December 17, 2015
Crisis: Exit Democracy US, Norway, Sanders, Black, Killed Children & GOP
Sections                                                                                          crisis index                                                                                                                                                            


This is a Nederlog of Thursday, December 17, 2015.

There was an earlier Nederlog today, that was not a crisis blog, and is in Dutch, apart from the introduction. I like it - "Facts about Sex", though in Dutch - and I think it will still teach quite a few things to most readers, but it was written in January 1980, and handed for points in psychology, which it got. (And incidentally I did write rather a lot between 1970 and 1980, but most was for my private use.)

The present file is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the death of democracy in the USA; item 2 is about the excellencies of Norway (I agree and I lived there for nearly three years, and should have stayed there: my life would have been very different and very probably much better); item 3 is about a new attack on the poor and the remains of the US middle class by the Federal Reserve, that works only for the rich; item 4 is about how the US Department of "Justice" slanders an excellent critic of the US bankers as a jihadist while systematically, and since 2007, refusing to do anything against fraudulent bankers; and item 5 is about the GOP clowns, who most recently competed about how many children they are willing to kill.

I agree none of the items that follow will make you happier, but then such are the times.

1. Democracy Is Being Dismantled Before Our Eyes  

The first item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
Tuesday’s debate was held in Las Vegas at the Venetian casino, owned by Republican billionaire backer Sheldon Adelson. Adelson and fellow billionaire Donald Trump held a private meeting before the event. We speak to former New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow with Demos, on the state of the Republican race.
This is from the beginning of the article:
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to read the first paragraph of a piece by Ed Kilgore in New York magazine. He writes, "If the Republican presidential contest was an act of dramatic fiction rather than a lurid [and] sometimes horrifying reality show, tonight’s candidate debate at the Venetian in Las Vegas would end with the proprietor of that gilded palace of sin, Sheldon Adelson, coming onstage to name a victor, who would be awarded with a personal endorse- ment and a super-pac check for $500 million. Why mess with snap polls and focus groups when a real player in the process can put his money where his mouth is?"
Precisely. In case you need an argument, here is one: Since the Supreme's Court decision in favor of Citizens United, corporations = persons and money = votes in the USA, so that indeed a billionair now can spend most of his money for advertisements and campaigns that suit his or her own ends.

And that really is the end of demoracy and the beginning of plutocracy in the United States, all done by judicial fiat of the majority of the Supreme Court.

Here is Bob Herbert:
BOB HERBERT: Right. So we’re watching our democracy being dismantled right before our very eyes. This has been going on for a long time. So, this was a Sheldon Adelson-CNN debate. It wasn’t just a CNN-sponsored debate. You have the leading Republican candidate is a billionaire, Donald Trump; all the Republican candidates willing to genuflect before Sheldon Adelson, you know. And I just think that it’s—someone—in the press, in the media and in the public—needs to wake up to this. What are we debating? We’re debating how we can erode our democracy further; how we can give up our civil liberties and our civil rights; how we can prevent people, on the basis of their religion, from even entering the country, certainly from participating in our daily lives and that sort of thing. We’ve seen—I know we’re not talking about the economy, but all of this is together—we’ve seen what’s happened in the way that the economy has been hijacked to be in the services of the very wealthy. And I think it’s potentially catastrophic. I mean, we are losing the United States as we had come to know it or as we were taught growing up in civics lessons and history books were the things that made the United States special.
I agree, except that I'd say instead of "we are losing the United States" that we have lost the United States: Democracy is dead since Citizens United; billionairs' super-pacs rule supreme, and indeed mostly in secret.

There is just one chance to turn the tide somewhat, and that is in case Bernie Sanders wins the presidency and isn't shot thereafter. But the chances of that happening, although not quite zero, are small. (So yes, I am quite pessimistic.)

2. By Sharing Prosperity Most Evenly, Norway Wins Again 

The second item is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows, and part of the reason this is here is that I lived for 2 years, 7 months and 15 days in Norway, in the middle 70ies, and was crazy enough (the biggest mistake of my life) to return to Holland, where I fell ill on 1.1.1979, and never got better.

After that I was kept out of sleep for 7 years (which is a form of torture and was mostly done on purpose), did not get any help, and was sorely discriminated as a citizen living above the illegal drugsdealers that were (and are) protected by the mayor of Amsterdam, the district attorney of Ansterdam, the Amsterdam municipal police, and all Dutch judges for more than 25 years now.

For soft drugs were and are illegal in Holland, and are only "tolerated" (illegally) by Dutch mayors because they turn over at least 10 billion illegal dollars a year merely in soft drugs. (Source: Parliamentary Van Traa-report.)

But no living Dutchmen except myself (that I know of) sees any problem in this - corrupted mayors, corrupted police, corrupted judges, and corrupted district attornies, all to help make incredibly large illegal profits for the illegal trade in illegal drugs - to the best of my knowledge, the last 25 years.

Anyway... that was a small personal bit. The article starts as follows:

For the 12th year in a row, Norway has earned the honor of being listed as the best country in the world to live.

The ranking appears in the United Nations Development Programme's 2015 Human Development Report. The agency uses the Human Development Index (HDI) to score nearly 200 countries on factors including life expectancy at birth, average years of schooling, and gross national income per capita.

"Norway has over time managed to increase its income, and at the same time ensured that incomes are relatively evenly distributed," Jens Wandel, head of UNDP’s administrative department, told the Norwegian News Agency.

"Norway has also succeeded in investing in education and in health. In addition, Norway has a high level of equality between men and women, and these things typically go hand in hand with a high human development level," Wandel said.

