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Nederlog

January 26, 2018

Crisis: Supreme Court, On ¨Neoliberalism¨, Doomsday Clock, Conservatives, Rise of Fascism


Sections
Introduction   

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 26, 2018.

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Friday, January 26, 2018.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 26, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term? 
2. Neoliberalism Is Taking a Steep Toll on an Entire Generation's Mental
     Health: Study

3. Doomsday Clock Now '2 Minutes to Midnight' as Trump Drives Up
     Nuclear and Climate Threats

4. The Blood Feud Among British Conservatives
5. The Rise of Fascism in a Brave New Digital World
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. Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?

This article is by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The US Supreme Court may be about to make a second Trump term inevitable.

The nine “Justices” have just heard oral arguments in an Ohio voter registration case. If their decision goes with Secretary of State Jon Husted, it would mean Republicans like him throughout the United States will be able to scrub from the voter rolls millions of citizens, merely because they are suspected of wishing to vote Democrat.

In Ohio alone, millions of Ohio voters have tried to vote on Election Day over the past four presidential elections, only to find their names were erased from the poll books.

What’s technically at stake is whether the federal government has the right to demand fairness in purging voter registration rolls. Or will the secretaries of the various states be free to purge whomever they want?

Incidentally - I am Dutch, unfortunately - I had not read the term ¨Supremes¨ for the ¨The US Supreme Court¨ before, and I like it. And this is the beginning of an interesting article, the point of which is clarified in the next section:

In 2004, then-Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell stripped some 309,000 voters from the rolls, and nearly all came from heavily Democratic cities – Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Toledo. In Cleveland nearly a quarter, 24.96% of all voters, were removed from the voting rolls.

Blackwell simultaneously served as co-chair of the state campaign to re-elect Bush/Cheney. Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Blackwell was officially in charge of running that election. The election was decided by less than 119,000 votes, giving George W. Bush a victory over John Kerry, who never said a word.

That is, by simply excluding voters from voting (generally for bullshit reasons, as the article explains) it is indeed quite possible, in the present USA, that the Republicans win elections and indeed have won elections simply by excluding voters.

There also is another part involved here, namely that the Democrats and the Republicans tend to run around the same number of voters, at least in presidential elections, and indeed also that there is in the USA only the effective choice of a Democratic or Republican candidate for the last 100 years or so, and these parts are not treated in this article, but indeed it seems to be a fact
that Republicans win elections essentially by excluding - usually Democratic - voters from voting.

This article ends as follows:

Last month Trump suddenly, without explanation, abolished the commission. But as investigative reporter Greg Palast has shown, the registration stripping has been moved into the Department of Homeland Security. Where Kobach’s commission was opaque, now the partisan purge process will be essentially invisible. State officials who refused to provide critical information to Kobach may now have no choice with DHS.

In other words, America’s Trump-run FBI/KGB/Savak apparatus may now have the power to silently and invisibly remove enough potential voters to elect and re-elect whomever it wants.

That might include not only Trump, but Husted, who is running to become Ohio’s lieutenant governor, and Kobach, who wants to be governor of Kansas.

This and much else could turn on the Supremes’ decision on the Ohio case. Should Husted’s right to purge whomever he wants from the voter rolls be confirmed by the Court, our sham elections will become an even bigger charade.

Yes, I think this may well be correct, and Greg Palast - who has been mentioned in Nederlog several times before - is an interesting man with interesting points about the American elections, indeed since quite a few years.

And this is a recommended article.

2. Neoliberalism Is Taking a Steep Toll on an Entire Generation's Mental Health: Study

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Are you a millennial prone to self-criticism? Is your sense of worth inextricably bound to your professional standing and achievements? Do you suffer from acute social anxiety or are otherwise fearful of being judged by your peers?

The source of your unhappiness may not be chemical or emotional but a product of our economic system. According to a study from Psychological Bulletin, neoliberalism is producing generations of young people who are increasingly demanding, both of each other and themselves.

