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Nederlog

December 7, 2015
Crisis: Apocalyptic Capitalism, Basic Income, Dangers Terrorism, The "News"
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Introduction


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Monday, December 7, 2015.

This is a crisis file. There are four items: item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges; item 2 is about a Finnish plan to give every Finnish adult 800
euros a month in basic income; item 3 is about the real dangers of terrorism; and item 4 is about "The News", that you cannot trust anymore at all if it is supplied by the main media: you are systematically lied to and deceived.

As to my computer: It seems to work OK for 95% at present. I do not know for certain this will persist (see yesterday and the day before yesterday if you want to know why), but I will suppose it does, and as long as it does I will continue with Nederlogs, both crisis logs and non-crisis logs, at least till January 6 2016 (when I hope to be reasonably sure that the system persists, which I am now with something like x between 1/2 < x < 1).

1. Apocalyptic Capitalism

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
The charade of the 21st United Nations climate summit will end, as past climate summits have ended, with lofty rhetoric and ineffectual cosmetic reforms. Since the first summit more than 20 years ago, carbon dioxide emissions have soared. Placing faith in our political and economic elites, who have mastered the arts of duplicity and propaganda on behalf of corporate power, is the triumph of hope over experience.
Quite so. And this does not mean you should not care about the climate, but this does mean (as I also see it, and for longer than 20 years) that (1) you should stop believing and following governments, main media and ordinary politicians: they all lie and deceive for the rich, and have been bought to do so, and that (2)
you should do the things you personally can do.

Here is part of Chris Hedges justification for his point of view (with which I agree):
The global elites have no intention of interfering with the profits, or ending government subsidies, for the fossil fuel industry and the extraction industries. They will not curtail extraction or impose hefty carbon taxes to keep fossil fuels in the ground. They will not limit the overconsumption that is the engine of global capitalism. They act as if the greatest contributor of greenhouse gases—the animal agriculture industry—does not exist. They siphon off trillions of dollars and employ scientific and technical expertise —expertise that should be directed toward preparing for environmental catastrophe and investing in renewable energy—to wage endless wars in the Middle East. What they airily hold out as a distant solution to the crisis—wind turbines and solar panels—is, as the scientist James Lovelock says, the equivalent of 18th-century doctors attempting to cure serious diseases with leeches and mercury.
I think that is all correct in so far as the motives and the lies of the governments, main media journalists, and ordinary politicians (by far the greatest number) are concerned.

As to wind turbines and solar panels: They help some, but they will hardly save anyone without a major political and economical shift, and major political and economical shifts are impossible as long as the governments, main media journalists and ordinary politicians are believed by the majority, which is the case.

Here is some more:

New technology—fracking, fuel-efficient vehicles or genetically modified food—is not about curbing overconsumption or conserving resources. It is about ensuring that consumption continues at unsustainable levels. (...)
These technocrats are part of the massive, unthinking hive that makes any system work, even a system of death. They lack the intellectual and moral capacity to question the doomsday machine spawned by global capitalism.  And they are in control.
Yes, I agree, but this also opens two quite major problems: (1) If the technocrats - with university educations etc. - cannot be believed, who can be? And (2) if original, intelligent, independent individuals are - say: I have to estimate - 1 in 20 or so, what can one rationally hope to change?

I register these major problems here, and will take them up later, on another day.

But I have a brief answer here to both problems: There never was a majority of original, intelligent and independent individuals; these men and women have always been in a small minority, which also differed a lot as regards opinions, values and ends; this will not change without major changes in mankind; and the only more or less hopeful point I have to offer is that
original, intelligent and independent individuals do have influences that are much larger (on average, not always) than the influences of unoriginal, unintelligent or dependent individuals.

Then again, this seems to be one expectation of Chris Hedges for the future of humankind:
“Only the strong survive; the weak are victimized, robbed, and killed,” the anthropologist Joseph Tainter writes in “The Collapse of Complex Societies.” “There is fighting for food and fuel. Whatever central authority remains lacks the resources to reimpose order. Bands of pitiful, maimed survivors scavenge among the ruins of grandeur. Grass grows in the streets. There is no higher goal than survival.”
It doesn't have to be that way, but this is a probable outcome, somewhere between now and the rest of the century.

