, which happened in Holland in 1978. The feminists also got corrupted that way, and this also started in the very early 1980ies in the Dutch universities.

The following - which is the last quotation I will give - is quite correct in my view:

The two major parties colluded to pass trade agreements, ranging from NAFTA and the WTO to the now-pending TPP, that impoverish workers and weaken the power of government to intervene to protect the citizenry and the environment. They worked together to strip citizens of constitutional rights and install the most pervasive security and surveillance state in human history. They collaborated with Wall Street to trash the global economy and seize trillions in taxpayer money in bailouts. The two parties funded disastrous and futile imperial wars that enrich the arms manufacturers and defense contractors while bankrupting the nation. They militarized police, rewrote the laws to explode our prison population and destroyed social service programs such as our welfare system, which was dismantled by the Clinton administration. The two parties orchestrated the corporate coup d’état while diverting citizens with the battles over gay rights, abortion, “Christian” values, gun laws and affirmative action. 

I quite agree - and I note this has been going on continuously ever since Reagan became president of the USA in 1980/1. And yes, Clinton and Obama are of one type and they betrayed both the people, the ideals they mouthed, and the Constitution of the United States, and did so quite willingly, for money and fame.

There is considerably more, and I recommend you read all of this article.

2. TTIP in the EU: Rejecting Democracy at Every Turn

The next item is by Polly Jones on Common Dreams:

I think I managed to miss this article in last July, when it was published on Common Dreams. I read it yesterday, and it is a very good article by the head of policy and campaigns of Global Justice Now.

I recommend you read all of it. Here are two quotations, the first on the TTIP:

TTIP is being negotiated in secret. Our elected representatives in the House of Commons are not allowed to see the draft negotiating texts. Our elected representatives in the European parliament had to hold a demonstration in the European Parliament before being granted permission to see these texts in January this year. Even now they can only see the texts in a locked room if they have removed any possible recording devices, including their mobile phones, and signed a 14-page agreement to keep the contents secret.

When EU citizens have asked for the negotiating texts to be publicly available, the UK government and the European Commission argue that this would compromise the deal that could be done because EU and US negotiators need privacy to out manoeuvre each other. However, the World Trade Organisation, far from a bastion of progressive social and economic policies, has an established practice of making negotiating texts in trade agreements publicly available with any text which is not yet agreed marked by square brackets. If the WTO can make texts for global trade deals publicly available with this simple practice, there is no justification for TTIP texts remaining secret.

Yes, and this - the secrecy + the contents of the TTIP - are main reasons why I say both the process and the end sought are fascistic: it is the total triumph of the multi-national corporations over democracy and decency.

And this is about the ISDS, that will take over from the normal courts if the TTIP is adopted:

ISDS remains one of the most controversial aspects of TTIP. This is a parallel legal system only open to corporations which enables them to sue governments if public policy harms their profits. Perhaps the most famous example is tobacco giant Philip Morris suing the Australian government over the future loss of profits as a result of new government policy to put tobacco products in plain packaging. There are numerous examples, often from the global south, where corporations have extracted billions from governments as a result of ISDS claims. Even without damages, the average cost to a government sued in this way is $4 million. This is why 145, 500 people (out of a total of 150,000) told the European Commission in its consultation on the issue that they wanted ISDS to be removed from TTIP. In fact, although MPs have had little opportunity to scrutinise TTIP, the Business Innovation and Skills select committee made up of MPs from across political parties concluded that the case for ISDS has not been made. Yet ISDS is still in TTIP and the UK government is committed to it.

There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended.

3.  Study Finds British Press ‘Systematically Undermined’
Progressive Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn

The next item is by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig:

This has the following quotes from The Huffington Post, that quite well supports the title:

Out of the 494 articles across the papers during Corbyn’s first seven days at leader, 60% (296 articles) were negative, with only 13% positive stories (65 articles) and 27% taking a “neutral” stance (133 articles), the report says.

The research, given exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, looked at news, comment and editorial leaders - and claims that “the press set out to systematically undermine Jeremy Corbyn during his first week as Labour Leader with a barrage of overwhelmingly negative coverage”. ... In the days after he was selected, Corbyn was criticised for his controversial shadow cabinet appointments, policies that were at odds with the views of many of the party’s leading figures, his decision not to sing the national anthem and his poor relationship with the media after pulling out of an interview on the Andrew Marr show. ... “One might expect news items, as opposed to comment and editorial pieces, to take a more balanced approach but in fact the opposite is true. A mere 6% of stories classed as news (19 out of 292) were positive, versus 61% negative stories and 32% taking a neutral stance.”

I take it that is correct, though I must admit I mostly avoid the British press apart from The Guardian, simply because the rest (that I mostly avoid) is too stupid (paragraphs made up of single sentences, for example) or too biased.

Then again, I found precisely the same in The Guardian: Two supporters of Corbyn (Owen Jones and Seumas Milne) while the rest wrote against him, or wrote "neutrally" about him.

There is also this:

“Newspapers have every right to take a partisan line in their reporting and freedom of the press is a key component of democratic societies,” the reports author Emily Seymour wrote, but she stressed their concern about the monopoly over ownership of UK newspapers, which they called “profoundly anti-democratic”. ... “What concerns us, however, are the ownership structures underlying this degree of political intervention,” the report said. “The risk of undue influence on elected politicians is high, and it’s hard to see how democracy can flourish when the mass channels of debate are monopolised in the way that they are.”

This is formulated quite carefully and with several caveats, but is correct: There is hardly any "freedom of the press" left in a situation where most papers are owned by very few monopolists. Also, this means that democracy is dead or dying, for the simple reason that there is no real democracy without a really free and variegated press.

4. Chris Hedges: America is done

The next item is a video in which Chris Hedges is interviewed that was originally published in June 2015. It takes 15 m 14 s:

This is a good interview though the visual quality is low (240p max). But it is the text that matters, and that is good.

5. Chris Hedges: On Brand Obama

The final item today is another video with Chris Hedges, that was originally published on October 23, 2015. It takes 15 m 14 s (as well):

This has a somewhat better visual quality (360 p). The text overlaps some with the previous item, but is good.


[1] One difference is that I am neither a socialist nor a marxist, and Chris Hedges identifies as a socialist. Then again, I should also warn that many political terms have a different meaning in the USA from those  they have in Europe. Notable instances are "socialism", "liberalism" and "neoliberalism".

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