I say. Well...I dislike neoliberalism (and see below, for a clarification), but I also am a psychologist, and while I know that among psychologists it is possible to ¨prove¨ things
with sixteen or twenty ¨experimental subjects¨ simply by testing the empirical associations of things A and things B (smell of meat, taste for meat; advertisement, interest in things advertised etc. etc.) and indeed also neoliberalism and unhappines, as pointed out above.

But in fact this was one of my reasons (back in 1980 (!)) to conclude that psychology is not a real science:

The fact that almost any random association between two - very often quite ill-defined - kinds of things can be ¨tested¨ and ¨verified¨ by psychologists, indeed always (that I knew) with 16 or 20 ¨experimental subjects¨ that almost always were first-year students of psychology, on the basis of the very arbitrary argument that ¨if 90 or 95% of our experimental subjects agree¨ - 18 out of 20 students of ca. 18 years old, in practice - then the proposition we try to establish may be regarded to be proved as true.

I could say a whole lot more, but the facts as sketched in the previous paragraph were as sketched (in the late Seventies), while it also was a fact that both the numbers (around 20)
and the kind of the ¨experimental subjects¨ (always first-year students of psychology) were systematically never mentioned in the ¨experimental reports¨ that again were the basis of ¨scientific psychological essays¨ that were published in the psychologists´ trade press (i.e. the
psychological journals, normally).

In any case, for me the association <neoliberalism, unhappiness> is very probably a whole lot less certain than it may be for Jacob Sugarman, and one major reason is that both terms that are involved are quite vague.

Then again, Sugarman does raise the question:

So what is neoliberalism, anyway? Despite what the pundit class might have you believe, it's more than a glib pejorative for the policies of corporate Democrats and the GOP, although both parties have embraced a neoliberal model to varying degrees. Mike Konczal offers the following definition at Vox:

"'Neoliberalism' encompasses market supremacy—or the extension of markets or market-like logic to more and more spheres of life. This, in turn, has a significant influence on our subjectivity: how we view ourselves, our society, and our roles in it. One insight here is that markets don’t occur naturally but are instead constructed through law and practices, and those practices can be extended into realms well beyond traditional markets."

As Meagan Day points out in Jacobin, meritocracy and neoliberalism often go hand in hand. If the whole of society can be reduced to a series of market transactions, then individuals become commodities in direct competition with one another.

Well... yes indeed (perhaps), but it is precisely because I have met years and years of the extreme (and often intentional!) vagueness of the meaning(s) of the term ¨neoliberal¨, my own solution is that most - not: all - supposed ¨neoliberals¨ in fact tend to be this, indeed mostly without ever realizing it:

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 yes: This definition is my own, as is this definition of fascism (which is a bit different from neofascism) - and yes, I do know a lot about fascism.

Then again, I would have more or less the same argument against the association <neofascism, unhappiness>, for even if ¨neofascism¨ is rather clearly defined, it is not defined in psychological terms and besides ¨unhappiness¨ still is as vague as ever.

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

"Since the mid-1970s, neoliberal political-economic regimes have systematically replaced things like public ownership and collective bargaining with deregulation and privatization, promoting the individual over the group in the very fabric of society," Day notes. "Meanwhile, meritocracy—the idea that social and professional status are the direct outcomes of individual intelligence, virtue, and hard work—convinces isolated individuals that failure to ascend is a sign of inherent worthlessness."

Well... yes and no. I agree that the neoliberals or neofascists (and my definition is at least a reasonable definition, which is something that rarely happens in journalism as described by the above quotation, but that is about the extent to which I agree).

And also, while I think that the sociology of meritocracy is pretty confused (as you may find by imagining the differences between a black man of 20 with poor parents and an IQ of 145, and a white man of 20 with rich parents and an IQ of 145), I am a psychologist who does believe that
there are genuine mostly psychological differences between individuals in tems of ¨
individual intelligence, virtue, and hard work¨.

So all in all I think the thesis of this article is rather questionable, especially because of the vagueness of its terms.


