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Nederlog

 March 3, 2016

Crisis: American Fascism, "Non-Profits", Reich, Stiglitz, TPP etc.
Sections                                                                     crisis index    
Introduction   

1.
The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of
     American Fascism

2. How Billionaires Use Non-Profits to Bypass
     Governments and Force Their Agendas on Humanity

3. Why the Critics of Bernienomics Are Wrong
4. Stiglitz: Anger Over 'Failed Economy' is Shaping US
     Election

5. With TPP 'At Heart' of Obama Agenda, Critics Debunk
     Trade Talking Points
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, March 3, 2016.


This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article of Chris Hedges that has the merit of naming fascism, but that doesn't define it (well or at all); item 2 is about how - especially but not only in the USA - billionaires and multi-nationals have taken over many non-profits to further their own profits, dishonestly also; item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich that argues Bernie Sanders' economic plans are feasible; item 4 is about economist Joseph Stiglitz, who pointed out that over 90% of the economic gains since 2008 went to the 1% of the richest (and who gave some support for Sanders); and item 5 is - once again - about the TTP, TTIP, TISA and CETA, which are all plans to give all powers to the multi-national corporations, while pretending otherwise.

1. The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism

This first item is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—succeeded for decades. These elites, many from East Coast Ivy League schools, spoke the language of values—civility, inclusivity, a condemnation of overt racism and bigotry, a concern for the middle class—while thrusting a knife into the back of the underclass for their corporate masters. This game has ended.
I think this is mostly correct except for the last quoted statement, and I will also put it bit more sharply:

First, much of the actual factual dirty work that effectively enriched the already very rich corporate owners or CEOs has been done by "college- educated elites", and second, much of that dirty work was done by politically correct speaking moral degenerates from the same class of elites.

For this is simply what happened in fact:

The very rich were much enriched since the 1980ies (!!); the very rich could not do that alone; they were helped by a large class of people who belonged to the
"college-educated elite"; these people systematically enriched the very rich while talking the politically correct talk; and these "college-educated elites" also systematically confused the left with their own sick politically correct "leftist" verbal drivel (which many also genuinely believed). [1]

Then there is this:

There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism.

I do not think they are (boldness added by me) "rightfully enraged".

That is: Their enragement has causes, and one important cause is their poverty, but to be
"rightfully enraged" - as I use these terms - one has to have a moral or ethical right that makes one's anger rightful, and this they precisely lack, because they really do not understand they are being deceived by those they incorrectly trust, like Donald Trump.

But this is a more or less correct description of many of them:

These Americans want a kind of freedom—a freedom to hate. They want the freedom to use words like “nigger,” “kike,” “spic,” “chink,” “raghead” and “fag.” They want the freedom to idealize violence and the gun culture. They want the freedom to have enemies, to physically assault Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals and anyone who dares criticize their cryptofascism. They want the freedom to celebrate historical movements and figures that the college-educated elites condemn, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederacy. They want the freedom to ridicule and dismiss intellectuals, ideas, science and culture. They want the freedom to silence those who have been telling them how to behave. And they want the freedom to revel in hypermasculinity, racism, sexism and white patriarchy. These are the core sentiments of fascism. These sentiments are engendered by the collapse of the liberal state.

The stupid and ignorant want the right to be stupid, ignorant, uncivilized, cruel, violent, and morally degenerate. I think that is more or less true of many of them, and it is also true this is a kind of "cryptofascism" but I doubt this is "fascism". And I also think they should not have these "freedoms".

Next, there is in Chris Hedges' text a long quotation by the - dead - American philosopher Richard Rorty, which I totally skip because I have read philosophy for over 45 years, and I regard Rorty as an utter fraud. [2]

Then we arrive at a description of what "fascism' means in the present USA:

Fascism is aided and advanced by the apathy of those who are tired of being conned and lied to by a bankrupt liberal establishment, whose only reason to vote for a politician or support a political party is to elect the least worst. This, for many voters, is the best Clinton can offer.

But we have not been given a definition of the term "fascism", and the above quoted paragraph also does not define it.

First, here is a definition of "fascism" that I think is roughly correct. It is by the American Heritage Dictionary:

"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 nationalism."
Second, if the choice is between Hillary Clinton (and I agree with Hedges that I do not like her at all) and Donald Trump, then the difference is large, and you should vote for Clinton (in my opinion), also if your only reason to do so is that she is "the least worse".

