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Nederlog

 Nov 4, 2016

Crisis: Save America, 3,5° C, "Privacy", Security State, Noam Chomsky
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Introduction

1.
Save America From Donald Trump to Fix America, or,
     Did Your Mother Drop You on Your Head?

2. Despite Paris Climate Pledge, Planet on Track to
     Surpass 3°C Temperature Rise

3.
A Huge Victory for Online Privacy Advocates
4. Creating a National Security State “Democracy”
5. Noam Chomsky on Hopes for Democracy in 2016 and
     Beyond
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, November 4, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interesting article by Juan Cole (but he and I may disagree on Trump: we both strongly disapprove, but my reasons are that he is not sane, and I am a psychologist); item 2 is about the real risk that the climate will be 3.5 degrees warmer by 2050 rather than 1.5 degrees: I agree; item 3 is about a huge victory for Google, Facebook, AT&T and other thieves of private information that ought to have been kept private; item 4 is a fine article about the National Security State that is being surrected in the USA; and item 5 is about an interesting interview with Noam Chomsky.

-- Constant part, for the moment --

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It was OK for two days now, but again didn't work out in Holland yesterday...

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: It now works again (!), but I do not know how long it will keep working.

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.
---

1. Save America From Donald Trump to Fix America, or, Did Your Mother Drop You on Your Head?

The first item today is by Juan Cole on Truthdig and originally on Informed Comment:

This is from near the beginning:

So America is drowning, and voting for Hillary Clinton is the equivalent of rescuing it.  It is the stiff arm to deal with a hysteria that will otherwise sink us.

I see too many people agonizing over this election.  Will they vote for the Greens?  Libertarians?  Is Hillary as bad as Trump? 

Did your mother drop you on your head?  This is a drowning country we’re talking about.  You don’t have the luxury to sit on the beach and decide whether to go in.
I more or less agree, but I should add that my position on Trump (whom I like as little as Cole, it seems) is different:

I really think he is mad, that is insane, that is crazy. And I am thinking this not as journalist (and I am not a journalist either [2]) but as a psychologist: Trump is a grandiose narcissist; grandiose narcissists are insane and utterly irresponsible; one should not vote for insane persons - and certainly not as the most powerful person on earth.

Then there is this:
An America under Trump would be all dead.  Donald J. Trump is the greatest danger to American democracy in modern history.  He openly menaces journalists, he keeps inquiring about why we have nukes if we can’t use them, he wants to steal Iraq’s petroleum wealth, he promises to use torture, he courts the KKK, he proposes tax and other policies that will vastly increase inequality and bankrupt the government, and he wants a trade war with China.  I could go on with a litany of fatal “policies” (actually more like wicked quips) all the way down the page (and blog pages don’t really have a fixed bottom).  All this is not to mention his criminal notion that he has a right to French kiss and fondle any woman he can get hold of with his tiny hands.
I don't know whether America under Trump would be "dead", though indeed it might, literally, through a nuclear war. But I agree Trump "is the greatest danger to American democracy in modern history", and the rest is also true.

There is also this:

But here’s a surprise.  We live in a society dominated by corporations the way medieval Britain was dominated by feudal lords.  The only difference is that we have a higher standard of living than did the serfs and we get to decide between two Establishment candidates for high office regularly.

Over two-thirds of America’s $18.5 trillion economy is generated by Fortune 500 big corporations (in 2014 it was 73%!)

When I was a graduate student 36 years ago it was about 50%.  (Small business accounted for most of the other half then, and were the source of the vast majority of innovation).

Yes, indeed, and especially "We live in a society dominated by corporations the way medieval Britain was dominated by feudal lords". Except that it is considerably worse, for the feudal lords could not manipulate what their serfs
saw and believed, for there were no computers and no internet.

This ends as follows:

I have made my peace with being a serf who gets to vote for the candidates the two parties (mainly representing the corporations) present me with.  (It is a first past the post system, so creating a 3rd party is almost impossible).  It is a very corrupt system, maybe the most corrupt on earth.  I’ll probably never see a president who really represents the mainstream of America, because of voter suppression and big money in politics and the corruption of corporate media.  I blow off my frustrations at this blog and maybe I change a few minds here and there.  Civil disobedience seems increasingly called for with regard to hydrocarbons.  But we can’t do that if America is dead.  And Clinton won’t kill it, however wrongheaded some of her announced policies.  We survived Bush, though with a $6 trillion bill, and we can survive Clinton.  We can’t survive Trump.

