1. The Illusion of Freedom
What You Need to Know About the DOJ's Claim It Is
Ending Private Prisons
3. Sanders Condemns Obscene Levels of Inequality
Documented in New CBO Report
This is a Nederlog of Friday, August 19, 2016.
There are 3 items with 3
dotted links today: Item 1 is (again) a repeat of
an article by Chris Hedges, with a repeat of my review (and it's a good
article); item 2 is about "the ending of private
prisons" in the USA, which turns out to be much less than advertised;
and item 3 is about poverty in the USA, which seems
to this very poor person (in Dutch circumstances) considerably
worse than it is - so far - in Holland.
And I did check everything as I do normally: I just couldn't
find more that I think is fit to be reviewed by me.
Illusion of Freedom
first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
I have said before, Chris Hedges is on holiday, and Truthdig meanwhile
prints some older articles Hedges published. Since I like Hedges (also
when I disagree ) I have followed him and
reviewed most of his articles in Truthdig, and the present article is
no exception: It is "The Illusion of Freedom" that was first published
on December 27, 2015 and that was reviewed by me the next day.
Here is my review from that day. I reprint it unaltered and between two
occurences of "---":
This starts as follows:
These are good questions and they are all
answered at the beginning: Political and economic power have
been seized by the multi-national corporations.
The seizure of political and
economic power by corporations is unassailable. Who funds and manages
our elections? Who writes our legislation and laws? Who determines our
defense policies and vast military expenditures? Who is in charge of
the Department of the Interior? The Department of Homeland Security?
Our intelligence agencies? The Department of Agriculture? The Food and
Drug Administration? The Department of Labor? The Federal Reserve? The
mass media? Our systems of entertainment? Our prisons and schools? Who
determines our trade and environmental policies? Who imposes austerity
on the public while enabling the looting of the U.S. Treasury and the
tax boycott by Wall Street? Who criminalizes dissent?
The seizing of power
took them 35 or 45 years 
but the US government
and the multi-national corporations, including banks and their
managers, have confluenced both in persons and in policies,
for the people designing and implementing policies are often former
bank managers who will again be bank managers after their stints in
And as I've said before (repeatedly)
are the facts:
All important US policies are policies that further the financial
interests of the multi-national corporations and their
managers, at the cost of the interests of everybody else
(who is not very rich)>.
And Chris Hedges is quite right this
of power isn't happening, anymore: it has
happened, and the powers that protesters - who want democracy, higher
wages, good and payable education for everyone, clean air, clean
waters, and less influence of the mega-rich - face a far
greater and considerably militarized power that is indeed
"unassailable" in most ways.
Here is the result for everybody who is not a rich CEO,
his or her lawyers, or a prominent politician:
Our rights and opinions do not
matter. We have surrendered to our own form of wehrwirtschaft.
We do not count within the political process.
I agree also with the second paragraph,
though I add that I never believed in this myth of the USA as "a free,
democratic people" (etc.) simply because it seemed to me that most
Americans did not and do not know enough about politics,
and economics to have the reasonably informed opinions that would
make them a real democracy
(if they are free to say what they think, and free to organize
themselves, and are able to be truly informed about society and
This truth, emotionally difficult to
accept, violates our conception of ourselves as a free, democratic
people. It shatters our vision of ourselves as a nation embodying
superior virtues and endowed with the responsibility to serve as a
beacon of light to the world. It takes from us the “right” to impose
our fictitious virtues on others by violence.
Then again "a
democratic people" always is a matter of degree, and by now the
USA is less free and less democratic than it has ever
been, and is also continueing to be even less free and less democratic.
Here are Chris Hedges' expectations for the future of the USA
No vote we cast will alter the
configurations of the corporate state. The wars will go on. Our
national resources will continue to be diverted to militarism. The
corporate fleecing of the country will get worse. Poor people of color
will still be gunned down by militarized police in our streets. The
eradication of our civil liberties will accelerate. The economic misery
inflicted on over half the population will expand. Our environment will
be ruthlessly exploited by fossil fuel and animal agriculture
corporations and we will careen toward ecological collapse. We are
“free” only as long as we play our assigned parts. Once we call out
power for what it is, once we assert our rights and resist, the chimera
of freedom will vanish.
