May 28, 2018

Crisis: On Neoliberalism, Chomsky, The Koreas, On Facebook, America´s Chaos


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 28, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, May 28, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from May 28, 2018:
1. How to Replace Neoliberalism With a Caring Economy
2. Noam Chomsky on Donald Trump and the 'Me First' Doctrine
3. South Korean President Moons Bolton
4. Facebook and Free Speech
5. Making Sense of America's Empire of Chaos
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. How to Replace Neoliberalism With a Caring Economy

This article is by Eleanor Bader on AlterNet and originally on Truthout. It starts as follows:
In her timely book No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, Naomi Klein calls on us to resist President Trump and the turn to reactionary-right politics in the US. She also reminds us that, even if we succeed, we will still be left with the conditions that gave rise to Trumpism in the first place. We've got to do more than resist Trump. She calls us to change the neoliberal paradigm that has guided (or rather, misguided) public and private life for the last four decades in the United States and much of the rest of the world. This is no small challenge, but without a new way forward, life will become increasingly unlivable.
I should start this review by saying that I don´t much like Naomi Klein, although I agree that she is a leftist, and her ideas and values are better than those of the right. It also is a bit difficult to explain my disagreements, mostly because they are based on my Dutch experiences: Klein reminds me far too much of the Dutch ¨Social Democrats¨.

So I shall not try to explain my personal disagreements. But I will explain two of my disagreements with the above quoted bit:

First, Klein ¨
calls us to change the neoliberal paradigm¨: I am sorry, but who are ¨us¨? Economists, sociologists, philosophers? Apparently not, but it remains extremely vague.

And secondly: what is ¨
the neoliberal paradigm¨? I know a fair amount about economy and sociology and a lot about philosophy, but I have no idea about what ¨the neoliberal paradigm¨ is supposed to be, and indeed also not how just anybody (¨us¨) is supposed to change it.

Both of my disagreements may be due to the writers of this article. I don´t know, but my guess is that they do derive from Klein´s vagueness.

Then there is this, which is, in a way, an explanation of ¨neoliberalism¨:
As I have discussed previously, neoliberalism is a renewal of the 19th century liberalism of laissez faire, free market, unbridled capitalism of the robber baron era. The 20th century social liberalism we are more familiar with is the opposite of that. Born of the crisis of the Great Depression of the 1930s, it accepts the need for an active state to protect ordinary people from the depredations of the market while also regulating and guiding the economy to make capitalism work. That social liberalism, or "social democracy" as it is also called, was the dominant public ideology in the US up through the 1970s.
If this is ¨neoliberalism¨ - ¨a renewal of the 19th century liberalism of laissez faire¨ - I don´t see why it is important, simply because few people think the 19th century is an interesting example to follow in the 21st century (¨unbridled capitalism of the robber baron era¨).

And what both the writers of this article and Klein seem to miss is that ¨neoliberalism¨ is a verbal label for an ideology and that all ideologies are simplifications of larger ideas, which they tend to falsify to make them seem plausible to the uninformed.

I think Klein and the writers of this article are confusing the ideology and the real facts behind them (which are considerably more complicated and harder to explain).

It is true that I have been distinguishing for quite a number of years between capitalism-with- a-human-face and capitalism-with-an-inhuman-face, but this was - so I think, as an academically educated person - explicit ideological terminology that did not pretend to be an analysis of the real facts underlying these distinctions.

But (to repeat):
I think Klein and the writers of this article are confusing the ideology and the real facts behind them (which are considerably more complicated and harder to explain).

In fact the same is true about ¨
social liberalism, or "social democracy" as it is also called¨: This is again on the level of crude ideology (not: the facts), and also manages to throw together the left and the right (apart from the extreme right): ¨liberalism¨ is not ¨democracy¨ and neither is ¨social liberalism¨ the same as ¨social democracy¨. (And what does Klein think her parents were protesting against in the ¨social democratic¨ Sixties, in Klein´s terms?)