Mostly yes. In any case, the choice is bad in the sense that there is just one sane candidate, and she is pro-rich, pro-bankers and quite dishonest, while the other candidate is a raving lunatic. (I am sorry, but that is what he is.)

But I completely agree with Cole that whoever can vote in the American elections should vote, and that all minimally rational persons vote for Clinton, not because she is any good, but because she is not insane.

2. Despite Paris Climate Pledge, Planet on Track to Surpass 3°C Temperature Rise

The second item is by Nika Knight on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Global warming is on track to top 3° Celsius, the United Nations warned this week, because today's climate pledges are "not nearly enough" to prevent dangerous levels of warming.

That's according the latest annual "Emissions Gap Report" (pdf) from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), which concluded that pledges to cut emissions will result in a global temperature rise of 3.4ºC above pre-industrial levels, far above the 2º limit and 1.5º goal agreed to under last year's Paris climate accord.

"Current commitments will reduce emissions by no more than a third of the levels required by 2030 to avert disaster," two UNEP leaders warn in the report's introduction.

I must say that I did not believe at all that the Paris climate pledge would be any good, so this quite sad news does not come as a surprise to me at all - and incidentally, it takes just 13 years + 1 month to 2030.

Here is one summary:

"After 24 years of negotiations we are hurtling towards a 3.5 degree world, which will be catastrophic for millions across the world," added Dipti Bhatnagar, a climate justice and energy coordinator also at FOE International. "Despite all the science-based evidence, rich countries are failing to do their fair share of emissions reductions as well as provide much-needed finance to drive energy transformation in developing countries."

Yes - and I do like to add that (i) these "24 years of negotiations" were negotiations by regular politicians and nations, which (ii) I've known since
the 1970ies one cannot trust, so again I am not surprised at all that, again
after
"24 years of negotiations", the climate will get warmer by 3.5 degrees Centigrade by 2050 (if this isn't prevented, which seems quite unlikely).

Here is one sum-up:

If international leaders fail to step up, UNEP warns, "we will mourn the loss of biodiversity and natural resources. We will regret the economic fallout. Most of all, we will grieve over the avoidable human tragedy; the growing numbers of climate refugees hit by hunger, poverty, illness and conflict will be a constant reminder of our failure to deliver."

"None of this will be the result of bad weather. It will be the result of bad choices by governments, private sector, and individual citizens," the agency heads note. "Because there are choices."

And that sum-up - not very realistically, it seems to me - does not consider a major collapse of economies due to climate change, which I think is rather likely.

Then again, the situation is dire anyway, and this is a recommended article.

3. A Huge Victory for Online Privacy Advocates

The third item is by Jeff Chester, who is the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

The AT&T buyout of Time Warner is really about owning as much of our personal information as possible, whether it flows from our computer, our TV or — especially — from our mobile phones. It reveals the goal of the next generation of Big Media mergers: bringing together under a single entity massive broadband network connections and vast production and content capabilities, along with sophisticated data-mining operations that deliver micro-targeted ads. AT&T and other large corporations want to profit by knowing what we buy, where we go, what we view and who we interact with — and to use powerful data analytics to (in their words) “monetize” our personal information.
Yes, indeed. And because I have been saying so since 2005 I will now say that AT&T, Google and Facebook are the dominant neofascistic empires that are directed by extremely rich neofascists - and if this offends them, look at the definition I give [3]: It suits all of them to a t. [4]

They are neofascists, as are all employees of the NSA and especially its directors, because they steal all information they can acquire from anyone, which they have no right to, but have been systematically allowed to by the politicians (whom they may pay) and the courts (that if not corrupt - which is a large assumption these days - have to work with "laws" like the European Convention of Human Rights, which are not at all about human rights, but about the absolutely unlimited rights of the spies and the dataminers to extract everything they can get form anyone). (See here for a little more on that sick Convention.)

There is one possible limitation on the "rights" of the very rich and the very powerful to know absolutely everything about absolutely everyone:
But potentially standing as an obstacle to the data-domination goals of this mega deal is last week’s decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requiring broadband internet service providers (ISPs) such as AT&T to begin protecting consumer privacy.
(...)
The key safeguard adopted by the FCC last week says that data about one’s health, finances, precise geolocation, children and — critically — information culled by ISPs monitoring our use of mobile “apps” and “web browsing,” must now be classified as “sensitive.” This will force ISPs such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, the key gatekeepers to our wired and wireless internet connections, to treat this data differently. The customer will be empowered to decide how this sensitive information can be used, if at all, by advertisers and others.
I say - and I am quite sorry, but this declaration that personal information that has been stolen for many years now ought to be regarded as "sensitive" does not satisfy me at all. All I can say for it is that it is better than absolutely nothing.

