Saturday, December 23, 2017

Crisis: Trump's Protesters, Totalitarianism, Net Neutrality, Corporations, On Tony Benn
Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 23, 2017

This is a Nederlog of Saturday
, December 23, 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 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.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from December 23, 2017
1. Stoked! Journalist Alexei Wood & First J20 Defendants Found
     “Not Guilty” as 188 Still Face Trial

2. Reflections on Trump and Corporate Totalitarianism
3. Why Loss of Net Neutrality Hurts Democracy
4. 'Corporations Are Literally Going Wild,' Says Trump as He Signs
     Tax Bill Most Americans Hate

5. PBS Commanding Heights: interview with Tony Benn from 2000 
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. Stoked! Journalist Alexei Wood & First J20 Defendants Found “Not Guilty” as 188 Still Face Trial

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
In a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to silence dissent, the first trial of people arrested at Inauguration Day “Disrupt J20” protests ended Thursday with all of the defendants found not guilty of all charges. Six people faced multiple felonies and 50 years in prison for just being in the area where anti-fascist and anti-capitalist protesters were marching. During the protest, police blockaded more than 200 people into a corner in a process known as “kettling” and carried out mass arrests of everyone nearby, including medics, legal observers and some journalists. This first case was closely watched as a bellwether for free speech, because one of the six people on trial was Alexei Wood, an independent photojournalist from San Antonio, Texas, whose work focuses on resistance movements. He came to document protests during the inauguration on January 20 and live-streamed the street detentions by police and even his own arrest. Alexei Wood joins us from Washington, D.C., and we speak with Jude Ortiz, a member of the organizing crew of Defend J20 and the Mass Defense Committee chair for the National Lawyers Guild.
Yes indeed.

What I got - seriously - upset about are especially the utterly insane punishments peaceful protesters against Trump risk (bolding added): "
50 years in prison for just being in the area where anti-fascist and anti-capitalist protesters were marching".

Unfortunately, I think Alexei Wood did not give a really good interview:
AMY GOODMAN: (...)Well, Alexei Wood, let’s begin with you. This is the first time you are speaking out during this trial. It just ended. What is your response? What was it like to hear the 42 not-guilties yesterday?

ALEXEI WOOD: I was in utter tears. I just couldn’t handle myself emotionally. I was just so happy for everybody, that everybody got full acquittals on every single one of these ridiculous charges.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do you feel, your own vindication?

ALEXEI WOOD: I mean, I can—I can woohoo now, but it’s kind of a—it would be a shtick at this point. I feel utterly stoked, you know? I feel calm. I feel grounded. I feel just as innocent now as I did when they were arresting me. And there’s 188 more defendants to go, so let’s get ’em.

Here is the other bit I quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: What did you feel when Judge Leibovitz said that your own personal cheering, captured on the live stream, was not an incitement to riot, you were just expressing your own feelings?

ALEXEI WOOD: Whoo! Yeah! For sure! That was a—that was a close one. I mean, this is narrative warfare, you know? The government and prosecution has their narrative. You know, resistance movement have their narratives. You know, there’s a lot, a lot of things going on here.
Well... I think he should have said that everybody in the USA has, formally at least, and with a few restrictions, the full right to say what they think. And you can't prosecute people for saying what they think (unless it is a serious threat of someone). That is, in a real democracy.

2. Reflections on Trump and Corporate Totalitarianism

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. This is from near the beginning. It comes after a description by Paul Street by the people he "meets" in public transport:

I was reminded of Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451.” In Bradbury’s dreaded future, a totalitarian police state abolished books, established widespread electronic surveillance, and delivered propaganda and childish entertainment culture to atomized and spectacular police-state images and sounds through glowing flat telescreens and “thimble” and “seashell radios” attached to people’s ears. The novel portrayed people speaking to distant “friends” through a “digital wall”—the same terminology that Facebook would use years later for the digital hub that enables friends to post and see messages.

