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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Crisis: Chris Hedges & RT, McCarthyism, Capitalism, Trump, Stark Warning

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Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 14, 2017 
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday
November 14, 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 will continue with it.

On the moment and since nearly two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from November 14, 2017
1. RT America Torched in Witch Hunt ’17
2. McCarthyism Inc.: Hyping the Russian Threat to
     Undermine Free Speech

3. Let's Just Admit It: Capitalism Doesn't Work
4. Mocking Trump Doesn’t Prove Russia’s Guilt
5. Over 15,000 Scientists Just Issued a 'Second
     Notice' to Humanity. Can We Listen Now?

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. RT America Torched in Witch Hunt ’17

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In one of the most horrendous blows to press freedom since the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, the U.S. Department of Justice has forced the news broadcaster RT America to file under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

The assault on RT America, on which I host the show “On Contact,” has nothing to do with the dissemination of Russian propaganda. It is driven by RT America’s decision to provide a platform to critics of American capitalism and imperialism, critics who lambast a system of government that can no longer be called democratic. And it is accompanied by the installation of algorithms by Google, Facebook and Twitter that divert readers away from left-wing, progressive and anti-war websites, including Truthdig. The World Socialist Web Site has seen its search traffic from Google fall by 74 percent since April. Google, in a further blow, this month removed RT from its list of “preferred” channels on YouTube. Twitter has blocked all advertising by the channel.

I think Hedges is quite right, and indeed I add my own qualifications of Google, Facebook, and Twitter:

These are neofascistic corporations, led by neofascists out to increase their own incomes by billions at the costs of everyone else.

In fact, since nearly all thinking about both fascism and neofascism is very confused and also rather confusing, here is - once again - my definition of neofascism:

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 it is these corporations that have taken over and destroyed the internet, and are trying to take over democracy and replace it by their own propagandistic pieces of exploitation and of spying on anyone. (At least, that is what I think.)

Back to Hedges:

Put the censorship campaigns together and the message is clear: Left-wing critics, already marginalized by the state, must be silenced.

It would seem, given how we are locked out of the corporate media and public broadcasting, that the assault is overkill. But the ideology that sustains the corporate state, the “free market” and neoliberalism has lost all credibility. The corporate state has no counterargument to its critics. The nakedness of corporate greed, exploitation and repression is transparent across the political spectrum. The ideological fortress erected by corporate power and sustained by its courtiers in the press and academia has collapsed. All it has left is a crude censorship.

Actually, I think the above is too optimistic, for it seems as if large segments of the people who are addressed by ¨the media¨ still believe most of the lies and propaganda that have deceived them, and that did so for quite a few decades.

Then there is this:

Only a handful of journalists, including Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, grasp and decry the very real danger before us.

The charge that RT and these left-wing sites disseminate “foreign propaganda” is the beginning, not the end, of a broad campaign against press freedom. Once this precedent of state censorship is normalized, far more tepid and compliant media outlets will be targeted. Max Blumenthal wrote two good pieces on AlterNet about the puppet masters behind the censorship campaign. [Click here and here.]

In fact, the move against RT with which this article opens is a strong move to totalitarianism in the USA [2], and I think Hedges is quite correct this is the beginning rather than the end of more and more totalitarianism in the USA [3].

Here is some background:

The report charged:

RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a “surveillance state” and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use.

RT has also focused on criticism of the US economic system, US currency policy, alleged Wall Street greed, and the US national debt. Some of RT’s hosts have compared the United States to Imperial Rome and have predicted that government corruption and “corporate greed” will lead to US financial collapse.

The “Alice in Wonderland” quality of the report would be laughable if it was not so ominous. The United States, in fact, is a surveillance state. Civil liberties have been eviscerated. Police brutality is endemic. Our drone wars have made us state terrorists. The economic structure serves the wealthiest corporations and oligarchs. Wall Street is run by a criminal class. Our debt is unsustainable, especially once the dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, and like all decaying empires we are headed for collapse. The DNI report clarifies what the ruling elites fear—not fake news but the truth. And the truth is that the elites have destroyed the country and are traitors to democracy.

Actually, it probably is worse, which can be seen by discounting Hedges´ reasons (although I think they are mostly quite correct):

Even if Hedges it totally mistaken (which he is not), and the report that is quoted is completely correct (which it is not), all that can be deduced from the report is that criticism of the USA is forbidden by the new neofascist totalitarians from Google, Facebook and Twitter.