First of all, the information is still being stolen, and should not be. And second, who can assure me that this stolen information is not dealt with, in secret, as the ISPs please to do? I think it is; I think it will be; and nothing will change this until these data simply are not stolen anymore (and that seems a most unlikely ideal, these days).

Then there is this, which is quite correct:
ISPs and data giants such as Google fought the FCC’s privacy plan, which was spearheaded by its chairman, Tom Wheeler. Until now, the digital media industry — which includes broadband companies, internet advertising-dependent giants and major marketers — had successfully blocked any law or regulation that would protect consumer privacy online. That’s because the ability to steal and sell other people’s data to fuel marketing and advertising has become one of the US’ most successful global businesses. Our companies — think especially Google and Facebook — have perfected the vast technological capabilities to do this well throughout the world.
And they are neofascists because they steal everybody's private data. Also, I think they are abusing the law very consciously: While it is possible to maintain that in the USA the Patriot Act has deregulated the Fourth Amendment (I think the argument is invalid, but suppose), they certainly are stealing all the personal data they can get from everybody who is not an American.

Finally, here are some of the grossest neofascistic lies:
The FCC’s new privacy rules have triggered an outcry of alarm and opposition from opponents. The lobbying group representing Verizon, News Corp., Google and others charged that the FCC was “ more “regulatory opportunism than reasoned policy… that abandons principles of fair competition.” USTelecom,
destabilizing the ad-supported internet economy.” The cable industry called the decision more “regulatory opportunism than reasoned policy… that abandons principles of fair competition.” USTelecom, which represents telephone companies, claimed that “classifying all web browsing as sensitive information… [is] a disservice” to consumers.” Not to be outdone, the trade group representing the most powerful US advertisers, the Association of National Advertisers, blasted the decision, calling it “unprecedented, misguided, counterproductive and potentially extremely harmful.” It promised to see the “rules undone,” whether by “court challenges or action on Capitol Hill to reverse this extreme overreach by the agency.

I say. I will not comment on these sick lies, but this article is strongly recommended.

4. Creating a National Security State “Democracy”

The fourth item today is by Tom Engelhardt on TomDispatch:

This starts as follows:

To say that this is the election from hell is to insult hell.

There’s been nothing like this since Washington forded the Rubicon or Trump crossed the Delaware or delivered the Gettysburg Address (you know, the one that began “Four score and eleven women ago...”) -- or pick your own seminal moment in American history.

Billions of words, that face, those gestures, the endless insults, the abused women and the emails, the 24/7 spectacle of it all... Whatever happens on Election Day, let’s accept one reality: we’re in a new political era in this country.  We just haven’t quite taken it in.  Not really.

I agree that "we’re in a new political era in this country". Possibly some of the rest may be somewhat exaggerated, but Engelhardt is right about this. Also, it seems to me that both these 2016 elections and the American political climate depend a lot on the years 2001-2003 (the last year because then the war was started against Iraq that still lasts), but I will leave that possibility to your own considerations.

Next, there is this on Donald Trump:

Whatever you think of The Donald, who in the world -- and I mean the whole wide world (including the Iranians) -- could possibly forget him or the election he’s stalked so ominously?  When you think of him, however, don’t make him the cause of American political dysfunction.  He’s just the bizarre, disturbed, and disturbing symptom of the transformation of the American political system.

Yes and no: Yes, Donald Trump is not "the cause of American political dysfunction". But no, he is not (bolding added) "just the bizarre, disturbed, and disturbing symptom of the transformation of the American political system", in the first place because persons and their personal choices also are important, and in the second place because I have seen quite a few American presidents I didn't like (and my memories start with Eisenhower), but I do not recall any presidential candidate who was - remotely, also - as bad, as insane, as crude, as offensive, and as much lying as Donald Trump.

Then Tom Engelhardt, who is about 6 years older than I am, does something interesting: He asks what his parents (who died in the Seventies and Eighties) would have thought of the present USA:

On a somewhat more modest scale, my mom and dad wouldn’t have recognized our political world as American, and not just because of Donald Trump.  They would have been staggered by the money pouring into our political system -- at least $6.6 billion in this election cycle according to the latest estimate, more than 10% of that from only 100 families.  They would have been stunned by our 1% elections; by our new Gilded Age; by a billionaire TV celebrity running as a “populist” by riling up once Democratic working-class whites immiserated by the likes of him and his “brand” of casino capitalism, scam, and spectacle; by all those other billionaires pouring money into the Republican Party to create a gerrymandered Congress that will do their obstructionist bidding; and by just how much money can be “invested” in our political system in perfectly legal ways these days.

