January 16, 2016

Crisis: "Truth", Trump, Sanders, Middle Class, TPP, Rich Egoistic Greed
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 U.S. Radically Changes Its Story of the Boats in Iranian
     Waters: to an Even More Suspicious Version

2. Donald Trump, the New George Wallace?
3. "He Has Summoned a Political Revolution"
4. Most Americans Don’t Even Have $1,000 in Savings
5. The Deeper, Uglier Side of TPP
Big Crony CEO Pay Grab–Effects Beyond Greed!

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, January 16, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald that shows much of what the American main media bring is not news but government propaganda; item 2 is on an article in Democracy Now! that claims Trump is much like George Wallace (I tend to disagree, and not because I like Trump); item 3 is about Bernie Sanders and why The Nation supports him; item 4 is about the poverty of many in the US with an inference about the middle class's non-existence that I reject; item 5 is about the TPP (which in my eyes is simple and plain corporate fascism); and item 6 is about how enormously more greedy the very rich have become in 45 years.

There is also an earlier Nederlog of today, but this is about my computer and about my health, and will be less interesting to many.

1. U.S. Radically Changes Its Story of the Boats in Iranian Waters: to an Even More Suspicious Version

The first article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
When news first broke of the detention of two U.S. ships in Iranian territorial waters, the U.S. media — aside from depicting it as an act of Iranian aggression — uncritically cited the U.S. government’s explanation for what happened. One of the boats, we were told, experienced “mechanical failure” and thus “inadvertently drifted” into Iranian waters. On CBS News, Joe Biden told Charlie Rose, “One of the boats had engine failure, drifted into Iranian waters.”
My reason to select this (apart from Glenn Greenwald) is that it shows the prevalence of lying in the ordinary news.

Here is the evidence (in part):

The U.S. government itself now says this story was false. There was no engine failure, and the boats were never “in distress.”
Instead, said Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at a press conference this morning, the sailors “made a navigational error that mistakenly took them into Iranian territorial waters.”
And then you see - in effect - the power of e-mail, that was shown before, many times also, by - especially - the GOP:

If anything happens of any importance, it seems e-mails are sent out to everyone who may speak on TV in which the key-phrases and key-arguments are given that everyone has to repeat. And next you see many Republican speakers saying essentially the same all over the country: They are all repeating the same e-mail.

And this approach is now true of "the news" in general in the USA, if that news is on the main media. You don't get news anymore, you get prepared propaganda that quite probably was made for you by some public relations office that doesn't want to give the news as much as they want to bias the viewers or readers.

As Glenn Greenwald says:

This happens over and over. A significant incident occurs, such as the U.S. bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The U.S. government makes claims about what happened. The U.S. media uncritically repeat them over and over. And then the U.S. government just blithely changes its story repeatedly, implicitly admitting that the tales it originally told were utterly false. But the next time a similar event happens, there is no heightened skepticism of U.S. government claims: its media treat them as Gospel.
This is not reporting. This is not news. This is not true. It is all lies, and the worst of it is that the obvious lies are never acknowledged, so that the lying can go on and on and on.

2. Donald Trump, the New George Wallace?

The second item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
Critics have noted the similarities in rhetoric between Donald Trump and segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace’s 1968 presidential campaign. In November, a Black Lives Matter protester was kicked and punched by Trump supporters at a rally in Birmingham, Alabama, as Trump yelled, "Get him the hell out of here!" Trump later defended his supporters, saying "maybe [the protester] should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing." George Wallace’s daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, has also compared the two campaigns, but says her father may have actually been less extreme.
I can't recall whether I ever saw any of George Wallace's campaigns, and if I did it cannot have been much (since it was in the 1960ies, and all there was available on Dutch TV then were two choices of two Dutch senders). But I do recall George Wallace.

Then again, I have seen Donald Trump, and he does not seem like George Wallace to me: He seems a whole lot dumber (which - I am willing to agree - is in part acting), uses many insane "arguments", has incredible amounts of personal braggadacio ("Trump Is The Greatest"), and his language is simply very bad as language or as argument ("brain farts", Bill Maher call them).

Also - since I am a psychologist and know rather a lot about psychiatry, that presently has over 400 different ways of claiming that anyone they dislike is somehow "insane" (which is a term they cannot define) - I wonder in how many ways Trump is not sane
, in terms of the DSM 5.

