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Nederlog

Monday, Apr 3, 2017

Crisis: Walking Dead, USA Turns Into Police-State, Ferlinghetti, Junk Economics


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. A Nation of the Walking Dead
2.
UN: Americans’ Right to Protest is in Grave Danger Under
     Trump

3. Time of Useful Consciousness
4. Days of Revolt: Junk Economics and the Future (2/2)
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, April 3, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is a review of Chris Hedges' weekly column on Truthdig; item 2 is - in fact - how the USA is changing into a real police state; item 3 is mostly a nice quotation of a good poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti; and item 4 is a video from the second of two parts of an interview by Chris Hedges of the economist Michael Hudson.

Also, I am sorry that yesterday the title of Nederlog seems to have fallen out: It is there, but indeed I was quite tired when I uploaded. It has been corrected now.
April 3: As to the updating problem: The Danish site was again on time today; and even the Dutch site was on time! I say! For the fourth day in succession! Nearly unheard of in the last 15 months! I have to admit that I am so amazed that I'll wait a little longer, but if this persists I can go back to the old site opening that worked for 20 years (which would be a considerable relief, for I don't like extra work).

I still have to add that where my site on xs4all.nl stuck for others I have NO idea AT ALL: It may be December 31, 2015. (Xs4all wants  immediate payment if you are a week behind. Xs4all.nl has been destroying my site now for over a year. I completely distrust them, but I also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)

1. A Nation of the Walking Dead

The first article today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows, about opioids:

Opioids and experiences that simulate the deadening effects of narcotics are mechanisms to keep us submissive and depoliticized. Desperate citizens in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel “Brave New World” ingested the pleasure drug soma to check out of reality. Our own versions of soma allow tens of millions of Americans to retreat daily into addictive mousetraps that generate a self-induced autism.

The United States consumes 80 percent of opioids used worldwide, and more than 33,000 died in this country in 2015 from opioid overdoses. There are 300 million prescriptions written and $24 billion spent annually in the U.S. for painkillers. Americans supplement this mostly legal addiction with over $100 billion a year in illicit marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. And nearly 14 million U.S. adults, one in every 13, regularly abuse alcohol.

I say. And it is a serious problem, that in the end seems mostly due to the very lousy health care Americans have. I live in Holland, where there still are some remains of the welfare state.

And although health care did get a lot more expensive in Holland - I am legally forced to pay 175 euros a month for a shockinglly bad health insurance, while I had a fine health insurance, that included excellent pay for medical doctors, in the 1980ies for 22 euros a month - it is not (as yet (!)) by far as bad as the American system (but the Dutch will be getting there as well, probably: see item 4 below).

So I don't have to take opioids because I can't pay operations, and I don't have to take heroin because I can't afford paying for opioids, and in fact I never used opioids and never used heroin.

And here is the other American contribution that "simulate[s] the deadening effects of narcotics are mechanisms to keep us submissive and depoliticized":

But these monetary figures are far less than what we spend on gambling. Americans in 2013 lost $119 billion gambling, with an additional $70 billion—or $300 for every adult in the country—spent on lottery tickets.

Federal and state governments, reliant on tax revenues from legal gambling and on lottery ticket sales, will do nothing to halt the expansion of the industry or the economic and psychological toll it exacts on those in financial distress. State-run lottery games had sales of $73.9 billion in 2015, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. This revenue is vital to budgets beset by declining incomes, deindustrialization and austerity.
I say, again. And note that states that run state-run lottery games are - in a solid sense  - forced to run them because they cannot finance their budgets from "declining incomes, deindustrialization and austerity": They must appeal to poor people's greed
or desperation.

Again I should say that I never gambled (except once, which I did for solidarity reasons, and then I won the lot) simply because I knew probability theory and knew
that a probable loss was a virtual certainty, with extremely small chances of winning
a lot. (Also, I hate gambling halls, slot machines and the like: Extra-ordinarily stupid.)

Here is Chris Hedges om how playing slot machines is made as addictive as possible:

The engineers of America’s gambling industry are as skillful at forming addiction as the country’s top five opioid producers—Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Insys Therapeutics, Mylan and Depomed. There are 460 commercial casinos, 486 tribal casinos, 350 card rooms, 55 racetracks and hundreds of thousands of gaming devices, many located in convenience stores, gas stations, bars, airports and even supermarkets.

The rush of anticipation, available in 20-second bursts, over hours, days, weeks and months creates an addictive psychological “zone” that the industry calls “continuous gaming productivity.”
For me the "rush of anticipation" doesn't work, but for one like me there are tenthousand others on which it does work. There is considerably more on the subject that I leave to your interests.