All of this seems quite right to me, indeed quite independently of the political preferences of Engelhardt's parents: All of these changes were major changes, and all of these changes much increased the powers and the incomes of the few very rich, at the costs of the powers and the incomes of the many non-rich.

Here is more on the wars that now continue for 15 years and against trillions of dollars, which come from tax money [5], though the wars are essentially presidential decisions, as if the presidents of the USA since Bush have dictatorial possibilities:
On my tour of this new world, I might start by pointing out to my mom and dad that the U.S. is now in a state of permanent war, its military at the moment involved in conflicts in at least six countries in the Greater Middle East and Africa.  These are all purely presidential conflicts, as Congress no longer has a real role in American war-making (other than ponying up the money for it and beating the drums to support it).  The executive branch stands alone when it comes to the war powers once checked and balanced in the Constitution.
Yes indeed, and the main difference with the times in which Engelhardt's parents lived is that these "are all purely presidential conflicts", indeed since 15 years: Before Bush Jr. took power and started warring, Congress was supposed (and still is, Constitutionally speaking) to declare wars.

And there is this on the president's personal powers:
I could mention that the president who, in my parents’ time, commanded one modest-sized secret army, the CIA’s paramilitaries, now essentially presides over a full-scale secret military, the Special Operations Command: 70,000 elite troops cocooned inside the larger U.S. military, including elite teams ready to be deployed on what are essentially executive missions across the planet.
I say, and I briefly checked it out: There were already about 33,000 such elite troops in 2001, some of whom - I must say, and I am not an American - strike me as rather likely candidates for 9/11, simply because the evidence I have seen (considerable amounts) strongly suggests that at least some of the buildings that were hit during 9/11 also were secretly blown up.

And no, I do not know this: I guess this, indeed in considerable part because the official story about 9/11 definitely is full of holes. [6]

Here is the last bit that I will quote from this article:
I could point out that, in the twenty-first century, U.S. intelligence has set up a global surveillance state that would have shamed the totalitarian powers of the previous century and that American citizens, en masse, are included in it; that our emails (a new concept for my parents) have been collected by the millions and our phone records made available to the state; that privacy, in short, has essentially been declared un-American.  I would also point out that, on the basis of one tragic day and what otherwise has been the most modest of threats to Americans, a single fear -- of Islamic terrorism -- has been the pretext for the building of the already existing national security state into an edifice of almost unbelievable proportions that has been given once unimaginable powers, funded in ways that should amaze anyone (not just visitors from the American past), and has become the unofficial fourth branch of the U.S. government without either discussion or a vote.
Yes, indeed: Quite so. And it are also especially these "once unimaginable powers" (that are very much greater than those of the KGB in the Soviet Union) that strongly dispose me to believing that the USA is moving rapidly to become a neofascistic state.

You may disagree (but check out my definition, please: I am saying these things not because I wish to offend but because they seem probably true to me), but I really think so, indeed since 2005 (<-Dutch) at the latest. [7]

And this is a very good article that I strongly recommend.

5. Noam Chomsky on Hopes for Democracy in 2016 and Beyond

The fifth and last item today is by Saul Isaacson and Dan Falcone on Truthout:

This is from near the beginning (and the speaker is always Noam Chomsky, apart from the bolded questions):

You feel Sanders is doing the right thing?

Pretty much, I think. People said he was depicted -- and he depicted himself -- as a political revolutionary, but he's not. He's a decent, honest New Dealer. He wouldn't have surprised Eisenhower very much. It's just the country has gone so far to the right, that when he takes sort of New Deal positions, he looks like he's from outer space. But he never pretended to be anything else. I think he's an honest guy. He says what he believes. Always [said] he would support the Democratic candidate. He's doing it. And I think it makes sense.

Yes, I agree - and Noam Chomsky is "a political revolutionary", or at least (because he is not a fanatic) far more than Bernie Sanders.

This is on the incredible amounts of propaganda and advertisements that are spread by the mainstream media:

What happened to our ability to discuss issues?

Mainstream ideology is never going to want to discuss issues, because it's too threatening, so if others don't do it, it'll disappear. Tell me, why should they? They want things supportive of power systems -- it's kind of like getting people hooked on television, or [consuming], or on sports or something. If you can get the public out of your hair, it's fine. If you start discussing issues, people get involved. So you certainly don't want to do that. So it's up to the rest of us. But it's always been like that.