In brief, the people do not look any more like individuals (with private and personal opinions and histories) but much more like human attachments to their all-important cell-phones or laptops, that can - also - find out, in secret, everything they want, think, feel, or pay, because these findings are most convenient for both the secret police and the big corporations trying to sell things.

Here is more on Trump's lies and the lies of autocratic governments:

The network put up old clips of Trump insisting that the tax “reform” would hurt the wealthy, himself included, but help everyone else. Expert CNN commentators smiled as they acknowledged that this was an absurd, baldfaced lie.

Nothing new there: Trump’s deception is standard operating procedure for him. “Boss Tweet” is like something from George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” in which the totalitarian state told its subjects that 2+2=5, Love is Hate, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Freedom. It’s called turning reality upside down.

Yes indeed, although the USA is not as far - yet (?) - as was Orwell's totalitarian state of "1984".

Here is some about the falsifications of language, of ideas and of science that the Trump government is committing at present:

The last thing I learned from CNN at the Greyhound station was that Trump had forbidden the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use the following words and phrases: “evidence-based,” “science-based,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus.” In Orwell’s novel, words the Big Brother state didn’t like were banned, abolished—sent “down the memory hole.” We know, of course, that Trump’s ecocidal Environmental Protection Agency was given the same Orwellian order regarding “climate change”—a very basic term describing the leading threat to continued human existence, the biggest issue of our or any time.

And here is more on Trump's screwing back net neutrality, his tax plan, that steals from the many non-rich to give to the few rich, and the reactions of average Americans:

The president’s approval rating may have stood at an epically low 32 percent. His Federal Communications Commission may have just brazenly defied public opinion and served the internet’s corporate robber barons (Verizon, AT&T and Comcast) by rolling back net neutrality. His tax “reform” may have been highly unpopular. But the holiday masses cavorting in the Loop and along the Magnificent Mile had better things to do than rage powerlessly against the leading local symbol of the nation’s ugly oligarchy and the Orwellian cabal currently occupying the White House.

I mostly agree with that. Then there is this on fascism and totalitarianism (except for those who are misled - on purpose - by the Wikipedia):

But what good, really, is a “silent progressive majority” in the face of an autocracy of concentrated wealth and power? And while real and classic fascism is not a real threat in the United States (at least not yet), the country has developed its own lethal and dangerous system of authoritarian and even totalitarian rule—a system distinct from both the red authoritarianism of the Soviet Union and the brown authoritarianism of Nazi Germany. The American model is what the late Princeton political scientist Sheldon Wolin called “corporate managed democracy,” “democracy incorporated” and “inverted totalitarianism.”

According to the intentionally false statement on Wikipedia, one can only speak of totalitarianism when speaking of either Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union, or so it seems, for the anonymous idiots who wrote that "definition" insist that anybody who says anything different, including George Orwell, must be a liar. For according to the liars of Wikipedia, this is what "totalitarianism" means:

Totalitarianism is a political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.

I'd say the above definition - where only "political systems" with a "state" can be called "totalitarian" - is the fascist definition.

The realistic definition is my own and others':

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.

That is: Human individuals can be totalitarian, as can be political parties, political publications, political plans, and political proposals, and many kinds of ideologies and religions. (But NOT according to the Wikipedia.)

Anyway... back to the article:

Again and again, people are told that going into a two-(capitalist-)party ballot box for two minutes once every two or four years is a great and glorious exercise in popular self-rule. In reality, as the leading mainstream political scientists Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens have recently shown, American “public” policy consistently reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens “who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office” (emphasis added). The myth of democracy through elections lives on, however, turning the citizenry into a “corporate-managed electorate.”

Mostly yes, although I would add or say instead that "[t]he myth of democracy through elections" was mostly killed by the slow transformation of most American citizens into consumers, which was mostly done by something like 100 years of propaganda and lies by the liars of profession, the "public relations corporations". (For more, see "The Century of the Self" and Bernays.)