I think this is all quite correct, and it all
follows from the fact that the rich few have succeeded in
getting the powers they wanted, and are using these powers only
to further the interests of the (Western) very rich: Clearly they are
unwilling to do anything for the poor or the middle class.
Then there is this on totalitarian
Incidentally, an "artifice" is, according to
Merriam-Webster: "dishonest or insincere
behavior or speech that is meant to deceive someone". And I'd say all
(not just totalitarian propaganda) uses artifices, for all
propaganda is deception to some extent.
The essential component of totalitarian
propaganda is artifice. The ruling elites, like celebrities, use
propaganda to create false personae and a false sense of intimacy with
The emotional power of this narrative is
paramount. Issues do not matter. Competency and honesty do not matter.
Past political stances or positions do not matter. What is important is
how we are made to feel. Those who are skilled at deception succeed.
Those who have not mastered the art of deception become “unreal.”
Politics in totalitarian societies are entertainment.
But Chris Hedges is quite
what is most important in propaganda is "how
we are made to feel", indeed in part
because our feelings are very important parts in our decisions, and
because feelings are very easily manipulated by those who desire to do so (and very much
easier than facts). 
There is also this:
The more communities break down
and poverty expands, the more anxious and frightened people will
retreat into self-delusion. Those who speak the truth—whether about
climate change or our system of inverted
totalitarianism—will be branded as seditious and unpatriotic. They
will be hated for destroying the illusion.
Yes, and this is (also)
how it went under fascism and nazism. And here are several additions to
what the paragraph said. First, it is not just self-delusion people
retreat into, but also apathy.
Second, it is not just those who speak the truth who will be said aside
or persecuted, but anybody who opposes the government or the
multi-national corporations. Third, those who are marked as "seditious and unpatriotic" are
not - I guess - "hated for destroying the
illusion" but much more simply because
they do not belong to "We".
Incidentally, the link to inverted
totalitarianism is very well worth clicking, especially
if you never heard of Sheldon Wolin.
The article ends as follows:
Yes, I agree
that human nature is constant, and that Chris Hedges is quite right in
insisting that we should try to resist, and that "the struggle
will be long long and difficult".
This is a fine article, and you are
recommended to read all of it. It will not make you feel
happier, but this is in good part because Hedges speaks the truth, and the
truth is pretty awful.
History may not repeat itself. But it
echoes itself. Human nature, after all, is constant. We will react no
differently from those who went before us. This should not dissuade us
from resisting, but the struggle will be long and difficult. Before it
is over there will be blood in the streets.
I still agree - on August 19, 2016 - with my
review, and only add four links to the late Sheldon Wolin
(<-Wikipedia) who was well interviewed by Hedges in 2014. Here are
the relevant links to my reviews in Nederlog, all with links to the
originals: here, here,
here and here while the last one is here.
All of these are very readable and are recommended. And
incidentally, one of the articles by Wolin that I liked and saw, and
then was hard to find again, still is here, from July 2003: "A Kind
of Fascism Is Replacing Our Democracy".
You Need to Know About
the DOJ's Claim It Is Ending Private Prisons
The second item is by Sarah Lazare on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Yes, indeed. And I selected the present
article from several alternatives because it avoids the
fanfare. First, here is a clarification of how many prisoners are
The U.S. Justice Department issued a memo,
Thursday by Matt Zapotosky and Chico Harlan of the Washington Post, in
which the federal agency claims that it will end the use of private
"I am eager to enlist your help in
beginning the process of reducing—and ultimately ending—our use of
privately operated prisons,” wrote Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
“As you know, all of the Bureau's existing contracts with private
prison companies are term-limited and subject to renewal or
termination. I am directing that, as each contract reaches the end of
its term, the Bureau should either decline to renew that contract or
substantially reduce its scope in a manner consistent with law and the
overall decline of the Bureau's inmate population.”