There is some more about Hedges' undefined fascism that I skip, not because it may not be correct, in some sense, but because Hedges does not give a satisfactory definition of "fascism". (I did, above.)

Here is the end of Chris Hedges' article:

We are fighting for our political life. Tremendous damage has been done by corporate power and the college-educated elites to our capitalist democracy. The longer the elites, who oversaw this disemboweling of the country on behalf of corporations—who believe, as does CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves, that however bad Trump would be for America he would at least be good for corporate profit—remain in charge, the worse it is going to get.

Again yes and no.

Yes, "
[w]e are fighting for our political life", in the sense that if Trump wins the USA will turn very much more authoritarian, and most of the present left may be removed, silenced, or disappeared into "night and fog" with the help of the NSA.

But no, the article remains somewhat misleading from my point of view, which amounts to the following in terms of the present presidential candidates:

Bernie Sanders is much better than Hillary Clinton, who is much better than Donald Trump (or any other Republican candidate).

I think my point of view is fairly self-evident for many American voters, but Chris Hedges much dislikes Bernie Sanders, and it also seems that he considers the difference between Clinton and Trump to be much smaller than it seems to me (much as I dislike both Clinton and her program).

Then again, while Chris Hedges does not define fascism, at least he mentions it, which does seem an advantage to me.

And it does so because by the definition I used (which is not mine,  but is adequate) the USA does seem to be  developing into a fascist state, especially if Trump were to win the presidency - but indeed one should clearly define one's terms, and it is also quite true that not anything called "fascist" is fascist.

2. How Billionaires Use Non-Profits to Bypass Governments and Force Their Agendas on Humanity

The second item is b
y Sarah Lazare on AlterNet:

This is from near the beginning:

In the January issue of the New York Review of Books, veteran journalist Michael Massing noted that, in the past 15 years alone, “the number of foundations with a billion dollars or more in assets has doubled, to more than eighty.” The philanthropic sector in the United States is far more significant than in Europe, fueled in part by generous tax write-offs, which the U.S. public subsidizes to the tune of $40 billion a year.

As Massing observes, billionaires are not just handing over their money, they have ideas about how it should be used, and their vision often aligns with their own economic interests. For this reason, the philanthropy industry deserves rigorous scrutiny, not a free pass because it is in the service of good.

Yes, indeed! This is something I have been thinking for a long time, in part also as belonging to a considerably wider schema of deception: It seems to me that

(1) what is presently called "the left" is to a great extent not the left, but merely a group of groups that talk in politically correct ways, but otherwise, in real terms, are not genuinely leftist anymore, and that

(2) very many once leftish groups and organizations have been effectively taken over by dishonest smooth politically correct talkers, who in fact support the very rich.

In case you doubt this, consider Bill Clinton's and Tony Blair's and Barack Obama's "Third Wave", that in effect was a similar large fraud, that was started in the 1990ies. [3]

Here is some more on Massing and American "philantrophy" (between brackets, because in fact it is not philantrophy):

Massing’s argument followed a study released in January by the watchdog organization Global Policy Forum, which found that philanthropic foundations are so powerful they are allowing wealthy individuals to bypass governments and international bodies like the United Nations in pursuit of their own agendas. What’s more, this outsized influence is concentrated in the United States, where 19 out of the top 27 largest foundations are based. These 27 foundations together possess $360 billion, write authors Jens Martens and Karolin Seitz.

That is a whole lot of money, and it seems to be there mostly because those providing it expect that they will make profits that way, and indeed also insist
that "philantrophists" should use profit-oriented business-logic:

Such dramatic wealth accumulation has disturbing implications. "What is the impact of framing the problems and defining development solutions by applying the business logic of profit-making institutions to philanthropic activities, for instance by results-based management or the focus on technological quick-win solutions in the sectors of health and agriculture?" the report asks.

In brief, much of the present-day American "philantrophy" is not philantrophy but a deceptive fraud that makes the very rich richer by deceiving the fools.