Here is something I mostly agree with, although I realize quite a few of the Democrats disagree:

A nominal Democrat was elected president along with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress in 2008. What followed under Obama (as under his Democratic presidential predecessors Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton) was the standard “elite” neoliberal manipulation of campaign populism and identity politics in service to the reigning big-money bankrollers and their global empire. Wall Street’s control of Washington and the related imperial agenda of the “Pentagon System” were advanced more effectively by the nation’s first black president than they could have been by stiff and wealthy white-male Republicans like John McCain or Mitt Romney.

Here is the end of the article:

We need a “change of structure,” not merely a “change of spirit” or a change of party identity and personnel at the nominal top of the corporate totalitarian state.

I agree, although this is not precise at all. Then again, there probably will be more by Paul Street, and this also is a recommended article, in which there is considerably more.

3. Why Loss of Net Neutrality Hurts Democracy

This article is by Dennis J. Bernstein on Consortiumnews. It has a subtitle:

The principle of every person having equal access to the Internet represented a strong pillar of modern democracy — and its removal represents another victory for profit-dominated plutocracy, as Dennis J Bernstein explains.

I both agree and disagree, although I agree more.

My first and major disagreement is that I believe the internet was never designed as "a strong pillar of modern democracy", for I think the internet was in fact designed, though perhaps not by some of its developers, but definitely by their overseers and providers, as the perfect means for governments and secret services to spy on absolutely everything absolutely everybody does anywhere.

For more, see here: Either Brzezinski was a superhuman genius capable of foreseeing in 1967 what he got around 1997 [2], or else he was not a superhuman genius, but simply implemented a long standing plan of the American defense industry, that also financed the design of the internet anyway.

And the second and minor disagreement is that I probably do not quite agree with Bernstein about the meaning of the term "democracy", while also, in terms of the meaning I do assign to the term, namely "government by the people", there is very little democracy left in the USA, for indeed it is more like a "profit-dominated plutocracy" than a "people-dominated democracy".

The article starts as follows:

Despite its importance to a functioning democracy in the Twenty-first Century, many people’s eyes still glaze over at the uttering of the term Net Neutrality. However, whenever there is a clear explanation available, people — Republicans and Democrats alike — overwhelmingly support the concept and understand that, once again, it will be big business and corporations that will benefit greatly from the purging of the concept of Net Neutrality, and poor and working-class people and their families who will suffer from the recent decision to end it.

For an in-depth primer on the subject, I spoke with Professor Victor Pickard about the implications of the recent actions taken by the Republican-led Federal Communication Commision. Pickard is associate professor at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book America’s Battle for Media Democracy.

My eyes do not "glaze over at the uttering of the term Net Neutrality", and I also think it is a bit misleading to act as if many other people's eyes do: There is nothing difficult about the concept (which - once again - is not explained: net neutrality means that (i) the speeds with which all websites are connected are the same, and also (ii) these speeds - or the connections - do not depend on the contents i.e. whether the governments are flattered or contradicted).

Here is more:

Dennis Bernstein: (...) People’s eyes still tend to glaze over when you raise the topic of net neutrality.

Victor Pickard: In a way, it is an unfortunate term.  We can thank Timothy Woo for coining it, but I think we’re stuck with it at this point.  Essentially, it means an open Internet.  Net neutrality is the safeguard that prevents Internet service providers such as Verizon and Comcast from interfering with your online content.  It prevents them from slowing down or blocking content or offering what is known as “paid prioritization.”  This is where they set up slow and fast lanes and a kind of payola system where they try to shake down content creators and force them to “pay to play” in order to load and stream more quickly.   This changes the underlying logic of the Internet, which was meant to be an open medium with all voices created equal.