Here is some more, a bit more speculatively:

The breakdown of the planet, many predict, will be nonlinear, meaning that various systems that sustain life—as Tainter chronicles in his study of collapsed civilizations—will disintegrate simultaneously. The infrastructures that distribute food, supply our energy, ensure our security, produce and transport our baffling array of products, and maintain law and order will crumble at once. It won’t be much fun: Soaring temperatures. Submerged island states and coastal cities. Mass migrations. Species extinction. Monster storms. Droughts. Famines. Declining crop yields. And a security and surveillance apparatus, along with militarized police, that will employ harsher and harsher methods to cope with the chaos. 
These are all things that are happening now or may happen soon, but the last quoted paragraph mixes processes with very different time scales. My own guess is that societies will fall apart as soon as half or more of the population cannot be properly fed anymore, but this is a guess.

This is from the ending:
We have little time left. Those who are despoiling the earth do so for personal gain, believing they can use their privilege to escape the fate that will befall the human species. We may not be able to stop the assault. But we can refuse to abet it. The idols of power and greed, as the biblical prophets warned us, threaten to doom the human race.
Yes - and one of the interesting and frightening things is that those who lead the pack of greedy, rich egoistic capitalists are in a very small minority, though they have extremely much power and money, and that those oppose them are also in
a quite small minority of intelligent, independent and original individuals, whereas the mass of mankind at present, at least, blindly and stupidly follow the false and deceptive leads of the main media.

Then again, it was so forever in human history, though indeed the threats are now far greater than they ever were. And
this is a recommended article.

2. To Lift Quality of Life and Economy, Finland Champions Universal Basic Income

The second item is by Jon Queally on Truthdig (originally on Common Dreams):
This starts as follows, and outlines an idea I have always been in favor of:

As a way to improve living standards and boosts its economy, the nation of Finland is moving closer towards offering all of its adult citizens a basic permanent income of approximately 800 euros per month.

The monthly allotment would replace other existing social benefits, but is an idea long advocated for by progressive-minded social scientists and economists as a solution—counter-intuitive as it may first appear at first—that actually decreases government expenditures and unemployment while boosting both productivity and quality of life.

“For me, a basic income means simplifying the social security system,” Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä said last week.

Though it would not be implemented until later in 2016, recent polling shows that nearly 70 percent of the Finnish people support the idea.

I say! For I certainly would not have expected that "nearly 70 percent of the Finnish people support the idea"!

Also, I am much in favor of it, though I should say that $800 euros a month is less than I got in the dole and less than I get in (minimal) pension, and it would not be sufficient to keep me alive as I have been the last 37 years of illness. [1]

But that is also mostly misleading, for until well after 1995 - twenty years ago - I lived better on what is now $400 euros or less: This was before the arrival of the euro (which almost immediately doubled all prices, with the differences going almost exclusively to the few rich) and before the coming together of the European Union

For note that I was kept well alive (better than I am now!) in the beginning of the 1980ies, on 800 guilders a month, which was something like 365 euros, and that situation mostly persisted (with some price increases, but none radical) until 2002 (when the euro was introduced, and the - quite undemocratic - European Union became a main political force in Holland).

Anyway - here is a quotation from Anne Ryan who explains the benefits of a basic income:

Basic income is a regular and unconditional distribution of money by the state to every member of society, whether they engage in paid work or not. Basic income is always tax-free and it replaces social welfare payments, child benefit and the state pension as we currently know them. It also extends to all those who currently receive no income from the state. Ideally, a basic income would be sufficient for each person to have a frugal but decent lifestyle without supplementary income from paid work.

Basic income would bring into the security net all those not served by the current system: casual and short-contract workers who get no or limited sick pay, holiday pay or pension rights; self-employed people and business owners; those doing valuable unpaid work, including care, which adds value to society and economy. Basic income would increase everybody’s capacity to cope with financial shocks and uncertainties and would improve general quality of life, while supporting many different kinds of work, with or without pay.

Currently, those receiving welfare are badly served by the system: if they take paid work, especially low-paid or temporary, they often lose out financially, in a ‘benefits trap’. With basic income, there would always be a financial incentive for people to earn a taxable income, should a job be available. Employers would also welcome the ending of the benefits trap.