That seems obvious to me since a long time, and there are also others who are not blind:

But some argue that we already have all the information we need to be concerned. In December, Vandana Shiva, an ecofeminist and activist, wrote in response to Zuckerberg’s move in India that a “collective corporate assault is underway globally. Having lined up all their ducks, veterans of corporate America such as Bill Gates are being joined by the next wave of philanthro-corporate Imperialists, including Mark Zuckerberg.”

“It is an enclosure of the commons,” she continued, “which are ‘commons’ because they guarantee access to the commoner, whether it be seed, water, information or internet.”

Yes, and its main instrument are the TPP, TTIP, TISA and CETA, which are all ways to destroy the commons and give everything to the corporate rich: See item 5.

3. Why the Critics of Bernienomics Are Wrong

The third item is b
y Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows (with corrections between "[]" by me):
Not [a] day goes by, it seems, without the mainstream media bashing Bern[ie] Sanders’s economic plan – quoting certain economists as saying his numbers don’t add up. (The New York Times did it again just yesterday.) They’re wrong. You need to know the truth, and spread it.
I agree. Reich also gives five arguments that I skip (click the last dotted link if you want to see them), except for the last:

5. “So you think Bernie’s plan will generate a permanent improvement in the nation’s economic performance?”

Yes. Given that healthcare expenditures constitute almost 18 percent of the U.S. economy – and that ours is the most expensive healthcare system in the world, based on private for-profit insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies that spend fortunes on advertising, marketing, administrative costs, high executive salaries, and payouts to shareholders – it’s not far-fetched to assume that adoption of a single-payer plan will permanently improve U.S. economic performance.

Again I agree, this time because (i) this would be a major change, and (ii) the numbers that e.g. Krugman lampoons are not extreme and do add up. And while this is in itself not a proof of their correctness, Krugman's criticism isn't economical (as he pretends it is) but is political (he likes Clinton, not Sanders).

4. Stiglitz: Anger Over 'Failed Economy' is Shaping US Election

The fourth item is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Inequality is shaping the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as voters disillusioned by the financial crisis and Wall Street greed increasingly turn to populist candidates like Bernie Sanders, who has made economic inequality a central platform of his campaign, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of people that are described as angry and they finally figured out that they’re not doing very well," Bloomberg reports Stiglitz as saying during an event at the Resolution Foundation, a London-based research group. "They’re not doing as well as their parents; some Americans aren’t doing as well as their grandparents."

That is true, although - as pointed out in item 1 above - many people also turn to Donald Trump. Then again, the reason this article is here is that Stiglitz correctly identifies who profited from the recession: The very rich and hardly anyone else:

"[T]he question is whether the United States is rich enough to be able to make sure that everyone has a basic right to healthcare, family leave, parental, you know, sick leave—we are exceptional—whether we are a society that can tolerate—that should tolerate the levels of inequality that we have," Stiglitz said at the time. "I think Bernie Sanders is right about that."

On Wednesday, Stiglitz pointed out that 91 percent of economic gains made since the 2008 recession went to the top one percent of earners, while the minimum wage has failed to keep up with the pace of inflation by more than 60 years.

"The American economy is a failed economy," he said. "We have to once again rewrite the rules of the economy for the 21st century."

Yes, although "the rules of the economy" can be - or perhaps I should say: could be - easily righted by three broad measures:

(i) appoint competent and honest people who are not (former) members of Goldman Sachs etc. to run the American economy; (ii) return to the kind of capitalist economy that did work quite well from 1945-1980; and (iii) nominate competent and honest keepers of the law, and not eager and willing frauds like Eric Holder (who did not prosecute any of the many rich frauds who ruined the economy for everybody else, while profiting themselves).

But I am willing to agree with Stiglitz that while these three measures probably would work, they are quite unrealistic in the present climate of governmental
economic fraud and deception, where the very rich or their eager stooges have
been nominated again and again to profit themselves.

5.
With TPP 'At Heart' of Obama Agenda, Critics Debunk Trade Talking Points

The fifth and last item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The White House is gearing up for a full-court press in support of the corporate-friendly Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), launching its latest public relations campaign in favor of the deal on Wednesday with a "flashy" annual trade agenda.

The TPP is "at the heart of this agenda," declares the document (pdf) released by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

The 2016 blueprint also highlights the administration's efforts to conclude other controversial trade agreements, including the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the U.S. and Europe and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), currently being negotiated by the U.S., EU, and 22 other countries that account for two-thirds of global GDP.

