1. The Graveyard of the Elites
2. Noam Chomsky Wants You
to Wake Up From the
3. An Open Letter to the Republican Establishment
4. Five Years on and the Fukushima Crisis Is Far From
This is a Nederlog of Monday, February 29,
crisis blog. There are 4 items today, with 4 dotted links (and no, I am sorry, I didn't find more): Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges on the elites (with some extensions by me); item 2 is about a recent film about Noam Chomsky, mostly about elites and power; item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich that is also mostly about elites and power; and item 4 is an update by a Greenpeace activist five years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The Graveyard of the Elites
first item is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
Power elites, blinded by hubris,
intoxicated by absolute power, unable to set limits on their
exploitation of the underclass, propelled to expand empire beyond its
capacity to sustain itself, addicted to hedonism, spectacle and wealth,
surrounded by half-witted courtiers—Alan Greenspan, Thomas Friedman,
David Brooks and others—who tell them what they want to hear, and
enveloped by a false sense of security because of their ability to
employ massive state violence, are the last to know their privileged
world is imploding.
“History,” the Italian sociologist Vilfredo
Pareto wrote, “is the graveyard of aristocracies.”
Perhaps, but I think one ought to be a
little more cynical or rather: realistic.
For it seems to me that the very rich have
gotten nearly everything they wanted, since the
1971 Powell Memorandum (<-Wikipedia), and that they planned this
far better than their oppositions ,
while Pareto indeed said what he is quoted as saying, but he also
insisted that every complex society is being led by some aristocracy
(whether from nobles or from the communist party top or from elected parliaments), though these may
have widely different social plans and ideologies.
Then there is this:
The carnival of the presidential
election is a public display of the deep morbidity and artifice that
have gripped American society. Political discourse has been reduced by
design to trite patriotic and religious clichés, sentimentality,
sanctimonious peons to the American character, a sacralization of
militarism, and acerbic, adolescent taunts. Reality has been left
Yes, I agree - but again I see this in
rather more cynical or realistic terms:
It seems to me that the main underlying reason that made this carnival
the gross are the stupidity and ignorance - sorry: the lack of
of almost any relevant knowledge - in considerable parts of the
American population, and indeed especially in Republican voters. (If
only because the
Democrats did put up competent candidates.)
Then there is this, that is mostly correct:
Our constitutional democracy is dead. It
does not work. Or rather, it does not work for us. No politician or
elected official can alter anything of substance. Throughout the
administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama there has been
complete continuity on nearly every issue. Indeed, if Obama has a
legacy it is that he made things incrementally worse. He has
accelerated the assault on civil liberties, expanded the imperial
wars—including empowering the government to order the assassination of
American citizens—and opened up new drilling sites on public lands as
if he were Sarah Palin. He has failed to rein in Wall Street, which is
busy orchestrating another global financial meltdown, and turned our
health care system over to rapacious corporations.
I agree with most, but not with the
beginning: The "democracy" "works" simply because it does
succeed in (i) bamboozling most of the American public and in (ii) generally - so far: these elections may be an exception -
getting someone elected as president who was approved by the political
leaders in their parties.
But yes, I agree democray in the USA, in the sense of: ordinary
people having a significant say about politics and politicians, is mostly
There is this on Obama, that seems quite justified to me:
Obama, now a charter member of our
ruling elite, will become rich, as did the Clintons, when he leaves
office. The moneyed elites will pay for his two presidential
libraries—grotesque vanity projects. They will put him on boards and
lavish him with astronomical speaking fees. But as a democratic leader
he has proved to be as pathetic as his predecessor.
Yes, indeed - or more so, for he got
elected originally on utterly false messages that we was to be an agent of "Change!",
"Change!", "Change!", quite unlike his predecessor - whose policies he mostly followed without bringing any
And it is true that Obama's financial
future looks very rosy, for in the next 8 years or so he will be
rewarded by the banks' very rich CEOs for all the services he did for
them while president, precisely like Bill Clinton was rewarded and made
a major multi-millionaire (as well).
There is also this on real motives:
The whole election cycle is a carnival
act, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. It caters to the
most venal instincts of the public. It is an example of the deep
cynicism among elites who, like all other con artists, privately mock
us for our gullibility and naiveté. We are treated like malleable
As before: Yes, but it does
something, namely that the political elites - once again - have
succeeded in misleading the majority of the American population, and
got one of their own group elected as president, and it does
also signify that most of the American public is mostly ignorant about
the real forces that play them.
This in turn strongly suggests that those of the elite who "privately mock us for our gullibility and naiveté"
are in fact quite right: Only a quite unintelligent and quite ignorant
population - in majority: there are quite a few intelligent
knowledgeable Americans, but only in minorities - would tolerate the
present deceitful elites and choose one of them.