The declaration has been met with
considerable fanfare among a public weary of mass incarceration. In a
country that comprises just 5 percent of the global population, the
U.S. is responsible for locking up 20 percent of the world’s prison
Ruth Wilson Gilmore, professor at the
City University of New York and expert in race, prisons and capitalism,
pointed out in an article
published last February, “Private prisons hold about 8 percent of the
prison population and a barely measurable number (5 percent) of those
in jails. Overall, about 5 percent of the people locked up are doing
time in private prisons.”
In fact, according to the reporting of
Zapotosky and Harlan, the directive is “limited to the 13 privately run
facilities, housing a little more than 22,000 inmates, in the federal
Bureau of Prisons system.”
Hence this is considerably less than Sally
Yates suggested. It is something, but not much, indeed also not because
the following prisoners are not covered:
Because the memo only applies to Bureau
of Prison facilities, it will not impact notorious immigrant detention
centers—the fastest growing area of the U.S. private prison industry.
As of last year, 62
percent all beds in ICE immigrant detention centers were operated
by for-profit companies—a significant jump from 49 percent in 2009.
For-profit immigrant detention centers,
some of which house mothers with their children, have been rocked by
repeated protests and hunger strikes against inhumane
But as I said, these for-profit
prisons will simply continue. The article ends as follows, indeed after
noting that Sally Yates announcement is not nothing, but also not much:
I think that is correct.
Others warn that it is dangerous to
overstate the accomplishment. “This
is another example of a more symbolic prison reform, which is what the
prison reforms of the last few years have been,” Dan Berger, the author
of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era,
told AlterNet. “It makes a difference to some people’s lives, but it is
nowhere near the sweeping and realizable changes that are needed.”
3. Sanders Condemns Obscene Levels of Inequality Documented in
New CBO Report
The third and last
item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This has a subtitle which sums up
some of the background:
'Unacceptable' wealth inequality
keeps growing in the U.S., with the top 10 percent of families owning
three-quarters of total wealth
This starts as follows:
Yet another report, this one from the
U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), highlights what many American
families already know: The rich keep getting richer, while everyone
else keeps struggling to get by.
The CBO report, released
Thursday and prepared at the request of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.),
examines trends in family wealth from 1989 to 2013.
It found, unsurprisingly, that the
distribution of wealth—assets including home equity, other real estate
holdings, financial securities, and defined contribution pension
accounts—among the nation's families "was more unequal in 2013 than it
had been in 1989."
Meanwhile, the report reads: "Compared
with families in the top half of the distribution, families in the
bottom half experienced disproportionately slower growth in wealth
between 1989 and 2007, and they had a disproportionately larger decline
in wealth after the recession of 2007 to 2009."
I don't think this will amaze any regular
reader of Nederlog, but this doesn't mean it isn't relevant. And
here is a more precise summary of the - rather awful - facts
about incomes and wealth in the USA:
As of 2013, the top 10 percent of
families owned a full 76 percent of total family wealth in the U.S.,
while those in the bottom half of the distribution held just one
percent. The average wealth of the top 10 percent was $4 million, while
families in the bottom 25 percent were $13,000 in debt on average.
Responding on Twitter and in a
statement, Sanders seized
on the findings to reiterate several themes
of his presidential primary campaign.
"The reality, as this report makes
clear, is that since the 1980s there has been an enormous transfer of
wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in
this country," he said. "There is something profoundly wrong when the
rich keep getting richer and virtually everyone else gets poorer. That
is unacceptable, and that has got to change."
That is: 10% of the Americans own 75% of
all wealth, and have on average $4 million; 25% of the Americans own
$13,000 in debts, on average. I say.  And I
fully agree with Sanders that these facts are quite obscene (more
polite: "profoundly wrong").