I think that is all true, and one reason why giving everyone a basic income may be cheaper than the present system is that the basic income holds for anyone without any bureaucracy, whereas the dole etc. not only have to pay dole, but also needs to maintain a network of bureaucrats, all of whom earn considerably more than dole, to see to it that things are done "honestly".

But I do not know any research on this topic.
This is a recommended article.

3. Just How Dangerous Is Terrorism, Really?

The third item is by Washington's Blog on his site:
This is a fine and thorough article on "the dangers of terrorism". It starts as follows (colors in the original):

You’re Much More Likely to Be Killed By Deer, Cows, Dogs, Brain-Eating Parasites, Toddlers, Lightning, Falling Out of Bed, Alcoholism, Food Poisoning, Choking On Your Meal, a Financial Crash, Obesity, Medical Errors or “Autoerotic Asphyxiation” than by Terrorists

Preface:  The terror threat is greatly exaggerated. After all, the type of counter-terror experts who frequently appear on the mainstream news are motivated to hype the terror threat, because it drums up business  for them.

The same is true for government employees.

In case you do not believe this, here are some numbers:

Comparing the CDC numbers to terrorism deaths means:

– You are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack

– You are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack

– You are 4,311 times more likely to die from diabetes than from a terrorist attack

– You are 3,157 times more likely to die from flu or pneumonia than from a terrorist attack

– You are 2,091 times more likely to die from blood poisoning than from a terrorist attack

– You are 1,064 times more likely to die as your lungs swell up after your food or beverage goes down the wrong pipe

(Keep in mind when reading this entire piece that we are consistently and substantially understating the risk of other causes of death as compared to terrorism, because we are comparing deaths from various causes within the United States against deaths from terrorism worldwide.)

Wikipedia notes that obesity is a a contributing factor in 100,000–400,000 deaths in the United States per year. That makes obesity 5,882 to 23,528 times more likely to kill you than a terrorist.

The annual number of deaths in the U.S. due to avoidable medical errors is as high as 100,000.
Etcetera. And there is a lot more in the article, which is recommended.

4. We Don’t Really Know What’s Happening

The last item is by Paul Rosenberg on Free-Man's Perspective:
This has the following:

The truth about public reporting comes out from time to time, but usually well after the fact. So, here’s one piece of truth that’s worth remembering:

For those who don’t recall the 1970s, Daniel Ellsberg was a man who worked as an analyst at the RAND Corp., moved from there to the Pentagon, spent two years in Vietnam working for the State Department, and then went back to RAND. He is the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. These were the documents that revealed that three US presidential administrations had been plainly, knowingly, and openly lying to the public.

Here’s what Ellsberg thought the New York Times was good for:

… to see what the rubes and the yokels are thinking about and what they think is going on and what they think the policy is….

Later, in 1998, he said this in an interview:

The public is lied to every day by the president, by his spokespeople, by his officers. If you can’t handle the thought that the president lies to the public for all kinds of reasons, you couldn’t stay in the government at that level….

And here’s what Michael Deaver, a top aide to President Ronald Reagan, said about the press:

The media I’ve had a lot to do with is lazy. We fed them and they ate it every day.

That’s the truth about news, my friends. The newspapers are where the yokels get informed, presidents flatly lie, and legislatures are massively corrupt. The TV stations recycle opinions from the leading newspapers. And Internet news sites primarily recycle TV and newspaper stories.

Yes, some truth does slide through, but it looks almost the same as the other stuff. The only places we get anything close to refined truth is on a few Internet sites… and many of them have a particular axe to grind.

And that is correct, I think. Also, it has been so all the time, with two recent additions: The stupid, the ignorant and the talentless now also have internet in the West, which enormously increased the amount of ignorant stupidity, and the levels of deception of the main media are stronger than ever.

This is again a recommended article.

---------------------------------------------
Note

[1] I am ill now for 37 years (while my illness is not admitted all these 37 years, because that was much cheaper...) and like to remark that I made an M.A. in psychology while ill and a B.A. in philosophy while ill, both with straight A's only (which is hardly ever done by healthy people), so that if I had not been - genuinely! - ill I could have left Holland long ago, and would have made a fine academic income somewhere else (for I much dislike Holland, while my academic marks were more than good enough to find an academic job elsewhere).


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