I agree, except that it hasn't "always been" quite "like" they are now, and the great differences are that the spies of the government and the spies of the dataminers now (i) know everything about anyone and (ii) are almost completely free to deceive anyone in any way by manipulating what they get to see and not see.

And I think these are very major and extremely negative changes, for they give all the power to the very few, who also are mostly operating in total secrecy.

Then there is this on racism and the USA:

Is racism behind the Trump campaign and behind Trump's popularity?

There's no doubt. Take a look at the poll analyses. The Trump voters are pretty racist. But I think that there are things about the United States that aren't really recognized sufficiently, so it's important to remember that until 1945, the United States was a cultural backwater. It wasn't part of the modern world.... So, a good part of the country is still [adhering to] what's been traditional. It's just not part of the modern world. Just take a look at the statistics. The religious fanaticism, there's just nothing like it in the world.
Yes, evidently Trump and his voters are racists. And I think Chomsky is quite right in saying that "until 1945, the United States was a cultural backwater" and indeed it still is, at least for the half that supports Trump and is neither intelligent nor knowledgeable.

Here is the last question plus answer that I will review from this article:

Daniel Falcone: Could you touch on how the current situation in the US differs from the current situation in Europe?

Right now [the British are] kind of destroying themselves with economic policies that are much worse than those here. By comparison, the US looks progressive. Europe is worse. Now, European democracy is just being completely undermined by the troika. And the decisions -- they're just taken away from nation-states where at least people had some kind of voice -- and now placed in the hands of Belgian bureaucrats with the northern banks looking over their shoulders. It's pretty scary.

Yes indeed. Neofascism [8] has arrived in Europe on the level of government: All of Europe is being directed by a few neofascist frauds who only look at their own riches and those of the banks they serve.

And if you see this differently I can only suggest that you know a lot less about both politics and fascism; that you don't have a father who survived 3 years and 9 months of German concentration camps, nor a grandfather who was murdered there; that you did not study philosophy; that you are not very intelligent; and/or that you have been convinced by the very many lies, deceptions and propaganda that reached you from the offices of the very rich or their political servants.

None of this holds for me, and therefore I may reach some conclusions a bit sooner than most others.

--------------------------
Notes
[1] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[2] Indeed I am not, and have explicitly denied I am since 2008, at the latest: I do not have the education of a journalist; I never worked as a journalist (I did work for a paper, but not as a journalist, and I published, in 1971, two articles in the press, but that is all); and indeed I never desired to be a journalist.

What I am is an intellectual with radical ideas, and what I do is writing out my opinions on my site. That is all.

[3] I am saying this not because I want to offend but because I want to explain, and my own explanatory definition of neofascism is this:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.

And the link in which I argue this is the following: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions.

[4] That my definition does suit many (not: all) of the very rich and their corporations should be evident from note [3].

[5] Incidentally (but an important point):

Many "neoliberals" and most of the present GOP seem to be - if trusted on their words, which is extremely unwise, since lying is extremely easy - are "against government". If that was really true none of the wars that have been conducted by the USA could have been conducted, for they are paid for by tax money, that requires a government to get the tax money in the first place.

And indeed it is quite false: At least the GOP is only "against government" when the government doesn't do as it pleases; as soon as the government does as it pleases they are strongly for government.

The brief of it is that they are lying (which is extremely easy, and needs no money).

[6] Maybe I should start by saying that I am not an American and also am not interested in conspiracy theories. What I am interested in (always) are true or probable explanations.

And the evidence I have seen, which is quite a lot since 2001, but especially since 2009 because then I got fast internet, is that (1) the official explanations for 9/11 are full of holes, while (2) there is strong evidence that at least some of the buildings that collapsed on 9/11/01 were in fact collapsed by controlled explosions.

Both numbered statements seem to me to have a rational probability that exceeds 1/2 and nothing I am told about "conspiracy theories" will change anything about that estimate.

[7] Yes, indeed. Here is an addition: I am and always have been a strong opponent of political correctness: Those who seek to influence people "not to use offensive prose" in fact are seeking to censor people so that they do not say anything anyone might oppose.

I think there are and have been fascists, sadists, terrorists, liars, degenerates, frauds, torturers and many other things I regard as morally despicable, and I have or assert my right to describe them in factually adequate terms and to name them as I did in this paragraph. To forbid my naming them thus is to insist on falsehoods.

[8] Again see note [3].


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