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Nederlog

Aug 10, 2016

Crisis: Brazil, USA's Economic Elite, Think Tanks, Dirtier Campaign, Kissinger
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Introduction

1.
Bernie Sanders Denounces Brazil’s Impeachment as
     Undemocratic, Calls for New Elections

2. The Shell Game of the Economic Elite’s Hamilton
     Project

3. Are Think Tanks as Independent as We Think?
4. Brace Yourself for an Even Uglier Campaign
5. Dirty War Files Show How Clinton Ally Kissinger
     Backed Regime of Terror
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, August 10, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Glenn Greenwald on something Bernie Sanders did for Brazil (and this is a good article); item 2 is about a very good article by Paul Street about the real holders of power in the USA (the economic elite, much rather than the leading politicians); item 3 is about think tanks, which in fact are public relations for specific positions that are supported by rich donors; item 4 is a warning - probably correct - that the campaign of (especially) Trump will get a lot uglier than it is; and item 5 is about Kissinger's support for the mass murders in Argentina, between 1976 and 1983.

1.
Bernie Sanders Denounces Brazil’s Impeachment as Undemocratic, Calls for New Elections

The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders yesterday denounced in harsh terms the impeachment of Brazil’s democratically elected president. As the Brazilian Senate heads toward a final vote later this month, Sanders described his position, set forth in a statement posted on his Senate site, as “calling on the United States to take a definitive stand against efforts to remove Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff from office.” He added: “To many Brazilians and observers the controversial impeachment process more closely resembles a coup d’état.”

Sanders also condemned the unelected center-right coalition under Michel Temer that has seized power during Rousseff’s suspension and is now trying to install themselves through 2018. “After suspending Brazil’s first female president on dubious grounds, without a mandate to govern,” he said, ” the new interim government abolished the ministry of women, racial equality and human rights” and “replaced a diverse and representative administration with a cabinet made up entirely of white men.” They are now attempting to implement radical policies that could never be democratically ratified: “impose austerity, increase privatization and install a far right-wing social agenda.”

I say. This sounds very good to me and indeed accords with what I know from Brazil, which again is for a good part due to Glenn Greenwald, who lives there.

By the way: I am not sorry admitting my own ignorance, including my ignorance of Portuguese: I am not a journalist, and I don't know everything.
Also, I tend to write considerably less about countries I don't know the languages of, precisely because of that reason. [1]

Again, this is also one of the reasons why I really like Bernie Sanders (and really dislike Hillary Clinton, even though she is much less bad than the madman Trump): Sanders has been doing this kind of thing since the early 1970ies.

Here is some more:
Sanders’ denunciation of the attack on Brazilian democracy is part of a growing international recognition of the illegitimacy of Temer’s rule. Just two weeks ago, “40 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives published a letter … expressing ‘deep concern’ about threats to democracy in Brazil.” Similar denunciations of Dilma’s impeachment have been issued by British Labor Party leader Jeremy CorbynBritish MPs and labor leaders, the Organization of American States, dozens of members of the EU Parliament, and Brazil’s first Pulitzer Prize winner.
There is considerably more that I skip. The article ends as follows - and Sanders' (non-)freedom to speak on certain issues while campaigning is
one of the things I skipped:

Now that his presidential campaign is over, he is free to speak out in ways that would not necessarily be politically beneficial in the eyes of the Democratic Party voter base. Some of his most prominent supporters have been steadfast in their opposition to Dilma’s impeachment. Whatever the explanations on timing, Sanders’ statement is strong and unequivocal. Perhaps most significant is his call for the U.S. Government to “demand that this dispute be settled with democratic elections” – the solution which a large majority of Brazilians also support as the resolution to their political crisis, but which the country’s anti-democratic elites, fearful of who would be elected, vehemently oppose.
Yes, indeed. And this is a fine article that is recommended. [2]

2. The Shell Game of the Economic Elite’s Hamilton Project

The second item is by Paul Street on Truthdig:

This starts as follows, and is a fine article:
Beneath the marionette theater of American electoral and parliamentary democracy, policy is made by a “deep state” oligarchy of corporate and financial elites. The political actors atop the great quadrennial campaign carnivals speak in progressive-sounding terms of their commitment to equality, justice, peace, popular self-rule and the common good. Behind stage and screen, however, the contenders on both sides of the nation’s party duopoly—“two wings of the same bird of prey” (Upton Sinclair, 1904)—are captive to the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire.
Yes, indeed: I think this is an adequate sketch of present-day American politics, that does embody two things that were at least considerably less
so in the previous centuries:

First, the language that nearly all politicians use to address their voters is explicit populist propaganda talk that is full of "
equality, justice, peace, popular self-rule and the common good" - which is all an intentional lie from
the start till the end: It is meant to deceive, designed to deceive, and it
also does deceive many.

Second, the politicians, including all the leading ones, are no longer the elected commanders of the American state: The commanders of the American state these days are big bankers and big industrialists, who have bought most of the the politicians, and who often were politicians, and will be politicians, because while this pays them a lot less, it gives them the power to arrange that they and the bankers and industrialists they speak for get more money (e.g. by paying less taxes).

I think both changes are considerable: Lying was normal for politicians anyway, but these days the lies are both more dishonest, craftier and more considered than they were before 2000 or before 1980, and they are also far more systematic. And while Eisenhower did - very correctly - attack the military-industrial complex (<- Wikipedia) in 1961, it really became extremely powerful in the 1980ies, and became more powerful ever since (and also slightly changed: these days it is more the military-industrial-congress-
ional-internet complex, headed by the Pentagon on the military side, and Google and Facebook on the internet side, while both are covered by many congressmen, who again are paid for by the rich industrialists).

Indeed, here is this applied to Barack Obama:

Take Barack Obama, who hopes to burnish his legacy by securing final congressional passage of the arch-global-corporatist Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). If achieved, this measure will be a fitting capstone to what Robert Reich calls “one of the most pro-business administrations in America history.” Obama has continued the cringing, Wall Street-directed corporatism of Bill Clinton, helping bring the United States to a new Gilded Age in which (as Bernie Sanders said repeatedly during his presidential campaign) the top 1/10th of the United States’ top 1 percent has nearly as much wealth as the nation’s bottom 90 percent—this while more than a fifth of the nation’s children (including nearly four of every 10 black children) are growing up beneath the federal government’s notoriously inadequate poverty level. Thanks in no small part to Obama’s chillingly fake-progressive presidency, fully 95 percent of new national income generated during his first term went to the nation’s top 0.1 percent. Corporate profits (primarily now financial sector profits) have risen to their greatest state in the U.S. economy since 1929.
To the best of my knowledge all of this is true, and indeed Obama was very much a fake-progressive president because he always spoke to his voters in terms of "equality, justice, peace, popular self-rule and the common good", while what he did in legal fact was very often the opposite. [3]

Next, there is the horrible figure of the - mega-rich - fraud Robert Rubin:
A legendary Democratic Party “kingmaker” who is often half-jokingly called “the wizard behind the curtain” of Democratic economic policy, Rubin is the veritable godfather of late 20th century and current U.S. neoliberalism. He is co-chair of “Wall Street’s Think Tank,” the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which formulates America’s grand imperial strategy in accord with the globalist “open door” ambitions of the nation’s leading finance-led multinational investment firms and corporations. Under Rubin’s influence, and in accord with the “Rubinomics” trilogy of balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, Clinton joined with corporate Democrats and Republicans to: enact the great job-killing and anti-labor North American Free Trade Agreement, slash government spending, eliminate restrictions on interstate banking, repeal the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (which had separated commercial from investment banking), and prevent the regulation of toxic “over-the-counter” financial derivatives with the so-called Commodity Futures Modernization Act. All this helped distribute wealth and power upward and prepare the ground for the financial collapse of 2008.
Yes, indeed - and both Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin have laid the foundations for the incredible attacks of the rich on the poor that started with Reagan and Bill Clinton (who was a Barack Obama in terms of propaganda, except that he is a better speaker than Obama).

