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Nederlog

 March 15, 2016

Crisis: Neoliberalism, "Journalism", "Free Trade", Free Press, The Climate
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
The Mexicanization of the United States
2. The Rise of Trump Shows the Danger and Sham of
     Compelled Journalistic “Neutrality”

3.
The New Truth About Free Trade
4. Donald Trump’s War on the First Amendment
5. NASA Drops Major Bomb in 'March Toward Ever-Warmer
     Planet'

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, March 15, 2016.


This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is about a fine article by Chris Hedges about the crisis and its causes; item 2 is a fine article by Glenn Greenwald on modern "journalism", that seems to have gone totalitarian; item 3 is a fine article by Robert Reich about "free trade" (that is in my opinion always a sham, and in Reich's opinion a sham since the 1980ies or so); item 4 is about what remains of the free press (not much), and how Trump is going to kill it if president, because they dare to criticize His Grandiose Narcissistic Personality; and item 5 is about a recent NASA report that shows the earth is warming at a faster speed than hitherto believed.

To end this introduction: While the news in the crisis items is rarely good, sometimes the writing is quite decent, and this is one of these days.
 
1. The Mexicanization of the United States

The first item is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
The neoliberal ideology that is the engine of corporate capitalism spews its poison around the globe. Constitutions are rewritten by judicial fiat in a mockery of democracy. Laws and regulations that impede corporate exploitation are abolished. Corporations orchestrate legally sanctioned tax boycotts. Free-trade deals destroy small farmers and businesses along with labor unions and government agencies designed to protect the public from contaminated air, water and food and from usurious creditors and lenders. The press is transformed into an echo chamber for the corporate elites. Wages stagnate or decline. Unemployment and underemployment soar. Social services are curtailed or abolished in the name of austerity. The political system becomes a charade. Dissent is criminalized. The ecocide by the fossil fuel industry accelerates. State enterprises and utilities are sold to corporations. The educational system mutates into vocational training. Culture and the arts are replaced by sexual commodification, banal entertainment and graphic depictions of violence. Infrastructures crumble.
I agree with the above paragraph, although I know that quite a few will not agree, if only because the picture that is drawn is dark, very dark.

So here are four general remarks on this first paragraph:

First, I agree with the above paragraph because I have made a study of the many deep declines that I have witnessed: If you press
crisis index you will find well over 1100 articles that I wrote on just that one - complicated, many layered - topic of the crisis since September 1, 2008.

I do not know of anyone who wrote as much and as systematically as I did about the crisis, even though my site is committed to far more subjects, and indeed is mostly about philosophy, my disease M.E., logic, computing and the horrible times I had due to discriminations and lack of real rights with ME in Amsterdam, and not about the crisis. [1]

Second, the above quoted paragraph, which I agree summarizes and simpli- fies many different tendencies is mostly accurate.

I am quite wiling to agree that to people who know a lot less about the crisis than Chris Hedges does or than I do will find it difficult to see the evidence, but the evidence is there, and it is both good evidence, while it illustrates mostly awful things and processes. See the
crisis index, for you cannot even summarize the evidence in one or a few normal articles: it is very extensive.

Third, the processes Chris Hedges describes are manifold, complicated, multi-layered and often difficult to get, but while all things cannot be reduced to the following two sources, many things can:

(A) Economically and legally, the process is of making the very few very rich a whole lot richer by making the many poor a whole lot poorer, and the main tool that the rich use is deregulation, which effectively means the breaking down of any law that protects the non-rich from the many onslaughts the rich like to make on the non-rich, and
(B) propagandistically and in the main media, the process proceeds by major lies about the benefits of
deregulations, and is strongly supported by the fact that the main media mostly ceased doing real journalism - for which see item 2.

And fourth, while I am a European, and Europe is not the USA, nor is it presently as bad as the USA is towards the many poor (of which I am one, albeit a very highly educated although sick and crippled one [2]), I see very similar things happening in Europe, that are propelled by just the same forces -
deregulation and systematic lies, in brief - as in the USA, and indeed I can date the loss of the old Europe: This happened in 2002, when Europe got unified under a few power greedy bureaucrats and politicians; when the Euro got introduced that doubled most prices [3]; and when the European politicians who followed the national politicians started really and grossly lying about almost everything that served the financial interests of the very rich or themselves.