Finally, I quote this on corporations,
with which I agree:
Yes indeed, although one should also
recognize that a corporation - see Wiliam Hazlitt's
bodies": old but very true and very perceptive - in
fact is an assembly of private persons who set up a corporation to
do as they please mostly without any of these private
persons having any real financial or legal responsibility.
Corporations control the three branches
of government. Corporations write the laws. Corporations determine the
media narrative and public debate. Corporations are turning public
education into a system of indoctrination. Corporations profit from
permanent war, mass incarceration, suppressed wages and poor health
care. Corporations have organized a tax boycott. Corporations demand
“austerity.” Corporate power is unassailable, and it rolls forward like
a stream of lava.
Indeed, having mentioned Wiliam Hazlitt - my favorite author, with
Montaigne and Multatuli - here are two quotations by him, that in my
opinion are true of most men and women, and also of the current
mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago.
The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, "to
good work reprobate." William Hazlitt
case you disagree: Watch the supporters of Donald Trump (and ask
yourself: what do they know that I don't know, and what do I know that
they don't know).
Man is a
animal. The admiration of power in others is as common to man as the
love of it in himself: the one makes him a tyrant, the other a slave. William Hazlitt
2. Noam Chomsky Wants You to Wake
Up From the American Dream
is by David Swanson on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
If you've just seen Michael
Moore's movie and
are wondering how in the world the United States got diverted into the
slow lane to hell, go watch Noam Chomsky's movie. If you've just seen Noam Chomsky's movie
and are wondering whether the human species is really worth saving, go
see Michael Moore's movie.
I haven't seen either movie but - from
reviews - I guess that they are both well worth seeing.
This is about the movie about Chomsky:
Chomsky explains how concentrated
wealth creates concentrated power, which legislates further
concentration of wealth, which then concentrates more power in a
vicious cycle. He lists and elaborates on 10 principles of the
concentration of wealth and power -- principles that the wealthy of the
United States have acted intensely on for 40 years or more.
I will list the ten principles in a moment,
but first a remark or two about "for 40 years or
There seem to be two plausible dates to give for the start of the
neoconserva- tive backlash: 1971 and the Powell
Memorandum, and 1980 and the election of Ronald Reagan as
I think myself that the later date is the genuine beginning,
though I agree that the Powell Memorandum was quite important, but in
my opinion more as preparation for the conservative backlash that
followed rather than as the backlash itself.
Next, the principles Chomsky sketched about "concentrated
wealth" and "concentrated power" are true - and as old as the
Greeks and, especially, the Romans, and explain much about human
civilization, that so far has mostly turned around rich elites
and their desires.
It also should be said that the 20th Century was mostly a painful and
cruel mess - "History
is little else but the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes
of mankind", as Gibbon said - with two world wars, over 40 years of
cold war, and in the rich West only
some 35 years of "capitalism-with-a-human-face" as I call it, namely
from 1945 till 1980 (when riches were shared to a much larger extent
than now, or before, and in fact only between 1965 and 1980 on a large
Here are the principles Chomsky discusses. I only provide the titles:
For more you have to check out either the above article or the film:
1. Reduce Democracy.
Then there is this on these anti-democratic
principles of pure power:
2. Shape Ideology.
3. Redesign the
4. Shift the Burden.
5. Attack Solidarity.
6. Run the
8. Keep the Rabble
10. Marginalize the Population.
Unless the trends described above are
reversed, Chomsky says, things are going to get very ugly.
Then the film shows us a clip of Chomsky
saying the same thing decades earlier when he was still shown on U.S.
television. He's been marginalized along with the rest of us.
As I have indicated, these anti-democratic principles of pure power have ruled most of
human history, which also means that I agree with Chomsky that the
probability is that "things are going to get
And while I do not know who David Swanson means with "the rest of us",
I agree that the main media have been changed, intentionally also, and
helped by the rise of the computer, from quite a lot of diverse suppliers
of real news and real opinions and to a very few suppliers of deceptive "news" plus approved
opinions by approved talking heads. (This itself is sufficient to terminate any
real democracy: You need a diversified and free press, and without it
you have no real democracy.)
David Swanson does propose an eleventh
principle, and I think he is correct. Here it is, with some explanatory
11. Dump Massive Funding into
Militarism. Why should this be included? Well, militarism
is the biggest public program in the United States. It's over half of
federal discretionary spending. If you're going to claim that lobbyists
are concentrating wealth through their influence on the government,
why not notice the single budget item that eats up over half
the budget? It does indeed concentrate wealth and also power. It's a
vast pot of unaccountable funding for cronies. And it generates public
interest in fighting foreign enemies rather than enemies hanging out on
Quite so. Here are the last two sentences
of the article:
Well... the freedoms are a lot less; the
legal punishments for deviance (like smoking marijuana) have been a lot
heavier; and while I agree that still a lot can be done, it is also true that a good case can be
made that the present
The United States still has a very free
society, Chomsky advises. A lot can be done, he tells us, if people
will only choose to do it.