Here is some more on what Rubin did:
Rubin also served as a top informal Obama adviser and placed a number of his protégés in high-ranking positions in the Obama administration. Rubin’s Obama appointees included Timothy Geithner (Obama’s first treasury secretary), Peter Orszag (Obama’s first Office of Management and Budget director), and Larry Summers (first chief economic adviser).
And precisely these people arranged the 2008-9 crisis in such a way that all banks and all bank managers were saved, and could go on speculating and making enormous profits for themselves, while the actual checks were picked up by the American government i.e. the non-rich American taxpayers.

There is a lot more about Rubin in the article that I skip, and also considerably more on a neoliberal think tank, The Hamilton Project (aka THP), with which both Obama and Rubin were associated from the very beginning of Obama's presidency.

Here is some on the THP's many achievements for the very rich:
Reflecting subsequent centuries of popular struggle for political and social rights and the United States’ doctrinal sense of itself as a global beacon of democracy, THP wraps its “cool-headed” findings and recommendations in the “warm-hearted” rhetoric of progressive concern for the many and the poor.

A second difference is suggested by something the venerable left intellectual Noam Chomsky told Occupy Boston in fall 2011. Before the onset of neoliberal financialization in the 1970s, Chomsky said, the U.S. “had been, with ups and downs … a developing society, not always in pretty ways, but with general progress toward industrialization, prosperity and expansion of rights.” Since the triumph of finance, however, the main capital-led trend has been “de-development … a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise—producing things people need or could use—to financial manipulation.”

Yes - and "the triumph of finance" was started by Ronald Reagan and concluded by Bill Clinton, and indeed the American economy was mostly exported under Clinton to countries that paid much lower wages, and was
replaced by an American economy that no longer produced but that mostly engaged in financial manipulations.

There is considerably more on Rubin and the THP in the article, which is strongly recommended.

3. Are Think Tanks as Independent as We Think?

The third item is by Emma Niles on Truthdig:

This starts as follows - and no: I never thought "think tanks" are "independent" in any sense (a think tank (<- Wikipedia) is a congregation of real or pretended intellectuals who propagandize a certain set of "solutions", and tend to be paid by those who would profit from their "solutions": in effect they are public relations for their styles of "solutions"), but this certainly doesn't mean at all that think tanks should not be investigated.

The article starts as follows:

Are think tanks “blurring the line between researchers and lobbyists”? Eric Lipton and Brooke Williams of The New York Times certainly think so. In a long report published Sunday, Lipton and Williams come to the conclusion that some of the world’s most renowned think tanks “have frequently become vehicles for corporate influence and branding campaigns.”

Think tanks, many of which are nonprofit organizations, are research institutions that study policy and are generally viewed as financially independent. The Brookings Institution, one of the most acclaimed think tanks in the country, is the main target of The New York Times piece.
I'd say that the so-called "researchers" of think tanks simply are lobbyists for the styles of "solutions" they propose, and indeed I think think tanks (when the propaganda has been sloughed off) are merely sets of supposed intellectuals who propagandize certain sets of "solutions".

In fact, I believe Lipton and Williams believe something similar, and indeed about the only arguments that think tanks are not propaganda institutions that
have been designed to be propaganda institutions, are that they are "nonprofit organizations" that are "financially independent".

It so happens that the fact that they are nonprofits does not in any way change the fact that they are propaganda institutions, while it also seems to be the case - as Lipton and Williams argue - that most of them are not
"financially independent", and are in fact paid by those who would profit from their styles of solutions.

In fact, here is how Lipton and Williams report on the activities of some think tanks:

The likely conclusions of some think tank reports, documents show, are discussed with donors — or even potential ones — before the research is complete. Drafts of the studies have been shared with donors whose opinions have then helped shape final reports. Donors have outlined how the resulting scholarship will be used as part of broader lobbying efforts. The think tanks also help donors promote their corporate brands, as Brookings does with JPMorgan Chase, whose $15.5 million contribution is the largest by a private corporation in the institution’s history.
In other words: These think tanks adapted their arguments to the wishes of their donors, or indeed to the wishes of their potential donors, and essentially said: If you tell us what we have to say, we will say it, for payment (and indeed we will also engage in promoting your brands).