It is all quite true, though I could name a few negative points as well. But yes, I was stupid enough to leave Norway, where I could have lived (and did live) a very healthy life, and also could have studied, and where my life would have been very many times better than it was in Holland.

3. Bernie Sanders Calls Fed Rate Hike Bad News for Working Families

The third item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

The Federal Reserve's announcement on Wednesday that it would raise interest rates 0.25 percent was met with strong criticism on Tuesday with Sen. Bernie Sanders blasting the decision as "bad news for working families" and the country's "disappearing middle class."

The rate hike is the first since the 2007 financial crash, and economists have long-warned that employment and wage growth are still far too low to justify the increase.

"At a time when real unemployment is nearly 10 percent and youth unemployment is off the charts, we need to do everything possible to create millions of good-paying jobs and raise the wages of the American people," Sanders said.

"When millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates is bad news for working families," he added.

Economists are concerned that Wednesday's rate hike will imperil the country's incomplete economic recovery by stagnating job growth and wages. This mostly threatens those at bottom of the employment pyramid, who were most impacted by the recession—and even in the recovery saw national income shift four percentage points from wages to corporate profits.

I think Bernie Sanders was quite right in "blasting the decision", but I also think that the Federal Reserve these days only works for the interests of the rich, and that given that, since this does favor the rich, this outcome was predictable.

4. Bill Black: A “Jihadist” Against the Banks?

The fourth item is by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism:

This starts as follows:

Yves here. You cannot make this stuff up. This Real News Network segment features Bill Black discussing, based on his first-hand experience of having the Department of Justice attempting to quash Black’s expert witness testimony in a fraud case because Black is a “jihadist” against banks. Since when is calling out fraud tantamount to conducting a religious war? Only if you are a devout adherent of cult of elite finance.

I had lunch with a prominent journalist yesterday who told me how much more difficult it has become over time to do intrepid reporting about major financial firms. Led by the major PR firms, they fight tooth an nail over every point in a story, even inconsequential ones. This is similar to the “take no prisoners” strategy banks adopt in regulatory fights, where every issue is contested, so as to establish the baseline than any change that is even slightly unfavorable to their interest is deemed to be an offense. The intent is not just to wear down the other side, but to get the ones that are already captured or are co-optable to internalize that viewpoint. As this Real News Network story demonstrates, that approach appears to have succeeded in spades at the Department of Justice.

Here is the video:

I hope readers will circulate this Real News Network segment on Bill Black widely.
The video is quite good, and here it is:

Here is a bit from it:
BLACK: I say I’ve officially arrived because on the record, the assistant U.S. attorney handling the case said that the court shouldn’t listen to me because I was waging, quote, jihad, unquote (...) So you know, it was designed to be prejudicial and to discredit the folks. But this is how far the Justice Department has fallen. Not only will they not prosecute the elite bank frauds that drove the crisis, but anyone that wants them to do their job they’re treating as a terrorist.
And it’s truly amazing. It isn’t simply that they’re not prosecuting the elite bankers whose frauds caused this crisis. They are actually acting as a collection agency, they being the Justice Department, for the absolute worst fraudulent institutions. And they are prosecuting people and putting hundreds of small-time folks in prison on the basis of thoroughly false theories of the case in which they, the Justice Department, go in as a matter of routine. They claim that the institutions which are the largest criminal enterprises in the world–so in the case I was just in in Miami, was JP Morgan and Countrywide. Two of the largest criminal enterprises in the world. And we know criminal enterprises, because the United States of America has said that what they were doing was fraudulent front to back.
There is considerably more in the article or the video. But this is "justice" in the USA, as implemented by the Department of "Justice": For the richest frauds, and only willing to prosecute very small fry, for crimes these probably did not do, while slandering those who criticize the fraudulent rich bankers as terrorists.

5. How Many Children Could You Kill? The GOP Debates in Brief 

The fifth and last item today is by William Rivers Pitt on Truthout:

This starts as follows:

In this line of work, if you do it long enough, you tell yourself that you've seen everything. Nothing can surprise you. It's a comforting fiction, a callus on the soul that allows you to observe and report without being subsumed by it all. Nothing is more unnerving than being deprived of context, to arrive at a moment when you can't say, "Well, I've seen that before." I have no metric for what I witnessed last night.

A debate moderator sought to test a candidate's qualifications on the basis of how many children that candidate is willing to kill. This wasn't some basement-born hack-ass radio show that only reaches three blocks. This happened on CNN with banners flying and theme music to boot. The audience, to its credit, had the decency to boo Hewitt. Nevertheless, it happened. That is where we are. That is who we are.

Well... not everyone. But I agree this is frightening. Here is some about the "consistency" of the GOP:

A few things I learned last night: Santorum thinks terrorists are bad unless they want to buy a gun. Graham believes we have to fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here, a pitch-perfect echo of George W. Bush, whose presidency Graham said with podium-pounding passion that he misses. At one point, Mike Huckabee intoned, "You've got to bake your own bread in order to fight the battles," at which point my brain went into vapor lock. The Iraq war never happened, and it's all Hillary Clinton's fault. Ted Cruz said, "Ronald Reagan defeated Soviet communism. I will do the same thing." Look out, Soviet communism: The Batman villain from Texas is gunning for you.

I take it the GOP candidates all said that. Here is Pitt's conclusion:

We may as well nuke ourselves, because we're clearly doomed according to the "best" (ha) GOP candidates - unless one of the bloviators on that stage last night kills enough children to prove their standing to be president. Salvation by slaughter. A new Gospel, inked in blood. Again.

I agree. All I can say is that at most one of these sick clowns can be elected, and hopefully none.


       home - index - summaries - mail