Monday, July 24, 2017

Crisis: Drugs Reform, Foreign Policy, "Truth" Matters, TiSA, Decline Of Journalism

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from July 24, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Monday, July 24, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 24, 2017

The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Meet America's Most Powerful Drug Reformer:

This is by Philip Smith on AlterNet. This is from near the beginning:

The bilingual McFarland Sánchez-Moreno grew up in Peru and spent her early years at HRW [Human Rights Watch] researching Colombia, where drug profits helped fuel a decades-long civil war and corroded governmental legitimacy through corruption. That sharpened her awareness of the need for social justice and drug policy reform. She also pushed for the group to more directly take on the war on drugs as a human rights issue, and as a result, HRW became the first major international human rights organization to call for drug decriminalization and global drug reform.

I say, for this is an interesting background for the new head of the Drugs Policy Alliance. And indeed this is a fairly interesting articles, with bits like this:

All the horrors we're seeing with overdoses is leading many people to do some serious soul-searching about what's the best way to address this problem, so we're seeing some progress on harm reduction measures like access to naloxone, for example. Now, there's room to have some conversations where there wasn't before, such as decriminalizing the possession of all drugs. A few years ago, that would have been a hard conversation to have, but HRW released a report last year calling for it and DPA has just released its own report echoing that call, and there is a real receptiveness in the public to talking about that. We're in a different place now and can make progress at the state and local level.

But that fairly heated rhetoric coming from the attorney general, appealing to people's worst fears and often distorting reality, is a real problem. It's not just about what Sessions says and what policies he adopts at Justice (..)
And then there's Sen. Dianne Feinstein's Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues (SITSA) Act (Senate Bill 1237), which would give Sessions the power to schedule new synthetic drugs without any scientific basis. I think having someone who is so extreme in his views at the Department of Justice is a green light for people in other parts of the government to take us in the wrong direction. This is a major challenge for DPA and the drug reform movement in general, and we will be focusing on that right off the bat.
As I said, this is a fairly interesting article.

2. Trump’s Foreign Policy Mishmash

This is by Gilbert Doctorow on Consortiumnews. It starts thus:
President Trump’s foreign policy has been an incredible mishmash of contradictions, perhaps partly a result of unsuccessful tactical concessions to keep his political enemies forever guessing his real intentions. But the underlying reality is that many of his personnel choices have created an organizational chart that would fit the agenda of a neoconservative president.
Well... yes, although I'd say myself that in Trump's case "neoconservatism" is a euphemism for neofascism, as I defined it. The article ends as follows:

I would differ with the Post’s analysis in one key respect: Trump’s “proclivity to act alone” was not some ad hoc capricious act; it is the essence of his method of rule. Trump has chosen not to blend in with the status quo or to do things like other presidents have, but to run things as he did the Trump business empire, through a tiny circle of family members and trusted retainers operating outside any traditional corporate structure.

However, by rejecting past protocols and relying on non-expert friends and relations, Trump may be giving impetus to the drive to remove him from office. Policies built by Trump’s hands-on style are intrinsically no better than the policies built on an established bureaucracy, even one that has perpetuated its own secrecy and lies. Neither approach fulfills the principles of a democracy in which officials should be open and accountable to the citizens.

How much longer must we wait for a government that opens its plans to a meaningful public debate and then implements those plans through the proper channels of dedicated and knowledgeable public servants?

Hm. This will not happen under Trump (and indeed also not under Pence).

3. Whose "Truth" Matters Most When We Recount the War in Vietnam?

This is by Camillo Mac Bica on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:

Much has been written and many documentaries made about the American War in Vietnam including the highly acclaimed 1983 effort by PBS, Vietnam: A Television History. Though not without its shortcomings, this 13-part documentary series was well crafted, meticulously researched, carefully balanced and thought-provoking.

In September 2017, PBS will air the highly anticipated – seemingly touted as the definitive documentary – about the Vietnam War, directed by respected documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The goal of this 10-episode, 18-hour project is, according to the directors, to “create a film everyone could embrace” and to provide the viewer with information and insights that are "new and revelatory." Just as importantly, they intend the film to provide the impetus and parameters for a much needed national conversation about this controversial and divisive period in American history.
In an interview and discussion of the documentary on Detroit Public TV,
Burns describes what he hopes to accomplish as a filmmaker, “Our job is to tell a good story.” In response and in praise of Burns’ work, the interviewer offers his view of documentary. “The story that filmmakers like yourself, the story that storytellers create, are the framework that allows us to understand the truth because the truth is too unfathomable to take in all at once.” To which Burns quickly adds, “And there are many truths.”

In fact, this sounds as an utterly hopeless introduction to a piece of major propaganda in the best tradition of fake news.

Indeed, Camillo Mac Bia points out the following:

More troublesome, perhaps, is the claim that “we must recognize more than one truth,” as it smacks of perspectivism, the view that truth is relative and the opinions of individuals with different, even opposing, viewpoints are equally valid. This would explain, I think, why Burns and Novick can claim to have created “a film everyone could embrace.” If the premise of the documentary is that truth is perspectival, relative not objective, then one may argue for the validity of accepting the "truth" that most benefits us, that makes us look just, courageous, patriotic, resilient and exceptional. And if, as the PBS interviewer notes, truth is “unfathomable” until it is placed in the proper framework, truth becomes the perspective of the filmmakers and how they choose to “create” and fashion the “story.”