Not only that: Think tanks also abuse their reputations to shore up the credits and status of those who work for them:
Sunday’s report by Lipton and Williams was the first in a series called “Think Tanks Inc.” Part two in the series was published Monday. Co-written by Lipton, Williams and Nicholas Confessore, the second article questions the objectivity of researchers within think tanks.

“An examination of 75 think tanks found an array of researchers who had simultaneously worked as registered lobbyists, members of corporate boards or outside consultants in litigation and regulatory disputes, with only intermittent disclosure of their dual roles,” the piece states. “Many think tanks also readily confer ‘nonresident scholar’ status on lobbyists, former government officials and others who earn their primary living working for private clients, with few restrictions on such outside work.”

That is: Many think tanks indeed are propaganda institutions, and get their personnel not from universities, but as "registered lobbyists, members of corporate boards or outside consultants in litigation and regulatory disputes",
although that is also normally not stated by these think tanks, just as they
often "forget" to say that those they present as "
nonresident scholar" in fact are "lobbyists, former government officials and others who earn their primary living working for private clients".

In other words: As far as I am concerned "a think tank" consists usually of a bunch of frauds who tend to be lobbyists that propagandize a specific style of "solutions" that are supported by their donors, who often also dictate part of their "solutions".

And they are not "independent": They are fundamentally a particular kind of public relations, that gets financed by their donors, whose hymn sheets they sing from, for - excellent - payments.

4. Brace Yourself for an Even Uglier Campaign

The fourth item is by Eugene Robinson on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

It may be hard to imagine, but I fear this election campaign is going to get worse – maybe a lot worse – before it gets better. By the time it’s done, the whole nation may feel like it needs a shower.

I base this depressing prediction on three assumptions: Polls showing the Obama coalition coming together behind Hillary Clinton are correct; Donald Trump does not want to be embarrassed as a massive loser; and the Republican Party cares more about keeping its majority in the House than about Trump’s tender feelings. Any of these premises can be wrong, but I think they’re sound.

The logical result is not pretty. Those who believed this campaign hit rock-bottom long ago should keep in mind one of Sen. John McCain’s favorite sayings: “It’s always darkest before it’s totally black.”

I agree, and indeed also with Robinson's premises. Also, I think the present article was written before Donald Trump created the strong impression that he called on his followers to shoot Hillary Clinton [4].

In any case, I think Robinson is right. Here is some more on what Robinson expects:

So I expect Trump to double down not just on his attacks against Clinton but on the two issues that won him his white working-class following: immigration and trade. That means more bigotry, more xenophobia and more totally unrealistic promises about the miracles that he and his team of rich-guy economic advisers will magically perform.

It doesn’t help him that the Clinton campaign has bought time during the Olympics broadcasts for an ad in which Trump acknowledges that his Trump-branded shirts are made in Bangladesh and his neckties in China. Does it even occur to Trump that anyone might ever expect him to practice what he preaches? Sorry, that was a rhetorical question.

Meanwhile, the implications of the recent polls are not lost on the GOP leadership. If Clinton defeats Trump soundly, Republicans probably will lose their majority in the Senate. But if she wins in a landslide, the party could lose control of the House as well.

Yes. If Clinton wins (which I think is far from certain, but I said if), then she can indeed nominate four Supreme Court judges that will be a lot less bad than those Trump would select in case he wins.

5.
Dirty War Files Show How Clinton Ally Kissinger Backed Regime of Terror

The fifth item today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

Newly declassified papers on the U.S. government's role in Argentina's 1976-83 "Dirty War" have been released, detailing—among other things—how former secretary of state Henry Kissinger stymied attempts to end mass killings of dissidents.

The files were published just after Politico reported that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is courting Kissinger's support, among other Republican elites.

Kissinger lauded Argentina's military dictatorship for its "campaign against terrorism," which included the imprisonment, torture, and killings of tens of thousands of leftist activists and students, the files reveal.