But this is more or less correct. Here is another bit of Pickard:

Pickard: Yes, the Internet has always had significant democratic potential. At least in theory, it can level power hierarchies.  It can be used to give the voiceless more access to the public sphere.  Of course, it never quite panned out this way.  There have always been barriers to entry and there is still a major digital divide in this country.  Nonetheless, the channels through which we access the Internet were meant to be kept equal and open, and without net neutrality that is no longer going to be the case.

As soon as you remove the basic safeguards, Internet service providers not only have the ability, they have a perverse incentive to make more money by charging us more for access to various types of content or charging content creators more to access the Internet.  Of course, large corporations like Amazon and Netflix can afford to pay up.  Those who will be hurt will be the activists and journalists, the people without the resources to pay to play.

And this is also correct, although I would add thay the "significant democratic potential" of the internet was mostly merely a potential (and in fact much of it went into viewing pornography or writing anonymous comments to the productions of other people).

But this is a recommended article.

4. 'Corporations Are Literally Going Wild,' Says Trump as He Signs Tax Bill Most Americans Hate

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

The vast majority of Americans dislike the GOP's $1.5 trillion tax plan, but while signing the bill into law on Friday, President Donald Trump highlighted one segment of society that loves it and can't wait until it takes effect: massive corporations.

"Corporations are literally going wild over this, I think even beyond my expectations," Trump said, just moments after touting the legislation as "a bill for the middle class."
That big business is exuberant over the passage of the Republican tax plan is hardly surprising, given that the bill slashes the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, in addition to many other sweeteners.

Yes indeed. And of course, the tax bill was against the middle class:

For months, Trump and the Republican Party have attempted to portray their bill as primarily tailored toward low-income and middle class Americans—despite countless nonpartisan analyses showing that it overwhelmingly favors the rich. Trump also repeatedly insisted that the bill will cost him "a fortune" and that his accountants are angry with him for backing it.

This was a lie in general: it cuts the taxes of the rich, and also quite specifically, it was a lie by Trump about Trump:

Numerous analyses in recent days have also found that another favorite Trump talking point—that the bill will cost him "a fortune"—is totally false. 

In fact, the opposite appears to be the case. A study (pdf) published Friday by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) found that the president "will undoubtedly be among the very wealthy who will benefit enormously from his tax plan."

"Trump's exact tax savings are difficult to estimate since he has refused to release his tax returns unlike every other president over the last 40 years—but it is likely to be at least $11 million a year and perhaps as much as $22 million," ATF concluded.

Let's halve the difference, and say he makes a fortune of $15 million each year for Trump alone (and incidentally, so - also - seems his son-in-law Kushmer), for that seems to be the truth.

And this is a recommended article.

5. PBS Commanding Heights: interview with Tony Benn from 2000

This article is by X on the Off-Guardian. It starts with the following introduction:
This interview with radical Left British politician Tony Benn was conducted in October 2000 as part of the PBS Commanding Heights project. The original can be seen here. Other interviews conducted for the project at the same time with various world figures can be found here. They provide an interesting time capsule of current events and geopolitics at the turn of the millennium,. It’s well worth taking the time to read.
I never liked Tony Benn when he was alive, but I admit he had some interesting ideas, and that this interview from 2000, that was found by the Off-Guardian, does give some interesting ideas or values that I agree with.

Here is the first bit I select:

INTERVIEWER: According to one analysis, the economic history of the last 20 years is a story about governments retreating from the marketplace and allowing free markets to reign. Do you buy that?

TONY BENN: No. What’s happened is big corporations have seized governments and taken them over, making the state much stronger in the interest of corporate finance. That’s what has happened. The state in Great Britain is much more powerful than it was when Mrs. Thatcher came to power. She destroyed trade unions, she destroyed local government, she limited free speech, and she recruited a lot of riot police. So the idea that market forces have weakened the state is nonsense. It’s been strengthened. The people who control market forces have taken over the state.
Yes indeed. And this started happening in the USA, it seems mostly due to the agitation of Lewis F. Powell Jr, but it got great prominence, great power, and soon also great success by the elections of Thatcher in Great Britain and Reagan in the USA.