3. Doomsday Clock Now '2 Minutes to Midnight' as Trump Drives Up Nuclear and Climate Threats

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
In response to rising nuclear tensions and concerns about inadequate action to address the climate crisis, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced
"In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II," said a statement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
I say, and I take this quite seriously, for I know about the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist since more than 50 years, and I trust them.

Here is more:
"North Korea's nuclear weapons program appeared to make remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks for itself, other countries in the region, and the United States. Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions on both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation," the statement continued. "On the climate change front, the danger may seem less immediate, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now."
I think all of the above is quite correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
"It's always sobering to be reminded just how close humanity is to destroying itself with nuclear weapons," noted Paul Kawika Martin, senior director for policy and political affairs at Peace Action. "The majority of the world is quite ready to live without the constant fear of nuclear war hanging over our heads, but the nuclear-armed nations of the world are acting like children who only follow the rules when the rules suit their perceived interests." Thursday the hands of the Doomsday Clock have been moved and it is now just two minutes midnight, a signal to the world that international scientists and policy experts are increasingly worried about the likeliness of global catastrophe.
Yes indeed. I agree with everything said here, indeed including the thesis that ¨the nuclear-armed nations of the world are acting like children who only follow the rules when the rules suit their perceived interests¨.

And this is a recommended article.


4. The Blood Feud Among British Conservatives

This article is by Jörg Schindler on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:
"Things are bloody awful at the moment," says historian Anthony Seldon, adding that even the Suez crisis in 1956 seems minor in comparison to Brexit. If you think about it, Seldon says, things have never been this bad in the Tories' 230-year-history -- and things could get worse yet. If the party doesn't "loosen the buttocks," Seldon says, a socialist might soon move into 10 Downing Street.
I say, which I do because I did not know this. And I should add that since I dislike the Tories a lot, for me this is good news.

Here is some more:

These are dark days for the Tories, and that's not just a product of the harsher than normal winter. The primary reason is that the government has essentially stopped governing in the wake of Theresa May's unnecessary move to gamble away her absolute majority in snap elections in June. Since then, every member of her cabinet has been primarily focused on saving their own skin. May, meanwhile, has become the anti-Midas: Everything she touches seems to turn to led instead of gold.

Meanwhile, the people are turning their backs on the Conservatives, with many bolting to a Labour Party that has adroitly learned how to exploit seven years of Tory-led austerity. The health care system is on the verge of collapse, the housing shortage has become so acute that the number of homeless people continues to rise and the gap between rich and poor is widening.

And while Labour, under the leadership of socialist Jeremy Corbyn, has risen to become the party with the largest membership in Western Europe, the Tories have been hemorrhaging members.
I take it this is mostly correct, but I mostly do not know. Then again, here are two numbers that are almost certainly correct, and that do show how far the Tories have fallen: In the 1980s there were over one million members of the Tory Party; in 2017 there are some 70,000 members of the same party.

Here is the end of the article (after skipping considerable amounts):

The victorious Brexit camp has also long since disintegrated into splinter groups, ranging from those who want to see nothing change in the country's relationship with the EU to those who want everything to change. And that is before the most crucial negotiations with hated Brussels have even taken place. To prepare for that next phase, May is set to deliver her next major address on Brexit in the coming weeks. Expectations on the Continent, however, are low. Few in the EU believe it will shed much light on the British negotiating position.

Back at home, the electorate is also mumbling noticeably. For the time being, the prime minister is acting as if the whole Brexit issue is exaggerated. To demonstrate that she also wants to save the planet with her climate-friendly policies in addition to everything else, May just days ago visited some wetlands in southwest London. There, she peered into binoculars to look for endangered species. She also could have just looked into the mirror at home.

That is, it seems to be the expectation of Spiegel International that the Conservatives will loose the next election. I do not know whether that is correct, but I do hope it is. 