Back to the article:
The working poor—sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit and suffering job losses, bankruptcies, foreclosures, harassment and arrest—watch helplessly as their dreams for themselves and their children evaporate. Some are forced into an underground economy dominated by drugs, crime and human trafficking. Some turn to opiates to blunt the despair. (Heroin use in the United States has doubled since 2007.) Suicides mount. (There are more than 40,000 a year in the U.S.) Hunger spreads. (Some 48.1 million Americans, including 15.3 million children, live in food-insecure households.) The state, to prevent unrest, militarizes the police agencies and empowers them to use lethal force against unarmed civilians. It fills the prisons.
Again I agree, and with similar remarks as I made on the first paragraph, and again for the next paragraph:
From Mexico to Greece to the United States, the scenario is the same, varying only in degree. Neoliberalism and globalization create a vast race to the bottom. Duplicitous political elites, epitomized by Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton, are or will be highly compensated for doling out trillions in “quantitative easing” to banks and other financial firms while delivering credulous voters to the corporate guillotine. Everyone and everything, including the natural world, is transformed into a commodity to exploit for profit.
This also has the merit of stating the three forces that helped the very few very rich to become a whole lot richer: The lies of politicians (left, right and center); the extremely corrupt deregulations; and the making of everything subject to - the highest possible - profit. (And as to profits: These only help the few who make profits, and not the many who have to earn wages. And profits are not the highest end of civilization but of exploitation.)

Next, there is this:

The corporate looting is impervious to regulation or reform. It will continue until there is nothing left to exploit or is halted by popular revolt. It is creating frustrated and enraged populations that are being seduced in the United States, Europe and elsewhere by demagogues and protofascists. “Fascism, like socialism,” the economist Karl Polanyi wrote, “was rooted in a market society that refused to function.” Left unchecked, the present system will usher in a dystopia ruled by criminal power structures, including Wall Street, and inflict tremendous suffering and poverty on societies rent apart by global warming as well as internecine and nihilistic violence. Mexico is not an anomaly. Mexico is the future.
Here I have three remarks. First, the corporate looting was started and continued by a reform that consisted in deregulations; and these were welcomed and praised by the very rich and their politicians, and still are. Second, it should be mentioned that if considerable parts of the poor populations are attracted to (proto-)fascism, this happens mainly because they are deceived, and they can be deceived mostly because they are ignorant, prejudiced, wishful thinkers and not intelligent. And third, I agree that "Wall Street" - especially the big banks - are "criminal power structures" at least since 2008 and onwards: What happened to bail out the banks was a long series of political crimes, and the banks should not have been bailed out, they should have failed and gone bust.

Finally, to end this review, though there is considerably more in the article, there is a quotation from Karl Polanyi (<- Wikipedia) that was written in 1944 or before:

“To allow the market mechanism to be sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society,” Polanyi warned in “The Great Transformation.”

“In disposing of a man’s labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to the tag,” he went on. “Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as the victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed.”

That seems a sensible prediction of the none-too-distant future, even though it is over 70 years old, and the reasons have been sketched before in this article.

There is considerably more, but it overlaps with
Days of Revolt: The New Mexican Revolution that I reviewed under the last links.

And this is a strongly recommended article.


2. The Rise of Trump Shows the Danger and Sham of Compelled Journalistic “Neutrality”
The second item is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

As Donald Trump’s campaign predictably moves from toxic rhetoric targeting the most marginalized minorities to threats and use of violence, there is a growing sense that American institutions have been too lax about resisting it. Political scientist Brendan Nyhan on Sunday posted a widely cited Twitter essay voicing this concern, arguing that “Trump’s rise represents a failure in American parties, media, and civic institutions — and they’re continuing to fail right now.” He added, “Someone could capture a major party [nomination] who endorses violence [and] few seem alarmed.”

Actually, many people are alarmed, but it is difficult to know that by observing media coverage, where little journalistic alarm over Trump is expressed. That’s because the rules of large media outlets — venerating faux objectivity over truth along with every other civic value — prohibit the sounding of any alarms. Under this framework of corporate journalism, to denounce Trump, or even to sound alarms about the dark forces he’s exploiting and unleashing, would not constitute journalism. To the contrary, such behavior is regarded as a violation of journalism.
This means that what is called "journalism" these days - presumably because it does get spread by the media and the paper press - has turned around a full 180 degrees, to become a rightist totalitarian force.

And yes, I think it has (for the most part, not totally) and I also think this was a very conscious decision, though probably more of the owners (nearly always very rich men) and the editors than that is was a free choice of the journalists (though most who these days call themselves "journalists" gladly consented, for it is so much easier not to risk any fight about any opinion you write about, and never to take any personal position).