And this is from the ending:

All the elites have left is to paint their critics as “agents of a foreign power.” The United States increasingly resembles a totalitarian state. Our anemic democracy is on life support. A reasoned debate about social inequality or the crimes and misjudgments of empire is becoming impossible.

I completely agree, except for the first sentence: The next step of the elites of the USA may be to lock up journalists like Chris Hedges, e.g. on the charge that they are ¨traitors to the USA¨.

And this is a strongly recommended article.


2. McCarthyism Inc.: Hyping the Russian Threat to Undermine Free Speech

This article is by Max Blumenthal on Truthdig. This is from near the beginning:

In perhaps the most chilling moment of the hearings, and the most overlooked, Clint Watts, a former U.S. Army officer who had branded himself an expert on Russian meddling, appeared before a nearly empty Senate chamber.
(..)
Watts suggested  a government-imposed campaign of media censorship: “Stopping the false information artillery barrage landing on social media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced: silence the guns and the barrage will end.”

That is to say: According to Mr Watts - who (I am sorry) has the facial looks of how a traitor was depicted in American films of the 1940ies - the best thing that the American government may do is simply to forbid all the news that the government doesn´t quite agree with.

I doubt he has ever read the First Amendment, but then again the First Amendment has been totally falsified by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010, when money was declared to be the equal of votes (and so the few rich have the most votes because they have the most money).

Here is another bit from this article:

The censorious overtone of Watts’ testimony was unmistakable. He demanded that government news inquisitors drive dissident media off the internet and warned that Americans would spear one another with bayonets if they failed to act. And not one member of Congress rose to object. In fact, many echoed his call for media suppression in the House and Senate hearings, with Democrats like Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Jackie Speier agreeing the most vehemently.

Yes indeed - and the most sickening bit of this last quote is this bit: ¨And not one member of Congress rose to object.¨

This is a recommended article.


3. Let's Just Admit It: Capitalism Doesn't Work

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It has a nice subtitle:

"In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy."—Fran Lebowitz

Indeed, I don´t just think the above quote is nice: I also think it is true, both for the Soviet Union [4] and for the USA.

The article starts as follows:

In almost every way you examine it, capitalism – at least the relatively unconstrained, free-market variety practiced here in the US and supported by both parties -- has been an abysmal failure. Let’s take a close look some of its worst failings.  But first, it must be admitted that when it comes to exploiting people and the planet for the purpose of generating apparent wealth for the few, it has been a smashing success.

I think this is mostly quite correct, although I like to say that the West also owes the economically relatively quiet times between 1946 and circa 1974 to John Maynard Keynes, who was both pro capitalism and anti rich speculators.

Also, whether Keynes´ plans would have worked is not certain, but it seems that these plans were effectively destroyed by the propaganda for the rich that emanated from Lewis F. Powell Jr. in 1972.

But this was an aside. Here is more from the article:

The logical end-point of a competitive system is an oligarchic monopoly

A recent report  by UBS reveals that the global march of economic inequality is accelerating.  The report found that the billionaire’s share of wealth grew by nearly 20 percent last year, reaching a level of disparity not seen since 1905, the gilded age.
I think this quote is not quite compatible with Keynes´ ideas, but then again Keynes was outed by propaganda and greed from the rich, who simply wanted (and want) as much as they can get from the poor (while Keynes, who wasn´t against rich men, believed that the poor should have a decent life).

Here is more, and this is quite relevant:
The magic elixir of competition doesn’t work—for the simple reason that there isn’t much competition anymore. Having convinced folks that regulation is bad, the Oligarchy is in the midst of a frenzy of mergers that is giving a few large conglomerates control of many of the major market sectors.
Indeed - which incidentally also should be an argument that all ¨free market¨ arguments one reads are propaganda: There is no free market anymore, except for the rich, who are now so deregulated that they can do what they please with their industries (which they export to the much cheaper third world, to get much higher profits for themselves).