As I have said several times before:

I think the TTP, the TTIP, the TISA and the CETA are all part of a neo-fascist plan to let the "multinational corporations rig the rules on everything" by completely undoing any influence national parliaments, national goverments, national judiciaries have, and to give all these powers to the multi-national corporations and their "courts" manned by their very own lawyers.

The main reason this is a neo-fascist plan is that any multi-national corporations that believes its "expected profits" in a country are lower than expected, can go to a special "court" staffed by their own lawyers, that will decide how many hundreds of millions or billions of dollars the people of that country have to pay to the multi-national corporations, for having adopted national laws that upset the "expected profits" - from cigarettes, oil, gas or anything - of the multi-national corporations.

These neo-fascistic "courts" - that totally outdo anything any national government, parliament, judiciary or people want - will not have any appeal, and will exclude anything that is not a multi-national corporation to plead in it: No people, no small businesses, no parliamentarians, no judges and no trade unions are allowed to plead in it.

Here is an example of the fraudulent lies the American government engages in to make this exclusively pro-rich program look attractive:

WikiLeaks has called "the United States' strategic neoliberal 'trade' treaty triumvirate."

Indeed, watchdog group Public Citizen put out a memo on Wednesday debunking several of the Obama administration's TPP talking points.

For example, while the USTR claims the TPP will "cut over 18,000 taxes on Made-in-America exports, support more high-paying U.S. jobs, and promote both our interests and our values," Public Citizen points out that the TPP "includes rules that make it cheaper and less risky to offshore U.S. jobs to low wage nations."

According to the memo:

The administration stopped claiming the TPP would create jobs after a four Pinocchio rating by the Washington Post fact checker. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), more than 57,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities
have closed and five million U.S. manufacturing jobs – one in four – were lost with more than 875,000 U.S. workers certified under just one narrow U.S. Department of Labor program.

And that was just Bill Clinton's creation of the 1990ies, the NAFTA, which also did far less for "free trade" (anyway a sick and manipulative term) than it did to increase the profits of the multi-national corporations, by allowing them to move from the USA to India or China, which happened to make the very few very rich a lot richer, by denying jobs to five million Americans, and by giving these jobs to much less paid Indians, Pakistani or Chinese.

But I agree it is true that is what the NAFTA was really for: To increase the profits of the multi-national corporations. Precisely the same is true of the TTP, the TTIP, the TiSA and the CETA.

Finally, here is Senator Warren, who at least sees what is really happening:

In February, at the end of the negotiating process, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged her colleagues "to reject the TPP and stop an agreement that would tilt the playing field even more in favor of big multinational corporations and against working families."

Noting that "most of the TPP's 30 chapters don't even deal with traditional trade issues," she argued, "most of TPP is about letting multinational corporations rig the rules on everything from patent protection to food safety standards—all to benefit themselves."

Yes, indeed. And I call that "fascism", because this is fascism by a reasonable definition. Also see yesterday.
--------------------------
Note

[1] This is also informed by my experiences at the University of Amsterdam, from which I was removed, while seriously ill, briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy, because I was not a marxist, and because I believed in truth and in science.

I learned in the UvA - of the early 1980ies - where I also created a student- party, that between 5 and 10% of the students at the time were interested in science and truth, and that the rest was there only to get a degree, by any feasible means.

Something similar held for "the scientific staff": Only a few were really interested in science and truth; most were there only because they were very well paid for doing extremely little.

And I think that what I learned there, by means of the yearly repeated elections, from 1971 till 1995, namely that about 1 in 20 is seriously interested in science and truth, and the rest pretends, deceives and lies, is correct (and was roughly the same for all the years these elections were held).

You may disagree, but then you did not have my experiences, which also were extremely convincing and quite long:

Most students and most academics simply
lie when they claim an interest in science. What they really mean is: We like easy well-paid jobs, and we are willing to lie a lot for that.

[2] You may disagree, but it is almost certainly true that you did not read philosophy for over 45 years. I did, and it is this that informs my judgement on Rorty, that I also will not defend here, except by saying that I could quote quite a few academically employed philosophers who think the same.

[3] This is again also informed by my experiences in Holland, where e.g. the Labour Party turned to "New Labour" i.e. pro rich frauds in the 1990ies (at the latest).


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