As to totalitarianism. Here is Folkenflik, who spoke for NPR (<- Wikipedia), that is the American institute National Public Radio, that services very many American radios:

Just this morning, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik published a story describing the concern and even anger of some NPR executives and journalists over a column by longtime NPR commentator Cokie Roberts — the Beacon of Washington Centrism — that criticizes Trump. “NPR has a policy forbidding its journalists from taking public stances on political affairs,” he wrote. For any NPR reporter, Roberts’s statements — warning of the dangers of a Trump presidency — would be a clear violation of that policy.
That is: The hundreds or thousands of "journalists" who work for the NPR are forbidden from taking any public stand on anything that is a political affair, precisely because taking a public and personal stance would undermine the totalitarian efforts all of his or her "journalistic" colleagues do, in order to keep relaying the same set of public totalitarian lies.

I am sorry, but this is what it sounds like exactly: If even journalists are forbidden to write their personal opinions, you are living in a totalitarian state, or you are preparing one.

Here is some more, in case you don't believe me or Greenwald:

And in an interview that Oreskes “directed” Roberts to do this morning with Morning Edition host David Greene about the matter, the NPR host chided Roberts for expressing negative views of Trump, telling her:

Objectivity is so fundamental to what we do. Can you blame people like me for being a little disappointed to hear you come out and take a personal position on something like this in a campaign?

He wrote "Objectivity" but he meant "Totalitarian total agreement", and this also explains why he is against "personal positions": He wants totalitarian robots who all uniformly sing the praises of the same, and damn the rest, and who totally agree that this is what "a journalist" is supposed to do:

Never to take a personal position; always to write what the editor and the owner want you to write; and never to worry about difficult questions of honesty, responsibility, corruption, lies, falsehoods etc. All of these are resolved by the owner or the editor, and anyone who doesn't want to voice them can go find another job.

As Glenn Greenwald concludes:
This corporate, neutrality-über-alles framework is literally the exact antithesis of how journalism was practiced, and why it was so valued, when the U.S. Constitution was enacted and for decades after.
Precisely.
3. The New Truth About Free Trade

The third item is b
y Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
I used to believe in trade agreements. That was before the wages of most Americans stagnated and a relative few at the top captured just about all the economic gains.

The old-style trade agreements of the 1960s and 1970s increased worldwide demand for products made by American workers, and thereby helped push up American wages.

The new-style agreements increase worldwide demand for products made by American corporations all over the world, enhancing corporate and financial profits but keeping American wages down.

I mostly agree, and there is a radical difference between the old-style agreements and the new-style agreements, but I admit that I never saw much in "trade agreements", indeed because these were usually propagandized as
examples of "free trade", and "free trade", if anything, is nearly completely false propagandistic bullshit: There is no "free trade" without agreed upon legal frameworks, and it is these legal frameworks that determine the value and importance of what is traded under them. (See liberalism, in my Philosophical Dictionary.)

Here is the outline of the - huge - differences between "trade" now, and "trade" before the 1980ies, when everything started changing, and since when the few rich gained enormously, and the many poor lost what the rich gained [4]:
Big American corporations no longer make many products in the United States for export abroad. Most of what they sell abroad they make abroad.

The biggest things they “export” are ideas, designs, franchises, brands, engineering solutions, instructions, and software, coming from a relatively small group of managers, designers, and researchers in the U.S.

Also, American corporations make their products abroad, because the deregulations allowed them to do so, and the wages abroad are normally
very much lower than the wages of Americans.

So in effect the
deregulations allowed the few American rich to say to the many American poor: Fuck you! As long as we have to pay you more than Pakistani or Chinese children, go to hell! We have been deregulated by our faithful politicians, and we will do everything to keep our profits as high as we can!

Here is the result as phrased by Robert Reich:

Recent “trade” deals have been wins for big corporations and Wall Street, along with their executives and major shareholders, because they get better direct access to foreign markets and billions of consumers.

They also get better protection for their intellectual property – patents, trademarks, and copyrights – and for their overseas factories, equipment, and financial assets.

In other words: The American very rich got extremely much richer by moving their manufacturing - through deregulations - to the very much poorer third world countries, with a much less regulated law, and very little payments for
the poorest folks they employ. [4]

Here are those who gained enormously, and those who lost:

Proponents say giant deals like the TPP are good for the growth of the United States economy. But that argument begs the question of whose growth they’re talking about.