I'd say: In many ways, going by the DSM 5, but I doubt any American psychiatrist will say so, even though a person like Trump ought to give them ample reason, especially if he were to become president. [1]

3. "He Has Summoned a Political Revolution"

The third item is also by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:
With just weeks to go, polls show Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is edging ahead of front-runner Hillary Clinton in the primary season’s first two contests. Numbers released this week give Sanders a five-point lead over Clinton in Iowa and a four-point lead in New Hampshire. Sanders has also narrowed Clinton’s once commanding lead nationwide, pulling within seven points. As the Democratic race tightens, The Nation magazine—the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States—has issued a rare endorsement. On Thursday, the magazine ran the editorial "Bernie Sanders for President," saying: "[Sanders] has summoned the people to a 'political revolution,' arguing that the changes our country so desperately needs can only happen when we rest our democracy from the corrupt grip of Wall Street bankers and billionaires. We believe such a revolution is not only necessary but possible—and that’s why we’re endorsing Bernie Sanders for president."
I like that and have reviewed this news before. Here is a bit more from the editor of The Nation:
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: For more than three decades, Bernie Sanders has championed ideas and issues, which have essentially been off the radar of our downsized politics. Those very ideas and issues are ones which have animated The Nation. At the heart of it, I would say, is you have someone in Bernie Sanders who is the real deal, who is honest, who has integrity and is a truth teller about the rigged system that is shafting so many people in this country, the inequality that is leading this country to be a plutocracy, not a democracy. And for those reasons, The Nation believed it was an important moment to speak to those issues—there are others—but in Bernie Sanders, there’s a political revolution that could upend the distorted priorities of this country, the sweetheart deals too many are getting, the grip of banks and insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies on this country, and speak to a better future. And I think he has opened, whatever happens—and we’re aware the road to the White House is steep—he has opened space for a more powerful progressive movement. And he has changed the kind of politics that is possible.
I agree, though indeed he hasn't won either the candidacy or the presidency, yet.

4. Most Americans Don’t Even Have $1,000 in Savings

This fourth item is by Ben Norton on Salon:

This starts as follows:

American politicians constantly speak of the middle class. Democrats, Republicans and even many independents all insist their policies defend it.

But what does it really mean? This question is rarely asked. What exactly is the middle class?

A new study suggests that the U.S. hardly even has one.

More than half of Americans — 56 percent, to be exact — have less than $1,000 combined in their checking and savings accounts, according to a recent survey, Forbes reported.

It so happens that, after 37 years of illness, and living on Dutch study loans or Dutch dole all the time, I have over $ 2000 dollars in reserve. Then again, I do have a long training in living on little money, and I don't drink, don't smoke, and
don't go out.

Next, I should warn you that "the middle class" is certainly not defined, not even inexactly, in this article. But the article does give some facts:

Roughly 15 percent of Americans live in poverty — 46.7 million people, in 2014. Close to one in every four American children suffers from poverty. And, among black and Latina/o Americans, the economic hardship is even worse.

This poverty has tangible, evident implications. It means that the U.S. has the sixth-highest hunger rate out of all of the economically developed OECD nations.

In other words, more people go hungry in the U.S. than do in Poland and the Slovak Republic. Slightly fewer people go hungry in the U.S. than in Estonia. And hunger is much less widespread in the poverty-stricken nations of India and Brazil.

Estonia and the Slovak Republic are small countries. But I agree it is rather crazy that people have to be hungry in the United States, simply because it is a lot richer than Estionia and the Slovak Republic.

There is also this:

The richest 0.1 percent of Americans have almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. 160,000 families have as much money as around 290 million Americans.

Globally, the figure is even more stark. The richest 1 percent is estimated to have more wealth than 99 percent of the people on the planet.
I agree that is a major shame - and I insist there is a very simple cure for this kind of stark inequality that is extremely unjust: Forbid anyone to earn more than 20 times as much as the legally poorest in a country - which is how it was in the 1960ies in the USA, at least in terms of salaries (and not considering inherited wealth etc.)

Then again, I take it the plan is too simple and too radical to be adopted, for although at most 1% earns over $ 300,000 a year, many of the 99% - none of whom earns as much - likes the chance of becoming a millionaire themselves.

Anyway, here is the ending:

It is time to admit it: There is no middle class; there is only the working class and the ruling class — the economic elite.
No, for quite a few reasons. Here are some:

First, Ben Norton has not even defined (not even carelessly) what he means by "middle class".

Second, the fact that 15% of the USA lives in poverty, and 1% lives in wealth, does not imply that the remaining 84% are either poor or wealthy.

Third, there are several ways of defining "middle class" and one way is Max Weber's, who distinguishes three components:
a person's economic position; a person's status; and a person's power.