This is from near the end, and describes the particular kind of capitalism that is at play in casinos:

“People have called it a mode of ludo-capitalism,” Schüll said. “In a way, you can connect that to the ludo-politics that we see. Pleasure. To get what you want. What you want is to escape into a flow, to be taken away. We see this in the political domain a lot—in the rallies, in the surging of feelings, the distraction. If you look at the way a casino is designed, and you remember that Trump is a designer of many casinos, including his non-casino properties, they follow the same design logic of disorientation and trying to sweep people away from themselves, away from rationality, away from a position where they have clear lines of sight and can act as decision-making subjects. You see that on the floors of casinos, you see that in political rhetoric today.”
Yes, I think that is fair and correct. Here is the end of the article:
The corporate state will expand our access to a variety of opioids and numbing situations to temporarily alleviate our stress, financial dislocations, depression and anxiety. Aided by state and local governments, it will build new pleasure palaces. It will lure millions into its glittering and seductive Venus’ flytraps. It will make sure we have tempting retreats within easy reach to achieve a death-in-life experience. Much of the society will be put to sleep. Those who refuse to become zombies, who rise up to resist, who seek at all costs to remain distinct individuals, will be silenced with the corporate state’s cruder tool for submission: force. 

I think this is also correct, and indeed I seriously fear the future of the really intelligent who cannot be fooled by these systems of sick greed and who want to continue to exist as distinct and independent individuals.

The probable future of the intelligent individualist who insist on thinking and judging for themselves is this:

Those who refuse to become zombies, who rise up to resist, who seek at all costs to remain distinct individuals, will be silenced with the corporate state’s cruder tool for submission: force.

I think that is also true.

What hope is left?

I see two sources of hope: First, all changes, all revolutions, all radical improvements have been started and mostly produced by small groups. And second, while greed and deregulation are very strong motives, they will be stopped - temporarily of forever - by economical crashes.

And this is a recommended article.

2. UN: Americans’ Right to Protest is in Grave Danger Under Trump

The second article is by Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

At least 19 U.S. states have introduced bills that attack the right to protest since Donald Trump's election as president, an "alarming and undemocratic" trend, U.N. human rights investigators said this week.

Maina Kiai and David Kaye, independent U.N. experts on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression respectively, are calling on lawmakers in the United States to stop the “alarming” trend of “undemocratic” anti-protest bills designed to criminalize or impede the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.

"The trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech," they said in a statement, calling for action to reverse such legislation.

In fact, I think "undemocratic" is a euphemism: These 19 American states are trying to augur in a police state (<-Wikipedia). In case you doubt this, you should first consider the First Amendment on the Constitution, which dates back to 1789:

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.

And here is how 19 American states are attempting to slaughter that First Amendment (I did not reproduce everything):

  • The Arizona State Senate in February voted to expand racketeering laws to allow police to arrest anyone involved in a protest and seize their assets, treating demonstrators like organized criminals.
  • Portland, Oregon activists organizing against police killings of Black men, white nationalist politicians, and the countless systems of racism throughout our local, state, and federal governments are now considered “domestic terrorists” by Department of Homeland Security.
  • In January, North Dakota Republicans proposed legislation to legalize running over protesters if they are blocking roadways. (The legislation failed, for now.)
  • Missouri lawmakers want to make it illegal to wear a robe, mask or disguise (remarkably, a hoodie would count) to a protest.
    (..)
  • Republicans in Washington state have proposed a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism.”
  • Lawmakers in North Carolina want to make it a crime to heckle lawmakers.
  • In Indiana, conservatives want to allow police to use “any means necessary” to remove activists from a roadway.
    (..)
  • A bill before the Virginia state legislature would dramatically increase punishment for people who “unlawfully” assemble after “having been lawfully warned to disperse.” Those who do so could face a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Given the First Amendment, all of the above plans are plans to introduce fascist terrorism on anybody who does not behave as Republicans tell him or her to behave - I am sorry, I can't put it more friendly: These are all attempts to found a police state (<- Wikipedia) that will only further Republican neo-conservatives and lock up or kill anyone with the audacity to protest.

Here is what Maina Kiai and David Kaye, who are independent U.N. experts on freedom of peaceful assembly and of freedom of expression (respectively) said about these new
totalitarian laws that will introduce a police state:

“Peaceful assembly,” they added, “is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and the government has no business imposing a general requirement that people get permission before exercising that right.”

The experts also emphasized that legislators should be mindful of the important role that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly has played in the history of American democracy and the fight for civil rights.