Almost all the growth goes to the richest 1 percent. The rest of us can buy some products cheaper than before, but most of those gains would are offset by wage losses.

As I outlined in note [3] I got poorer, and besides the quality of the products I can buy is a lot less than it was until 2002.

And here is how the few rich got as rich as they did: By stealing their riches from the poor, not directly, but by "legal changes" (aka
deregulations, for the most part, but also including the destruction of welfare in the USA by Bill  Clinton):

They’ve refused to raise the minimum wage (whose inflation-adjusted value is now almost 25 percent lower than it was in 1968), expand unemployment benefits, invest in job training, enlarge the Earned Income Tax Credit, improve the nation’s infrastructure, or expand access to public higher education.

They’ve embraced budget austerity that has slowed job and wage growth. And they’ve continued to push “trickle-down” economics – keeping tax rates low for America’s richest, protecting their tax loopholes, and fighting off any attempt to raise taxes on wealthy inheritances to their level before 2000.

And that is the way the very few very rich always protected their riches and their good lives. And one difference with the 1970ies and before is that most
of the once free press has changed 180 degrees, and now sings the praises of the rich, in one totalitarian choir - see item 2.

4. Donald Trump’s War on the First Amendment

The fourth item is by Bill Blum on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

If you were to ask Donald Trump’s supporters what they most admire about the GOP front-runner, chances are they would cite his so-called authenticity, his willingness to “tell it like it is” and, perhaps more than anything else, his rejection of that great bugaboo of the Obama Age: political correctness.

Such qualities ought to mean that whatever else Trump may be—a blowhard, a demagogue, a bigot, a reality TV huckster, a malignant narcissist, an unparalleled deal maker—he’s an ardent believer in press protections, free speech and the First Amendment. Indeed, in a Feb. 27 appearance on the Fox News channel, Trump seemed—at first—to be saying so, declaring, “I love free press. I think it’s great.”

But like much of what is taken as a given in the crazy-town vortex that is the Trump presidential campaign, the image of the candidate as a champion of free speech is a mirage.
Yes, indeed - and a grandiose narcissist (who loves prosecuting anyone who dares to criticize his majestic mega-size personality (in his experience)) indeed
cannot be expected to be honest when his own interests are involved:

The very next sentence that Trump uttered during the Fox interview revealed a diametrically opposite view of the First Amendment. “We ought to open up the libel laws,” he said, thus making it easier to sue journalists who write critical things about him.

Trump’s on-air comments came a day after he had addressed the same subject at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas. Unhappy with certain news reports, he told a throng of cheering followers, “I think the media is among the most dishonest groups of people I’ve ever met. They’re terrible. If I become president, oh, do they have problems. They’re going to have such problems.”

And this is how the First Amendment gets involved, for that does mention the press explicitly, indeed following free speech. Here it is:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What Trump wants is no free speech that criticizes His Grandiose Personality and no press that can criticize Him, and therefore he is quite prepared to have another First Amendment, or so it seems.

In case you doubt this here is the Super-human Super-genius (in his own opinions) HimSelf:

One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do, and we’re certainly leading, is I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws so that when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.

That will then also be the end of any free speech - but then free speech can be used to attack the Grandiose Trump, and that should be absolutely prohibited.

Here is support for the extreme litigiousness of Trump The Grandiose, who just cannot bear any little dent in His Grandiosity:

Trump is nothing if not litigious. As the political journalist Olivia Nuzzi of The Daily Beast wrote last year—in an article titled “Donald Trump Sued Everyone but His Hairdresser”—Trump has filed cases against “people, businesses, and entire cities and countries. He’s sued a newspaper, his ex-wife, a quaint business card store in Georgia and a Native American tribe. He’s cried breach of contract, government favoritism, fraud, and libel.”

And when it comes to libel, contrary to his daily pontifications about being a “winner,” you can count Trump and his business interests among the biggest courtroom losers.

That is also true. The article ends like this:

Derailing Trump’s war on the First Amendment or at least confining it to isolated courtroom skirmishes should be easy, but only if we keep one principle foremost in mind: that he must never, ever—and here words almost fail me—become president of the United States.

And if He - the Grandiose Narcissist Trump - does become president, all bets are off, or so it seems.

5. NASA Drops Major Bomb in 'March Toward Ever-Warmer Planet'

The fifth and last item today is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

NASA this weekend released new data which shows that February 2016 was not only the hottest in recorded history, but it soared past all previous records, prompting scientists to describe the announcement as "an ominous milestone in our march toward an ever-warmer planet."