Fourth... no: there are more reasons, but clearly most in the United States are (still) neither rich nor poor, and therefore are best called middle class (even if the term is vague, and those with middling incomes also got poorer, in real terms).

And you certainly can't claim the disappearance of the middle class on the basis of no definition and the given numbers.

5. The Deeper, Uglier Side of TPP   

The fifth item is by Yves Smith on Naked Capitalism:
This starts as follows:
Yves here. If you have friends or colleagues who would might be new to the topic of how dangerous the investor state dispute settlement process is for not just regulation but national sovereignity, this Real News Network show provides a fine introduction. Even though this short but crisp segment will be largely old hat to regular readers, it does also discuss a device often used successfully in these kangaroo courts, called “stacking.” which increases the odds of win by the corporation suing for compensation.
To start with, here is the video:

Here is one bit from the video

HEDGES: Proponents of the TPP say it’s the most progressive deal in history because it protects labor and environment. But deep inside the rabbit hole are another set of rules called Most Favored Nation rules or MFN rules, which allow multinationals to circumvent almost any regulation from existing trade deals, including the quote-on-quote "most progressive" ones from the TPP.

ST. LOUIS: And what that means is that a government has to provide the same treatment to an investor from, from a TPP country as they provide to any other country in any other treaty that they have. And so through that mechanism it’s actually possible for investors to sue through one treaty, but say we actually want the protections that were included in a third treaty that we’re not even, that our government isn’t even a part of.

HEDGES: ISDS and MFN rules are bolstered by the fact that they are privileges only corporations can enjoy.

ST. LOUIS: It is only corporations that can bring cases. Governments can’t bring cases. They can–they are defendants. But a government cannot challenge a corporation.

In fact only corporations can attack governments: Trade unions or groups of people or private persons are all excluded from any rights or any say: They may make their governments protect them, but their governments can and will be sued by the multi-national corporations for anything that threatens the expected profits of the corporations, which means the corporations can torpedo all politics, all governmental policies, all national judicial decisions merely on the grounds that these threatened their expected profits.

And I say again what I have been saying since 2012: If the following definition from
the American Heritage Dictionary makes sense, which it does:
"fascism" is defined as "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent natio- nalism."
then the TTP and the TTIP and the TiSA and the CETA are simply plans - that have mostly succeeded thanks to corrupting and lobbying the American members of Congress - to institute corporate fascism almost everywhere.

6. Big Crony CEO Pay Grab–Effects Beyond Greed!

The last item today is by Ralph Nader on his blog:

This starts as follows:

As the New Year gets underway, the highest-paid CEOs of many large corporations have already paid themselves more than the average worker will earn in the entire year!  By the end of the first week of January, the highest-paid CEOs had already made as much as their average workers will earn over 8 years.

An analysis by Equilar, a consulting firm specializing in executive pay, found that on average, the 200 highest-paid CEOs make approximately $22.6 million a year, or almost $10,800 an hour, a 9.1% increase from the previous year.  Meanwhile, the Census Bureau reports the average household earns approximately $53,000 a year.

Over the past fifty years, the pay gap between many highly-paid CEOs and their employees has increased dramatically. In 1965, when they also liked to be rich, CEOs made approximately twenty times as much as their average employee, meaning they would earn their workers’ average pay by the third week of January, and since the 1980s, the average difference and greed have increased. Highly-paid CEOs now make 303 times as much as their employees in a year, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.

Incidentally, $10,800 an hour = $3 a second, and $180 a minute - and this is what these major greeds want for themselves. Also, in the last 50 years the average income of the American CEOs went from 20 times as much as their average employee to 303 times as much.

I think it is plainly obscene. In case you don't think so, there is this:
Unlike the soaring pay awarded to highly-compensated CEOs, the minimum wage has not even kept up with inflation. Department of Labor data shows that, had minimum wage increases kept up with inflation since 1968, the minimum wage would be nearly $11 today. Instead, it has lost one-third of its purchasing power.
Here is my own response: I would propose limiting the amount of salary anyone can get to 20 times the amount of the poor, indeed as it was in 1965, in capitalist America.

But I agree the plan will probably fail, not because it is irrealistic or opposes the interest of the 99%, for it doesn't, but because it upsets the quite irrealistic dreams of quite a few in the 99%.

[1] To be sure, I totally disbelieve in the DSM 5 (and the DSM-IV and the DSM-III), for very good reasons that are exposed here. But I am quite certain
that in terms of the DSM 5 (or its predecessors, but these did not yet have over
400 ways in which one can be mentally insane) (1) Donald Trump appears far from sane, while (2) I doubt (almost) any American psychiatrist will say so.

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