5. The Rise of Fascism in a Brave New Digital World

This article is by Jeff Einstein on the Off-Guardian and originally on Digital Apostate. It starts as follows:

There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution Aldous Huxley

We are watching Huxley’s dystopian vision of a Brave New World controlled by state-sanctioned addiction unfold right before our eyes. And true to Huxley’s prescience, we rather enjoy it. The only surprise is that the operative pharmacological agents he warned against aren’t delivered in pill or liquid or other physical form, and we don’t call them soma or heroin or crystal meth or crack.  They’re delivered in bits and bytes instead, and we call them media.  Consider…

  • The average American household has only 2.75 people, but 3 TVs and 6 Internet devices.
  • The average American family spends more money each month on media consumption than on groceries or electricity.
  • The average American consumes 12-15 aggregate hours of digital media per day.
  • The average American child consumes more than 10 hours of digital media per day.
  • The average American smartphone is checked every 6-12 waking minutes.
  • 70% of Americans binge view.
I think the above quotation is quite correct (except for Huxley´s suggestion about ¨a pharmacological method¨), and indeed this is a quite interesting article, that also seems to be written by someone who started as a digital enthusiast but who is now a digital apostate (which also seems a decent sketch of my own development).

Here is more:

The jury is in and the verdict is irrefutable: A pervasive and pernicious meta-addiction to all things media and all things digital has emerged over the past generation as the default condition of American life, the rule rather than the exception. We are born into and live our lives in a completely immersive screen culture whose primary directive is to search for, find and ingest media all day long — virtually every waking minute.

We carry pocket-size TV screens with us everywhere we go, and more screens of various sizes greet us wherever and whenever we pause: at home in our bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms. At work in elevators, reception areas and atop every desk. On the road in gas pumps, airline seats, taxis, airports and train stations. At play in bars and restaurants. In school, in the doctor’s office and just about everywhere else.

Yes, I think that is a decent sketch (when joined to the italics in the previous quotation). Incidentally, it doesn´t hold for me: I never had an e-phone and don´t want one; I never had a TV since 1970; I have only one internet device; I spend far less time on the digital media; and I don´t binge view. (But OK - that´s just me.)

Here is more:

Our kids are hooked on media before they enter pre-school. Digital media shape and define our lives at every stage and in every possible way. We are, per media ecologist Neil Postman’s seminal title, Amusing Ourselves to Death, forever swapping electrons in a Brave New Digital World where none of us will soon be able to find or fashion context or meaning for our lives beyond the High-Definition bits and bytes we consume virtually nonstop through all our digital devices.

Our meta-addiction to all things media and all things digital is passionately non-partisan and politically correct to a fault — but also perfectly attuned to protect and promote the interests of the corporate, government and academic power brokers who yield it so effectively. Like all late-stage addictions it moderates and controls almost all of our personal and social debates, and narrates virtually every facet of our lives.

I think that is also correct, at least of the majority of Americans. Here is again more:

The same digital technologies of scale that created millions of jobs and powered the dot com boom of the late 1990s now destroy far more American jobs than they create. The same digital technologies of scale that gave rise to the Wall Street and digital media cultures now all but guarantee periodic financial calamity and the steady erosion of civil liberty. The same digital technologies of scale that promised utter accountability and transparency have turned forensic accounting into a growth industry, and are now common license for corporate, government and academic executives to rob us blind while they barricade themselves behind an opaque veil of impenetrable complexity and bureaucratic inertia.

The above quotation is again mostly correct, in my view. And here is more:

Like the old Fascism, the new Fascism comes wrapped in the strident language of identity politics and tribalized victimhood. But this ain’t your daddy’s Fascism. The new Fascism is hip, stylish, thoroughly inclusive, immensely entertaining and powered by thousands of server farms and billions of microchips. I call it eFascism, and define it simply as the religion of the state in 21st-century digital America.

In fact, Jeff Einstein seems to be doing in this article what I did in the end of 2012: See my Crisis: Christmas sermon: Hypotheses about CF+SS that is from December 25, 2012.
Also, the ¨CF+SS¨ is in fact short for ¨Corporate Fascism + Surveillance State¨, which shows
that indeed my thoughts went rather like those of Jeff Einstein.