“We call on the US authorities, at the federal and state level, to refrain from enacting legislation that would impinge on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and opinion,” they concluded.

I think they were very mild, but I do agree - and see the First Amendment.

3. Time of Useful Consciousness

The third article is by Abby Zimet on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

A belated 98th birthday to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, indefatigable poet,
bookseller, anti-Fascist, First Amendment activist, environmentalist, publisher, painter, creator of community, patron saint of the Beat artists, Poet Laureate of San Francisco, living monument to the arts, "old-ass anarchist" and dazzlingly prescient speaker of truth whose City Lights bookstore has served as a beacon of enlightenment, creativity and resistance since the 1950s.

In fact, Abby Zimet's article is from April 2, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (<- Wikipedia) got 98 on March 24. I know something about Ferlinghetti through my - somewhat stronger but not very strong - interests in Jack Kerouac and in Alan Watts (especially) but I am in no way a specialist on Ferlinghetti, but I do like the following poem, which I reproduce because it is on Common Dreams and because I like it:

Pity the Nation

“Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation wh
ose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.”

And please note that Ferlinghetti blames the people: "the people who allow their rights to erode and their freedoms to be washed away".

I think he is correct, though there are excuses (propaganda by the mainstream media,
lack of a good education, plain stupidity, wishful thinking and more).

4. Days of Revolt: Junk Economics and the Future (2/2)

The fourth and last item consists of a video with Chris Hedges interviewing the economist Michael Hudson:
In fact this is part 2 while yesterday I put up part 1. I think this is a fine interview with one of the few economists who do real economics (rather than the bullshit economics that is normal - see part 1) and who predicted the crash of 2008.

This is nearly 24 minutes, and it is too long to properly abstract and review, so I will give only four statements from it.

The first is a Marxist insight, albeit it from Groucho rather than Karl:
"The secret of success is sincerity: If you can fake that you have got it made." - Groucho Marx
The second is a factual insight, that can be very firmly based on data and evidence:
"The economy hasn't recovered from 2008. It has only recovered for the 1%."
The third is a diagnosis of the Wall Street driven economy of deceipt and exploitation:
"The solution of the debt-market we have is lending more money. That's what making it a Ponzi-scheme."
In case you wonder what a Ponzi-scheme is, consider the last link. And here is Hudson's diagnosis of the present economy:
"We are in a slow crash. The future is neo-feudalism, with ordinary people living as share-croppers and having to buy at the company's store."
This is from the lemma "Neo-feudalism" on Wikipedia (quoted minus note numbers):

Neofeudalism entails an order defined by commercial interests and administered in large areas, according to Bruce Baker, who argues that this does not fully describe the extent of cooperation between state and non-state policing. The significance of the comparison to feudalism, for Randy Lippert and Daniel O'Connor, is that corporations have power similar to states' governance powers.

The widening of the wealth gap, as poor and marginalized people are excluded from the state's provision of security, can result in neofeudalism, argues Marina Caparini, who says this has already happened in South Africa. Neofeudalism is made possible by the commodification of policing, and signifies the end of shared citizenship, says Ian Loader. A primary characteristic of neofeudalism is that individuals' public lives are increasingly governed by business
corporations, as Martha K. Huggins finds. Seattle-based technology billionaire Nick Hanauer has stated that "our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society".
To put it in other terms: The future of the non-rich (that survive, as sketched by Michael Hudson, on economical grounds) is rather like that of "the liberated blacks" after 1863:

During the Reconstruction era from January 1, 1863 to March 31, 1877, federal troops were stationed in the south specifically to keep blacks from being re-enslaved as the society made the transition to one of free labor. However, in the Gilded Age that followed the withdrawal, blacks were left at the mercy of the whites. When African Americans in the south no longer had the protection of the federal troops, whites imposed laws to restrict their movement and found other ways to practice involuntary servitude.

This lasted well into the 20th century. President Lyndon B. Johnson
abolished
peonage in 1966, which rapidly decreased sharecropping in every plantation nationwide. Journalist Douglas A. Blackmon reported in his book Pulitzer Prize winning book Slavery By Another Name that many blacks were virtually enslaved under convict leasing programs, which started after the Civil War. Most Southern states had no prisons; they leased convicts to businesses and farms for their labor, and the lessee paid for food and board. The incentives for abuse were satisfied.

For more, check out peonage (abolished in 1966!).

Final question: Do I regard this probable? It is possible, but I think myself that it is more likely that the slow crash we are living in a present will, at some point, turn into
a fast crash, which will have to be resolved somehow.

But I am guessing, which is all I can do. And this is a recommended video.


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