The average global surface temperature for February was 1.35°C warmer than the global average for the month between 1951-1980—a margin that shattered the previous record of 1.14°C, which was set just one month earlier— and exceeded preliminary figures released earlier this month.

I say. I am not very amazed (in fact, I predicted that the Dutch would triumph- antly conclude something similar by March 21), but this is a frightening number
(also because 1.35 C is a lot given the low temperatures of February).

Here is some more:

Stefan Rahmstorf, from Germany's Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research and a visiting professorial fellow at the University of New South Wales, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the new figures are "quite stunning ... it's completely unprecedented."

And given the increasing concentration of carbon in the global atmosphere, which is driving higher long-term temperature increases as well as other extreme weather events, the string of monthly records is a foreboding sign.

I have said already - several times also - that I do not think that "the climate problems" can be solved by the present states and the present economies (as most climate activists still seem to think).

This also does not mean you should do nothing about the climate and the environment, but it does mean that I think you are mistaken if you try to do it within the contexts of the present states and economies: Only if these are radically revised will there be a decent chance to do anything really useful about the climate.

And I am sorry I am not more optimistic, but I have been following the climate and the environment since 1971, and it still is going from bad to worse.

--------------------------
Notes
[1] It still is, and since both of the sites I have are copies of each other, and each is over 500 MB, there is a lot of material on my site (I use the singular because the two sites I have are copies). Incidentally, the main reasons I could write so much about the crisis are that I am ill (and now also pensioned); that I have a lot of time; and that I have a lot of preparations, since I know a lot about science, philosophy and politics (and much more than most journalists: I spent most of 45 years on the first two subjects).

Even so, and even while I am a fast writer and a fast reader, writing a crisis blog takes between 4 and 6 hours every day, which gives one reason why few
are able to do like I am, even if they were willing and paid. (I am not paid.)

[2] I am sick and I am crippled (not being abled to walk for more than a small time, not being able to stand for a long time, having muscle aches most of the time most of the days for 37 years now), and I use these words because I heartily despise political correctness that hypocritically insists that people who are crippled and sick are not crippled and sick but "differently abled" - and concludes from this utter bullshit that the "differently abled" are just as good as anybody else and should not have help, not have support, and should be left to fend for themselves.

Thank you, you stinkingly greedy egoistic hypocritical liars and deceivers, who call yourselves "politically correct": Your bullshit, your lies, your immoralities, and your degeneracies have ruined most of my chances of getting decent help for 37 of my years now: There was systematically no help for me for 37 years, except for the very minimal help every healthy and able person gets.

Thank you, you politically correct utter moral degenerates!

[3] It did. I get the same amount of money in euros (or a little more numerically) as I got in guilders in the 25 years between 1977 and 2002 - but I can buy less, and e.g. my rents that started at around 250 guilders in 1993 are now 335 euros, for precisely the same flat, which is a mere three times as much. It is similar with everything else I can buy - and I am not speaking here about the generally much worse and much cheaper conditions (clothes, for example) that are available to me. (And yes, I survived from 1977-2016 on an income that is less than the legal minimum: In part because I was a student; then got dole (that is 10% less than the social minimum); and now get a minimal pension that is again 4% less than the social minimum because I lived 2 years in Norway. So yes, I know what it is like to live on a minimum budget and I lived on it for 37 years. If you didn't, I can't take your opinions seriously.)

[4] Here is Sir James Goldsmith - a very rich speculator - who saw this very clearly in 1994 (but who unfortunately died in 1997):

“When I was a boy we were taught that irreversibly we were moving toward progress, that material wealth and material prosperity would solve all our problems; it would improve our way of life and our civilisation. And we achieved the creation of material prosperity in a way which we would never have dreamt of, which made the economy grow 400%…

But what have we done? We’ve destabilized our society, we’ve increased umemployment massively, we’ve totally destabilised our cities, we’ve uprooted our countryside, we’ve increased crime. Every vital criteria needed for a stable society has become negative. Therefore something must be wrong. What has become wrong is that instead of the economy being there to serve us, we are there, adoring, serving economic indices.”

This is quoted from Raving Bull-Shit, that also links to the interview that Charlie Rose had with Goldsmith, that is very well worth watching, were it only because he was a big and major capitalist who saw clearly what was happening:

And yes, I think it makes a lot of political and economic sense to say that normally the rich gain what the poor are denied. For this is how it has been and is for thousands of years.

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