Yes, indeed. The plan is much like a propaganda film for World War II that "everyone" - Nazis, torturers, collaborators, "resistance fighters" etc. "could embrace", meanwhile proudly explaining what I was taught in the "University" of Amsterdam in 1978 (that ever since heeded the advice):

Everybody knows that truth does not exist.

For all that exists (that matters to the rich) are the money of the rich, the needs of the majority of the non-rich to be deceived, and the propaganda that does the job.

This is a recommended article.

4. Sleeping Monster: The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), Scheduling, and “Standstill” and “Ratchet” Clauses

This is by Lambert Strether and is on Naked Capitalism. It starts as follows:]

In our previous two posts in this series (on TiSA and the supply chain and its expansive definition of services), we looked at TiSA as a sort of dream of in the hive mind of our globalist elites; and I mean “dream” rather in the way psychologists mean it, as a product of the unconscious — in this case a collective one — and a structure that provides insight every waking moment and action of the dreamer (...)

Yes indeed: The TiSA still exists and it is still very dangerous, for it is a way by which all national laws are terminated and replaced by the dreams of the rich, that also make it impossible of changing things back.

And this is from the ending:

Let’s say that you, as one flavor of leftist, have developed and sequenced a list of universal concrete material benefits, and your agenda puts the low-hanging fruit first. A non-exhaustive list might look like this:

2) Subsector: “Postal services”: A Post Office Bank
3) Subsector: “Computer and Related Services”: Hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public
4) Sector: FINANCIAL SERVICES: Debt Jubilee.

Now suppose that the United States signed TiSA tomorrow; clearly, under standstill, unless “policy space limitations” had been carved out for each of the four sectors, those concrete material benefits could not be pursued, and under ratchet, they would “never, ever” come to pass.


It seems obvious to me that TiSA must be defeated, just as TPP was. However, I think it’s clear that it’s not enough to defeat an agreement; the globalist elites and the Trade Blob will simply break that agreement up for parts and start pushing a new one, so they need to be defeated, not merely their agreements. (Look how the administration has retreated on NAFTA, for example.) How that is to be done — how to shake the elites’ shoulder and wake them from their dream — is not clear to me, but to gain the concrete material benefits, that is what has to be done (...)

Well, it cannot be done, for they are born liars who propagandize and lie for the rich. But indeed TiSA must be stopped, somehow. And this is a recommended article.

5. Journalism Is Dying and Content Marketing Is Taking Its Place (I Know Because I Do Both)

This is by Tamara Pearson on Truthout and originally on News Analysis. This starts with the following introduction:

I first started writing articles when I was a teenager, as one of the ways I could contribute to the movement to stop the war on Iraq, to free the refugees from detention in Australia and to stop a waste dump being built where I lived (one of the poorest parts of Sydney).

I've been a journalist for 16 years now, writing from Bolivia, Mexico, Venezuela, Pakistan and other countries -- aiming to center the voices of those who aren't usually heard, and covering the other side of the story. But now, as a freelancer in Mexico, like many journalists and writers, I'm forced to do content writing between the journalism in order to pay the bills. As a result, I've learned a lot about how this huge and booming marketing industry works. I'm alarmed by how many people don't realize the supposed blogs they're reading are simply well-concealed marketing, and about the serious social impact of this calculated, dollar-driven invasion of the internet.

Actually, I am not amazed, and the reason for my lack of amazement is that in the last 15 years literally billions of mostly stupid and ignorant people have acquired a computer with internet, and gathered around the masters of deception of Facebook and other a-social media, where lying, propagandizing and deception are the rule.

This is an interesting article. Here is the shift in content and towards plain propaganda that came with the a-social media for the stupid and the ignorant:

The number of "news" stories has increased by 36 percent each year, Christopher S. Penn, VP of marketing technology with SHIFT Communications, told EContent. He said that in 2016, his company expected 88 million stories to be published. "No matter how amazing we think our content marketing is, customers are drowning in media," he said, referring to the phenomenon as "content shock."

The overall composition of internet information is shifting toward strategically executed corporate drivel: substandard health articles aimed at convincing readers to consume more wine, real estate articles pretending to enable consumers with helpful "tips" to find the house they can't afford and emotionally manipulative Pepsi videos pretending to understand rebellion and social justice struggles.

The proportions of junk food we consume affect our bodies. Similarly, the composition of the information we're fed affects our collective knowledge, our ability to think critically and the focus of our collective attention.

Yes, indeed. Here is some more on the enormous inequalities that drive "the free internet" in the direction of the universal propaganda machine:

The proliferation of junk content is aided by economic inequality. The internet is not a level playing field, and just like in the real world, those with more money often hog the limelight. Those companies with more money to spend on page creation, advertising, analytics, influencers (people with high social media followings can be paid to promote content) and social media campaigns skip to the front. Social media signals like retweets, shares, retweets by influencers and so on, can drastically affect a site's Google search ranking (...)

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this interesting article:

More people are working in native advertising teams and as content writers, and the number of actual journalists is decreasing. In the US, the number of journalists in daily newspapers dropped by 39 percent between 2005 and 2015 -- from 54,100 to 32,900. In the UK, the number of journalists dropped from 70,000 in 2013 to 64,000 in 2015, but the number of UK workers describing themselves as public relations professionals jumped from 37,000 in 2013 to 55,000 in 2015.
There you are, and this is over the last ten years or so...

This is an interesting and recommended article.

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