1. Al Jazeera America Terminates All TV and Digital
The Corbyn Effect: Survey Shows Huge Support in
Labour Party for Its Leader
3. Kshama Sawant Delivers a Socialist
Obama’s State of the Union
4. The 21st Century Sure Has Been a Great Time to
Be a Corporation
5. On my computer
This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 14, 2016.
This is a
crisis blog. There are 5 items with 4 dotted links: Item
1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald on the demise of Al
Jazeera America; item 2 is about "The Corbyn
Effect": He still is popular in England; item 3 is
about a reply by an American socialist to Obama's SOTU-speech; item 4 is about how insanely profitable the big
corporations were lately, in strong contrast with nearly everybody
else; and item 5 is a brief update about the state
of my computer.
1. Al Jazeera
America Terminates All TV and Digital Operations
by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
The main reasons to report on this are that
(i) I think the main media in the USA mostly do propaganda and ceased
doing honest journalism, so that (ii) I am mildly in favor of anything
that might break or upset the unceasing flow of propaganda-
Executives of Al Jazeera America (AJAM)
held a meeting at 2 p.m. Eastern Time to tell their employees
that the company is terminating all news and digital operations in the
U.S. as of April 2016, resulting in the loss of hundreds of jobs. The
announcement marks a stunning and rapid collapse of what, from the
start, has been a towering failure.
And this attitude also extends to Al Jazeera, even though I am myself
an atheist classical liberal (with atheism in my family extending back
to the 1850-ies).
Then again, Glenn Greenwald was far from impressed by AJAM:
From the start, employees complained
vociferously that network executives were paralyzed by fear,
believing they had to avoid all hints of bias and opinion in order to
steer clear of what these executives regarded as the lethal stench of
the Al Jazeera brand for American audiences. This turned much of the
network into a diluted, extra-fearful version of CNN, which itself has
suffered from remarkably low ratings for years.
I do not know whether this is correct, simply
because I saw a little of AJAM but not enough to judge myself, although
I am willing to trust Glenn Greenwald.
And Greenwald also gives the main reason for AJAM's demise. It is
AJAM has been losing staggering
sums of money from the start. That has become increasingly untenable as
the network’s owner and funder, the government of Qatar, is now
economically struggling due to low oil prices.
I say. (And this may entail further
shrinkings of Al Jazeera.)
The Corbyn Effect: Survey Shows Huge Support in Labour Party for Its
The second item
is by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Jeremy Corbyn appears to be reshaping
the U.K. Labour Party, with a survey showing “overwhelming support for
him [and] a decisive shift to the left.”
The Guardian “interviewed Labour
secretaries, chairs, other office holders and members from more than
100 of the 632 constituencies in England, Scotland and Wales,” and
found that “almost every constituency party across the country we
contacted reported doubling, trebling, quadrupling or even quintupling
membership, and a revival of branches that had been moribund for years
and close to folding.”
I say. I did not know that, and it is good
news, indeed in considerable part because the English press - including
The Guardian, in majority - is against Jeremy Corbyn.
Also, it is good news not because I am a
socialist (I am not ) but because British
politics since Tony Blair is mainly a field for lying careerists, and
Jeremy Corbyn is not a lying careerist.
And while I disagree with Corbyn on some
very fundamental matters, he is honest, and he may reform the Labour
Party, that much deserves reforming.
There is also this from The Right-Turning
The rise in membership has been uneven
across the country. In contrast with steep rises in London and
elsewhere in England and Wales, the rises in Scotland have been
relatively modest, ominous for the party’s hopes in May’s Scottish
Members, in spite of unhappiness with
public splits within the PLP, say there is no appetite for deselection
of MPs. But some acknowledge that proposed boundary changes in 2018
could result in de-facto deselection.
Returning members, who had left Labour
mainly in protest over the 2003 Iraq invasion, are making an immediate
impact, partly because they are familiar with the rules.
Both returning members and new ones tend
to be mainly leftwing. There are few reports of attempted infiltration
from hard-left groups.
Whether that is all true I do not
know, though I agree to the last paragraph for the simple reason that
there are few
hard-left groups left, and there are far more new members of Labour
than there were members of the small remaining hard-left groups.
3. Kshama Sawant Delivers a Socialist Response to Obama’s
State of the Union Speech
This starts as follows, and it is here
because it is a response of a socialist American:
third item is
by A/V Booth on Truthdig:
Obama’s final State of the Union
was filled with optimism for the future of the United States. I share
this confidence, but for very different reasons. My confidence is based
not on big corporations or the prosperity of Wall Street and its
billionaires. It is based instead on the immense potential power of
American workers, of the 99%, to fight for a better society against the
Billionaire Class, whose limitless greed threatens our society and our
I do not share the confidence, and my
main reason is that "the Billionaire Class" has been intrigueing and deregulating
now for 35 years, and has succeeded in getting rid of
most of the laws that constrained their enormous greed and great powers.
Then again, I am willing to accept that a socialist leader is more or
less bound to say what Kshama Sawant said.
Here is her analysis of Obama's presidency:
Under Obama’s two terms in office
the Wall Street barons who crashed the global economy, who needed to be
bailed out and rescued with our money—these same gangsters have not
only walked away free, but have taken the lion’s share of the recovery.
America’s 20 wealthiest people—a group that could fit comfortably in
one luxury jet—now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American
population combined, a total of 152 million people. These same
billionaires are bankrolling the political establishment of both major
parties. Congress isn’t regulating Wall Street. It is Wall Street that
I think that is correct. Much more could have
been said, but I think she is fundamentally right in insisting
that "Congress isn’t regulating Wall Street.
It is Wall Street that controls Congress." And
that is a major problem.