Here is an obvious consequence:
This concentration of market power translates into lower wages, fewer jobs, and higher prices – exactly the opposite of what the neoclassical economic theory embraced by capitalists tells us will happen when we remove regulatory constraints – and exactly the opposite of what the Republicans’ trickle-down myth says will happen. Or what the neoliberal Democrats tell us, for that matter.
I completely agree and add that (i) the vast majority of both the Republicans and the Democrats have been bought by the rich, and (ii) the vast majority of both the Republicans and the Democrats lie.

Then there is this:
Economists have long recognized that not all benefits and costs are mediated in the marketplace, and they refer to these as “externalities.” Typically, an externality is imposed on a third party that is not part of a transaction, such as people suffering asthma from pollution.  The way we have dealt with these in the past is to use regulations, taxes, subsidies and property rights to try to internalize externalities – that is, to impose a price on them.
(...)
[W]hat has become obvious in the last few decades is that so-called externalities actually exceed the size of the global economy.  That is, the value of things which we don’t price or exchange in the market but which impose costs on society is much larger than those that we do. For example, a team led by Robert Costanza found that the annual value of just seventeen “ecosystem services” exceeds $142.7 trillion dollars in 2014 dollars. To put that in perspective, the global world product—the total value of all goods and services measured in the market—was only a little over $78 trillion that year. Thus, our entire economic system routinely ignores values that are nearly twice those we measure.
I think the above quotation may well be correct, but I do not know this. What I do know is that I reject most of economics because most of economics is based on quite irrealistic assumptions, and indeed the assumption about ¨externalities¨ may be one of them.

This article ends as follows:

So there you have it.  We embrace capitalism, a system which leads inevitably to oligopolies, monopolies and obscene income disparities; a system which confuses currency with wealth, encouraging unsustainable consumption of natural capital, the source of real wealth; a system which considers the life-sustaining value of natural systems as “external” to our economic concerns

To make matters worse, our capitalist belief system relies on an infinitely growing economy in a finite world – a folly of monstrous proportions.  And now, with Trump, Ryan and the rest of the wrecking crew, we are doubling down on the uber-free market system that is, literally, killing us, and the Democrats, as usual, mumble lame protestations, and suggest half-measures, too afraid to take on the Myth of the Magic Markets, or to cross their campaign financiers. 

I mostly agree, and indeed I am an opponent of capitalism. And this is a strongly recommended article.


4. Mocking Trump Doesn’t Prove Russia’s Guilt

This article is by Ray McGovern on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:

If the bloody debacle in Iraq should have taught Americans anything, it is that endorsements by lots of important people who think something is true don’t amount to evidence that it actually is true. If endorsements were the same as evidence, U.S. troops would have found tons of WMD in Iraq, rather than come up empty.

So, when it comes to whether or not Russia “hacked” Democratic emails last year and slipped them to WikiLeaks, just because a bunch of people with fancy titles think the Russians are guilty doesn’t compensate for the lack of evidence so far evinced to support this core charge.

Yes, precisely. And here is more:

Which gets us back to the Jan. 6 “Intelligence Community Assessment” and its stunning lack of evidence in support of its Russian guilty verdict. The ICA even admitted as much, that it wasn’t asserting Russian guilt as fact but rather as opinion:

“Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

Even The New York Times, which has led the media groupthink on Russian guilt, initially published the surprised reaction from correspondent Scott Shane who wrote: “What is missing from the public report is what many Americans most eagerly anticipated: hard evidence to back up the agencies’ claims that the Russian government engineered the election attack. … Instead, the message from the agencies essentially amounts to ‘trust us.’”

And this is again quite right. In fact, speaking for myself, I see no reason to trust anyone with any news that is without real evidence [5], but the people who claim trust as if it is self-evident they should get it, also are about the least likely that rational men can trust: The spying agencies for the American government.

Here is one bit of quite relevant evidence:

But the debate was shut down earlier this year by the oft-repeated claim that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies concurred in the assessment and how could anyone question what all 17 intelligence agencies concluded!

However, that canard was finally knocked down by President Obama’s own Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who acknowledged in sworn congressional testimony that the ICA was the product of “handpicked” analysts from only three agencies – the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.

And these ¨“handpicked” analysts¨ did not produce evidence, but only claims.

This article ends as follows:

There are plenty of reasons to want Trump out of the White House, but there also should be respect for facts and due process. So far, the powers-that-be in Washington – in politics, the media and other dominant institutions, what some call the Deep State – have shown little regard for fairness in the Russia-gate “scandal.”