American population just is not intelligent and informed enough to do
I much hope I am mistaken, but the last 35 years were not
good for democracy, intelligence, civilization or rational and decent
An Open Letter to the
third item is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
You are the captains
of American industry, the titans of Wall Street, and the billionaires
decades have been the backbone of the Republican Party.
You’ve invested your
millions in the GOP in order to get lower taxes, wider tax loopholes,
subsidies, more generous bailouts, less regulation, lengthier patents
copyrights and stronger market power allowing you to raise prices,
unions and bigger trade deals allowing you outsource abroad to reduce
easier bankruptcy for you but harder bankruptcy for homeowners and
debtors, and judges who will let you to engage in insider trading and
prosecute you for white-collar crimes.
All of which have made
you enormously wealthy. Congratulations.
This certainly does not apply to me, but
the middle paragraph adequately describes what the rich did
achieve since the 1980ies.
There follows some criticism that I skip, after which there is this:
Finally, by squeezing
wages and rigging the economic game in your favor, you have invited an
unprecedented political backlash – against trade, immigration,
and even against the establishment itself.
The pent-up angers and
frustrations of millions of Americans who are working harder than ever
getting nowhere, and who feel more economically insecure than ever,
Yes and no. That is, while I agree that
the very rich did themselves create an important part of their
problems, and especially by increasing their own rich incomes
mostly through decreasing the incomes of the rest, I think it
true that the very rich always tried to do these things, and never
the poverty of others, except hypocritically (a very few excepted).
Finally, here is Reich on the failings of
the very rich (who did have most of the powers since 1980, and
who could indeed have done quite differently):
have done far better with a smaller share of an economy growing more
because it possessed a strong and growing middle class.
have done far better with a political system less poisoned by your
money – and
therefore less volatile and polarized, more capable of responding to
of average people, less palpably rigged in your favor.
were selfish and greedy, and you thought only about your short-term
Again yes and no: Yes, this is true as a
moral argument, but no, the very rich have hardly ever been moved by
moral arguments, and have been restrained only by laws, that also were
actively maintained by governments.
But the laws were deregulated, by
Reagan, by Clinton, by Bush and by Obama.
And in my own view, almost the only hope to undo the power grab of the
very rich is another collapse of the economy, and to a larger extent
than in 2008, that also will be undone by either a return to a kind of
Keynesian much fairer sharing or some more radical changes.
4. Five Years on and the Fukushima
Crisis Is Far From Over
The fourth and last item today is by Shaun Burnie on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows, and is an update on
Fukushima (<- Wikipedia) (about which there also is an interesting
article by Ralph Nader of 2014):
Scotland is over 9,000 km from
Japan, but there’s something the two countries have in common. Along
the Scottish coastline, buried in riverbeds, and mixed into the Irish
Sea, you can find significant radioactive contamination coming from the other
side of the world. Yes, radioactive contamination. All the way from
I am not amazed, for this was quite
foreseeable. (Besides, it also means that the rest of the 9,000
km have been radioactively contaminated as well.)
Shaun Durrie is a member of Greenpeace. Here is some of what he found,
some 5 years after the Fukushima disaster:
Greenpeace Japan sent a team to
evacuation zone to conduct independent radiation testing; and
researchers on the
Rainbow Warrior, kitted up in full body chemical suits, pulled
floating seaweed from the surrounding area to use as samples. Our
results were unfortunately as you would expect – high
levels of contamination. Subsequently, we’ve also found radiation
is still so widespread that it’s unsafe for people to return across
large parts of Fukushima.
And there is this about a former Japanese
prime minister, who was on board on the Rainbow Warrior:
For Mr Naoto Kan, who was Japan’s
leader when the disaster hit, this voyage is as much personal as it is
political. In the years since 2011 he has spoken out publicly against the nuclear industry,
standing alongside millions of Japanese people opposed to nuclear power
– a far cry from the current “tone-deaf” Abe administration, which is
desperately trying to save a nuclear industry in crisis. Opposed by the
majority of citizens, and beset by enormous technical, financial and
legal obstacles, it’s an effort that I believe is doomed to failure.
Quite possibly so. In any case, Mr. Kan (<- Wikipedia) seems
sincere in his opposition to nuclear power.
 I wrote "oppositions" in the plural
because there were quite a few different more or less leftist
oppositions, varying from feminists and women's groups, through
academics and students, through musicians and movie stars, through
trade unions and many civic groups and more - and nearly all of these
are mere shadows of what they were in the 1970ies.