To start with, here is a bit from the beginning of "Dirty War" (<- Wikipedia) that is about Argentina's Dirty War [5] (for there is also a Mexican one):

The "Dirty War" (Spanish: Guerra Sucia), also known as the Process of National Reorganization (Spanish: Proceso de Reorganización Nacional or El Proceso), was the name used by the Argentine Military Government for a period of state terrorism in Argentina from roughly 1974 to 1983 (some sources date the beginning to 1969), during which military and security forces and right-wing death squads in the form of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance (Triple A) hunted down and killed left-wing guerrillas, political dissidents, and anyone believed to be associated with socialism. The victims of the violence were 7,158 left-wing activists, terrorists and militants, including trade unionists, students, journalists and Marxists and Peronist guerrillas and their support network in the Montoneros believed to be 150,000-250,000-strong and 60,000-strong in the ERP, as well as alleged sympathizers. The official number of disappeared is reported to be 13,000. Some 10,000 of the "disappeared" were guerrillas of the Montoneros (MPM) and the Marxist People's Revolutionary Army (ERP).
There is a whole lot more on Wikipedia on this subject. In any case, now you know what Kissinger lauded: 'State terrorism genocide', as the Argentinians call it [5] (and note that "the official number" is lower than others say it is).

Here is also a bit on how Kissinger's laudation of mass murder may be interpreted:

During a private meeting with the conservative diplomat group Argentinian Council of International Relations (CARI), Kissinger said that "in his opinion the government of Argentina had done an outstanding job in wiping out terrorist forces."

U.S. ambassador to Buenos Aires, Raúl Castro warned that Kissinger's praise for the military dictatorship "may have gone to some considerable extent to his hosts' heads."

"There is some danger that Argentines may use Kissinger's laudatory statements as justification for hardening their human rights stance," Castro said.

Yes, of course.

---------------
Notes

[1] I do like to say that I am not a journalist, and indeed never claimed I was one, though my site exists almost 20 years, and is now over 500 MB (most of which is written by me). In fact, I have two main reasons why I insist I am not journalist:

First, I did not get the education of a journalist and I also do not collaborate with any journalist. In a way, both are shortcomings (there are good journalists and when these collaborate in good papers they are each worth more than any of them would be by themselves), but then I never gathered the news and I never claimed to be a journalist: All I do when dealing with "the news" is commenting on some selected pieces (nearly all of which are related to the crisis) that deal with subjects that interest me.

Second, I did get (or mostly: give myself) an education that is considerably better than most journalists: I am an M.A. in psychology and a B.A. in philosophy; I read extremely much for over 45 years (though most in fields like philosophy and logic); and what I am (in Nederlog) is a commentator.

Then again, while that is a more limited role than that of a journalist, I think I am doing that - which tends not to be done often, and certainly not as I do it - reasonably well.

O, and about the languages I do know: Dutch, English, French, German, Norwegian (all quite well, at least), Danish, Swedish (reasonably well) and some simple Spanish and Italian: I can follow most of Western Europe, England, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

[2] Incidentally (I have said so before, and probably will say so later): When I "recommend" an article what I mean is that I think that intelligent readers who are interested in the subject should read all of the article.

[3] Yes, indeed - and I grant that I also was taken in by Obama in 2008- 2009, though I might add that this lasted until the second half of 2009, when I started noting that he very often said one progressive thing, while doing the opposite. (In partial defense: I was more naive, in part because I only got fast internet in July of 2009, which did help me a lot to sort out what I do think about modern politics.)

[4] Here is what Trump did say according to this article on The Huffington Post (which also seems to have taken the road of not making its texts copyable, which I think is a great shame for a newspaper):
Donald Trump on Tuesday warned his supporters that if Hillary Clinton is elected president and appoints judges to the Supreme Court, there is nothing anyone can do about it. But then he added that, given the Second Amendment, maybe there is.

"If she gets to pick her judges - nothing you can do, folks," Trump said with a shrug at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. "Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don't know."

What Trump was actually suggesting was not clear. However, Trump's veterans affairs adviser found himself in hot water last month when he said Clinton should be shot for treason over her
use of a private email server.
In case you don't know the Second Amendment (<-Wikipedia) here it is:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
[5] Incidentally, also from Wikipedia, there is this on the term "Dirty War":
The term "Dirty War" was created by the United States government and the United States media. In Argentina this term doesn't exist, and it's seen as an insult to the families of the victims of the 'State terrorism genocide' (the actual term used in Argentina).

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