Here is some more:

INTERVIEWER: How would you describe the global free-market economy as we know it today?

TONY BENN: Well, it’s not really new, is it? (...) It is a reversion toward Victorian economies and politics, and I think people are beginning to see that as well. It’s a reversion in the sense that the welfare state is being turned back into Lady Bountiful and charity.
I agree, but Benn - remember the interview is from 2000 - was mistaken that "people are beginning to see that as well". Or at least, not many did, indeed in part because the Blatcherist Tony Blair was destroying the Left in Great Britain then, and many still believed him in 2000.

And there is this about Roosevelt's New Deal and the postwar Labo(u)r government:
TONY BENN: (...) People said, well, if you can have full employment to kill people, why in God’s name couldn’t you have full employment and good schools, good hospitals, good houses? And the answer was that you can’t do it if you allow profit to take precedent over people. And that was the basis of the New Deal in America and of the postwar Labor government in Great Britain and so on.
Yes indeed - and neither Roosevelt nor John Maynard Keynes, who designed much of the Western economical system between 1946 and 1980, were anti-capitalists in any sense. In fact, Roosevelt took pride in being the savior of capitalism, while Keynes was mostly a classical liberal.

Here is Tony Benn on what Mrs. Thatcher did as compared with nationalization and socialism (of some kind):
TONY BENN: (...) What Mrs. Thatcher did was to take the huge power of the state and transfer it from looking after people to looking after big corporations. And now people are being driven back to where they were before the Industrial Revolution when they were serfs in the presence of the great barons of the private corporations, most of which were international in character.
Nationalization is the state control of essential services. Socialism is all about democracy. It gives people an opportunity to buy, collectively by their vote, what they can’t afford personally — the good schools, good hospitals, good transport, good fire brigade, new museums, art galleries. And the great achievements of municipal enterprise, of which America has many examples, are a product of people voting for the services they want. Whereas otherwise only the rich can afford them.
Here is more on Mrs. Thatcher:

INTERVIEWER: A number of people would say, for better or worse, that Mrs. Thatcher was the most historically significant peacetime prime minister of this century, apart from Attlee.

TONY BENN: She destroyed our manufacturing industry. She brought unemployment to the highest rate we’d had since the prewar years. She began to dismantle the welfare state. She deprived the health service of the resources that it needed. She deprived education, schools, and so on, and she did enormous damage to the fabric of society. In the end, her own party threw her out.
Yes, I think I agree.

And here is the last bit that I quote from this interview. It is about Tony Blair's

INTERVIEWER: There’s a Labor government running this country again, and yet they’ve reversed none of Mrs. Thatcher’s reforms. Doesn’t that suggest that they buy her argument?

TONY BENN: It’s not a Labor government — it’s a New Labor government following a policy called the Third Way, symbolized by the Dome, a big structure containing nothing, and they’re now in serious danger of losing the support of people who put them there. But the British establishment supported New Labor in 1997 because they thought it was going to follow Mrs. Thatcher’s policy, and we’ll see how it works out. But it isn’t the Labor Party that’s in office; it’s New Labor, a new political party of which I happen not to be a member. It’s probably the smallest party ever in the history of Britain, but they happen all to be in the Cabinet, so they’re quite powerful.

INTERVIEWER: But they’ve not reversed Thatcher’s policies.

TONY BENN: No, no, I agree with you. I think they’ve carried on privatization and deregulation.

Yes indeed. There is considerably more in this interview (from 2000), but it is a recommended article.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that 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 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 am serious about Brzezinski's being a superhuman genius: No one is capable of predicting the effects of technology 30 years in the future from insight or knowledge, except perhaps superhuman geniuses I never heard of. But Brzezinski could. Therefore - since he clearly is not a superhuman genius - he was planning it already in 1967. For more see here.
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