The article ends as follows:
Just last week, an analysis from the
Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Corporation for Enterprise
how reforming the U.S. tax code could help low-income Americans build
wealth and savings while reducing wealth concentration at the top.
"Federal policymakers have a clear
choice to make," said
Chuck Collins of IPS at the time. "They can
allow this pattern to continue and set our country on a road to
economic devastation, or they can stop facilitating the wealth divide
and start expanding opportunities to boost wealth for all families."
I agree, but I am far
from optimistic, simply because the greedy, the egoistic and the rich
do almost anything to keep their riches, and have acquired enormous
powers to do so.
 I add
it again because I see so many who only approve what they nearly
totally agree with: I do not think "everyone is of equal
value", and I also never thought so and never will.
 Namely, depending on where you
start from: (Nearly) 45 years ago, judge
Lewis Powell sent around a memo that called on the rich to organize
themselves, and around 35 years ago Thatcher and Reagan were elected.
Personally, I strongly tend to: 35 years ago, for that also coincides
with the beginning of the fact that remained so ever since: In
terms, all wages other than the wages of the rich managers and their
lawyers were flat or declining for 35 years,
the wages of the rich managers and their lawyers went up by enormous
amounts (and this without considering the much less taxes the rich have
For more see Robert Reich's Inequality for All which you also find reviewed here.
 In fact, this is almost the only
thing psychiatry has
done that was true: That it is - for people who are paid to
deceive so as to sell more products with their deceptions - much
easier to manipulate people by manipulating their feelings
about themselves and others ("It will make you feel better!" "Your
neighbors want it as well!") than it is to manipulate the facts ("It is
much better than other products!" "It will save you money!").
For more, see the nephew of Freud, Edward Bernays,
and his book Propaganda
(on my site).
 Incidentally: I am Dutch, and am
probably the poorest person of my age in Holland, since I am 66
and I absolutely never
in my life earned as much as the minimal income in Holland. The main
reasons for this are that I am ill since I am 28; that the illness is
not recognized for 37 years now (although doctors agree that I am and
have been ill all these years); and that I have been very much
discriminated in the University of Amsterdam and by the City of
Amsterdam simply because I disagreed with their grossly illegal
policies (both as regards the selling of illegal drugs since 1985 as if
they are legal, and as regards the awfully bad education the University
of Amsterdam offered almost anyone who studied there between 1971 and
1995 - since when it only got worse, for the studies have been halved
while the prices have been made fourfold at the very least).
But even so, I must say that I have no debts whatsoever; have
saved several thousands of euroos; and can pay everything I have to
pay. Then again, I also have one of the best M.A. degrees ever awarded
in Holland; I have a lot of forced training to survive
on a minimal budget; I don't drink at all; and I never go out simply
because I am ill.
I infer that the situation for the very poor - which is what I am, in
Holland - is considerably better than it is for the same in the
USA, if only because I certainly would be worse of than I am if
there were any legal possibility, for I have much
offended the Amsterdam mayors who protected the illegal
drugs-dealers while letting me be terrorized by them for over
They allowed me to be gassed by them; to be threatened with
murder by them; and to be kept out of sleep for three years,
while the drugsdealers meanwhile made fortunes, while my
letters and mails were not even acknowledged receipt
by any of these mayors.
Then again, almost no Dutchman cared that these things happened to me,
and no police report was made about any of my
complaints: all were refused,
even when the drugsdealers who had threatened to murder me "if you do
anything that displeases us" were arrested with several kiloos of
cocaine and heroine in 1991.
That was Dutch justice: It was much better for this
brilliant son of heroes of the Dutch resistance against Nazism to
be killed by the illegal drugsdealers - who already had me gassed
once, which I barely survived - that his mayor loved to protect, than
that his human and civil rights were ever as much as considered:
Profit always comes first in Holland, and the profits on
illegal drugs are enormous.