Since then, I have myself defined both fascism and neofascism, and the last definition (which also occurred above) I repeat once more, because I think it is a good definition:
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 this is certainly a better definition than Einstein´s - ¨eFascism¨ =def ¨the religion of the state in 21st-century digital America¨ - although I also like the term ¨eFascism¨ (but neofascism - as defined - is certainly a better definition).

Then there is this:

eFascism embraces and embodies the very essence of addicted excess, an institutionalized orgy-porgy of mass psychosis deliberately manufactured and invoked by the constant and relentless release of media-induced dopamine and endorphins in all of our brains almost all of the time. It’s no mistake that the rise of secular Fascism in the early 20th century coincided with the rise of electronic mass media.

Where democracy was the primary political bias of print media, fascism is the primary political bias of electronic media

Fade out, fade in: A century after the rise of secular Fascism we think it’s normal to consume electronic media almost every waking minute of every day because we’ve been told for decade after decade to stay tuned and because everyone around us now behaves the same way. We think it’s normal, but it’s the kind of normality that ensues only when the inmates — the biggest addicts — take over the asylum.

I think this is too vague and too sketchy, although it goes in the right directions. Here is more:

The true bias of digital technology is neither personal empowerment nor freedom. The true bias of digital technology and eFascism is the efficient and accelerated consolidation of institutional power and wealth among those institutions — corporations and government agencies alike — already far too powerful and far too wealthy. The real bias of digital technology benefits most those massive corporations and government agencies that singly and together already manage and manipulate terabytes of data each and every day.

But the above is quite correct, I think - and indeed Einstein is also right in blaming both the ¨corporations and government agencies¨.

Then there is this:

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power — Benito Mussolini

What we call government regulation these days is in fact corporatism at work, little more than a tool-driven marriage of convenience among incestuous alumni of the same Ivy League MBA programs. Witness the fact that the financial institutions deemed too big to fail back in 2008 are — for the most part — twice the size and only half as accountable today, not in spite but precisely because of government regulation. Contrary to what the ruling elite of the Brave New Digital World tell us time and again, too big to fail isn’t just another unintended consequence of a bad plan. Too big to fail is the plan.

Yes, I think this is also mostly quite correct - and indeed I knew Mussolini´s quotation, which may have moved me in 2012 to speak of ¨Corporate Fascism¨, although I do not know anymore (i.a. because I wrote some 1800 Nederlogs since 2012).

And there is this:

Thus no surprise that the typical image of addiction-driven eFascism manifests not in a pair of iron boots but in a perfectly white smile and a paralyzing torrent of fatherly advice. It preaches freedom of choice but — like every other addiction to every other narcotic — obliterates the only real freedom: the freedom not to participate, the freedom to simply walk away.

The same eFascism is the driving meme of every grade level in just about every school and is baked into just about every job description. It comes from everywhere at once all of the time without respite, and it marginalizes or destroys anything else — like common sense, freedom, democracy and religion — that preaches moderation and restraint (the true enemies of both addiction and eFascism) as critical and indispensable components to the quality of life.

This is a bit overstated, at least - as is illustrated by the fact that I, for one, do not have and do not want to have: a cell-phone, a television, a Facebook account, an Apple or a Microsoft operating system, and more, and the same holds for some intelligent others.

Here is yet more:
Under eFascism, the self-serving scoundrels in corporate board rooms, the self-serving scoundrels in government and the self-serving scoundrels in academia are all the same self-serving scoundrels at different stages of their careers.
Yes, I think this is also correct, and in fact I do have quite decent reasons to think the above about Holland (where I live), for a thesis like the one articulated in the last quotation was also
made in 2006, indeed after first uploading my review in 2002:
¨Aantekeningen bij "De illusie van democratie"¨  (This is Dutch, but rather good - and the sources are mostly pensioned (!!) Dutch professors of politicology, sociology or law.)

Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

Under eFascism, Oscar Wilde’s definition of the cynic as the man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing will soon define us all.

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil. Hanna Arendt

Yes indeed, and I agree with Arendt´s quotation.

This is a fine article that is strongly recommended.


Notes

[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 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 (!!).


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