The goal seems to be to remove the President or at least emasculate him on a bum rap, giving him the bum’s rush, so to speak, while also further demonizing Russia and exacerbating an already dangerous New Cold War.

The truth should still count for something. No one’s character should be assassinated, as Bill Binney’s is being now, for running afoul of the conventional wisdom that Trump – like bête noire Putin – never tells the truth, and that to believe either is, well, “unconscionable,” as The Washington Post warns.

Yes indeed.


5. Over 15,000 Scientists Just Issued a 'Second Notice' to Humanity. Can We Listen Now?

This article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Yikes.

Over 15,000 scientists hailing from more than 180 countries just issued a dire warning to humanity:

"Time is running out" to stop business as usual, as threats from rising greenhouse gases to biodiversity loss are pushing the biosphere to the brink.

The new warning was published Monday in the international journal BioScience, and marks an update to the "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity" issued by nearly 1,700 leading scientists 25 years ago.

The 1992 plea, which said Earth was on track to be "irretrievably mutilated" baring "fundamental change," however, was largely unheeded.

Yes indeed. As to the 1992 plea, that also bears comparison with the 1972 plea of ¨The Limits to Growth¨, here is - once again - what has been happening to save the environment since 1972:


Since this is virtually a straight line (and the world population has tripled since I was born in 1950) the fair deduction is that what was done to save the environment from being destroyed balanced everything that was done to save profits for the few rich: Otherwise, it does not seem to have made a difference.

In fact, here is more on how much was destroyed since 1992:

Taking a numerical look at how some of the threats have grown since 1992, the scientists note that there's been a 26.1 percent loss in fresh water available per capita; a 75.3 percent increase in the number of "dead zones";  a 62.1 percent increase in CO2 emissions per year; and 35.5 percent rise in the human population.

"By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperiled biosphere," they write.

Quite so, I´d say: Indeed (bolding added) ¨humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperiled biosphere¨

This is from the ending of the article:

"Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out. "

The goal of the paper, said Ripple, is to "ignite a wide-spread public debate about the global environment and climate."

I think Ripple is right, but I also think that the debate - once again - will either not come at all or make hardly any real positive difference.

That is, my own prediction is that the climate will keep worsening until the capitalist economy explodes. (I am really sorry, but this is what  I think.)

------------------------------
Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky. They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2] I once again give my own definition of totalitarianism (a concept I know for over 50 years):
Totalitarian: Ideology or religion that is pretended to have final answers to many important human questions and problems and that is pretended to be thereby justified to persecute persons who do not agree with the ideology or the religion.

This is the usual form that every human ideology assumes - religious, political and otherwise, with science as the almost only partial exception.

There is more in the original. I contrast that with the utterly sick ¨definition¨ in the Wikipedia:
Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state
recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.
I think that definition is an intentional fraud that makes it completely impossible to understand writers like Orwell, and I give up on Wikipedia: I don´t  like to be frauded.

[3] With reference to the previous note: If Wikipedia were correct, you could not even say or distinguish anything like totalitarianism in the USA (as long as the Constitution has not been changed into an explicitly fascistic and totalitarian one).

[4] As I have said quite a few times in Nederlog - that is now some 390 MB - my parents were all their adult lives communists, and indeed honest and very courageous ones (being in the real resistance against Nazism between 1940 and 1945).

I ceased being a communist age 20 (but kept agreeing with the ethics of my parents), and the first difference with my parents date back to 1964, when I was allowed to take a holiday to the GDR, which struck me as not socialist at all (in the sense both I and my parents gave to that term) and in fact as rather fascistic.

Also incidentally: My parents did not disagree when they had understood my points.

[5] Yes indeed! In fact, it seems as if a fair understanding of evidence, of statistics, and of scientific methodology are a sine qua non for one´s rational judgements of most things, but it seems also as if this is quite difficult to achieve for most persons.

It so happens that I have - excellent - academic degrees in philosophy and psychology, and that I did get my own understandings of evidence, of statistics and of scientific methodology by myself, between age 20 and age 27 (for I only started studying at 27), but now that I am forty years older than 27, it seems to me this is given to a few only.

For if it were not, there would be more with such a fair understanding, but there are not, indeed also not among journalists.
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