Here she is on Bernie Sanders:
Bernie Sanders is giving voice to
the enormous desire for progressive change. Many of Bernie’s supporters
are excited to support a self-described democratic socialist candidate.
But what is socialism? Millions are asking. A socialist society would
put people before profits, the environment before big oil. In which the
resources of the major corporations are taken into democratic public
ownership, rationally planned for the needs of society as a whole. I am
not a Democrat, but I would welcome it if Bernie Sanders were to win
the Democratic nomination, as this would be a major blow to the
political establishment and to corporate politics.
I don't think Bernie Sanders is as socialist
as Kshama Sawant. I may
be mistaken, but from my own - quite informed - European perspective,
he seems more of a social democrat than a democratic socialist (but I
agree both terms are vague).
Kshama Sawant is a socialist, and I am not, and indeed
she allows me to say where I fundamentally disagree. She said, in
socialist society (..)" is one in which "the resources of the major corporations are taken into
democratic public ownership, rationally planned for the needs of
society as a whole."
This is a correct definition of
socialism, though it isn't very precise. Well, I much dislike
the major corporations, but I also do not believe in a "democratic public ownership" for the
simple reason that "public ownership" will strongly tend to be the ownership of the
party that leads the country after the revolution.
This happened in the Soviet Union, this happened in China, this
happened in Cuba, and this has happened in other "socialist countries".
It is logically possible to prevent this - see my On Socialism - but the strong lure
of absolute power
makes this possibility rather unlikely.
She ended as follows:
Eugene Debs, the great American
Socialist, once said: “The issue is Socialism versus Capitalism. I am
for Socialism because I am for humanity. We have been cursed with the
reign of gold long enough … The time has come to regenerate society.”
Debs, but he died 90 years ago this year. And I do not think it is
sensible in the 21st Century to divide political choices on lines like these
appeared to Eugene Debs circa 1925. I dislike capitalism from what I've
seen of it. I dislike socialism from what I've seen of it. 
If I had a say, I'd be in favor of laws that make it
impossible for anyone to earn more than 20 times as much as the poorest,
provided the poorest had a decent income.
This would not cost the 99% a
penny; it would be a simple law corresponding to a simple
moral principle: "No one should earn more than 20 times as much as
the poor"; and it would put an end to the very small class of
billionaires and millionaires who have ruled most of the world for
It certainly isn't capitalist, and
probably also isn't socialist, because it is not for "public
ownership". It does seem the simplest idea that may work, but
then it puts
an end to anyone making more than 20 times as much as I do, and that
the motive of major greed may be the reason not to
adopt this plan either.
4. The 21st Century Sure Has Been a Great Time to Be a
fourth item is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:
This starts as follows:
This is apropos of nothing in
particular. I was just noodling around on something else and happened
to run across this data, so here it is. The economic recovery of the
Bush years might have been pretty anemic for most of us, but it was
sure a great time for the corporate world: Between 2001 and 2006,
pretax profits went up 3x and after-tax profits went up even more.
And here are the data, with two
trend lines (linear regressions) drawn in by me (and if you want better
graphics, and without trend lines, try the last dotted link: I wanted
to fit it in the normal limits of Nederlog):
The break falls between 2001 and 2004. And
indeed - as Kevin Drum tells his readers - as far as after-tax incomes
are concerned: While ordinary folks with ordinary incomes (the 99%) lost
about 5% the extra-ordinary folks with extra-ordinary incomes
(the 1%) gained nearly 400%.
5. On my computer
fifth and last item today is not a crisis item but is a brief report on
the status of my computer.
The state of my computer is of some importance for those who like to
read my site(s), especially since I made a considerable
mistake last November: I installed a later version of Ubuntu without
verifying it had the High Contrast Inverse option, on which I rely
since the second half of 2012, when I got - quite painful - dry eyes.
This was all my fault, and if you want to know more about this,
consult this, this or this. (These are also short, but a
bit clearer than the present note.)
Meanwhile, the computer is working and has been working
most of the time, but it still is not quite OK. I will have to
sort this out this year, but I am currently in need
of some better health, and the computer mostly works.
 The fact that I am not
a socialist is a bit more meaningful in my
case than in many others, because both of my - intelligent, honest -
parents were communists for over 40 years, and my mother's family were
anarchists since the 19th Century.
Also, while I disagreed with my parents about Marx and socialism, I agreed
with them, and still do, about most of their criticisms of
capitalism: it was unfair, immoral, profit-oriented,
and condemned most people to spend their lives holding boring or
demeaning jobs as wage slaves.
I still agree with these criticisms, but I am not a socialist
because I found in my late teens that I disagreed with Marx
(for quite good reasons also) and had found in my early teens that
Soviet style socialism (which I then experienced myself, in the GDR in
1964) was not socialism but simply a dictatorship.
There is a lot more I might tell about these choices, which I will not
do here, except for one addition: One of the things that makes me
differ from most who are actively engaged in politics
is that I believe much more in science than in
politics if I were asked "what do you think is the main way
human beings may be emancipated?"
But this also is very much a minority view (at least: amongst those who
are politically active).
 As I have outlined in 2015 - see here and here - I think The Guardian made a major
mistake by preventing its readers to copy it; by doing that in a way
This also considerably lessened my liking of The Guardian: I
think it is turning right, and does so basically because of the
self-interest of those making it.
And no: I do not know of any other paper that prevents
its readers from copying it, and I think being able to copy
parts of the text is the only way of
discussing things rationally in these times were ordinary journalism
and editing has mostly sold out to rich owners.
 The main point here is the repeated
addition of "what I've seen of it": I do not judge socialism by wishful
thinking about what it might - eventually - be, but by what
it was, even if I agree that was mostly a lie - but it was a
lie that was believed (for quite a long time, at least) by millions
upon millions of people who did identify themselves as
"socialists" or "communists", including my parents and their friends.