Here is more of the same:
But then, with the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Thatcher's leadership in the United Kingdom, a new ideology began to eclipse "social democracy." Rather than seeing the state as the instrument for democratic self-government, this ideology saw government as the source of our problems. In this view, government should just "get out of the way" and let the market direct society.
That is: For Klein it seems everything is an ideology. And again: I think Klein and the writers of this article are confusing the ideology and the real facts behind them (which are considerably more complicated and harder to explain).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The dirty little secret that advocates of neoliberalism try to hide from us is that government is still needed to structure markets so they will work for capitalism. For example, unions must be curtailed since organized workers bargaining collectively distort a free market in labor. Individual workers are to be free to sell their labor as they choose. Powerless as individuals, the "right to work" in reality amounts to a right to work for less. At the same time, investors can organize collectively into corporations and operate freely in the market. In neoliberalism, grossly unequal power relation between individuals and corporations is ignored or even perpetuated. This means that neoliberalism favors the interests of corporate capitalism over working people, and that neoliberalism is a project for unbridled capitalism. It is the default position of capital when unrestrained by popular forces.
Again, this is all mere ideological talk, where we get such ¨explanations¨ as this: ¨This means that neoliberalism favors the interests of corporate capitalism over working people, and that neoliberalism is a project for unbridled capitalism.¨

Well... yes, but if that is the truth, why are so many ¨working people¨ in favor of ¨neoliberalism¨?

Anyway... I take it this article is a fair explanation of Klein, but as I said: I don´t like Klein much, and this article may give a partial explanation: She does not seem to distinguish between ideologies and the facts these ideologies tend to hide or lie about. O, and the title of this article
How to Replace Neoliberalism With a Caring Economy - does not get explained at all.

2. Noam Chomsky on Donald Trump and the 'Me First' Doctrine

This article is by C.J. Polychroniou on AlterNet and originally on Truthout. This is from near its beginning:

C. J. Polychroniou: Noam, Donald Trump rose to power with "America First" as the key slogan of his election campaign. However, looking at what his administration has done so far on both the domestic and international front, it is hard to see how his policies are contributing to the well-being and security of the United States. With that in mind, can you decode for us what Trump's "America First" policy may be about with regard to international relations?

Noam Chomsky: It is only natural to expect that policies will be designed for the benefit of the designers and their actual -- not pretended -- constituency, and that the well-being and security of the society will be incidental. And that is what we commonly discover.
There is nothing essentially new about "America First," and "America" does not mean America, but rather the designers and their actual constituency.In Trumpian lingo, "America First" means "me first" and damn the consequences for the country or the world.
Yes indeed: I agree. (And referring back to the previous article: Chomsky does distinguish between ideologies and the real facts they tend to hide or lie about.)

Here is more by Chomsky:

Turning to international affairs, in Trumpian lingo, "America First" means "me first" and damn the consequences for the country or the world. The "me first" doctrine has an immediate corollary: it's necessary to keep the base in line with fake promises and fiery rhetoric, while not alienating the actual constituency. It also follows that it's important to do the opposite of whatever was done by Obama. Trump is often called "unpredictable," but his actions are highly predictable on these simple principles.

Yes, I think this is probably true as well. Here is Chomsky on Israel:

Few are aware of the extent of Israeli brutality. Just to take one pertinent example, few are aware that just as the recent nonviolent demonstrations were beginning, leading to the Gaza massacre when Israel responded with military force, Hamas leadership approached Israel with a call for a long-term cease-fire ("hudna"). Israel, of course, rejected it, as it invariably does, rarely even giving reasons, though after the murderous Operation Protective Edge in 2014, an Israeli defense official explained that Israel does not respond "because there was no reason to conduct a dialogue with a bruised and beaten movement." In short: We have overwhelming military force, you are defenseless, we can smash your society to bits any time we like, so why on earth should we call for an end to violence, abandoning our virtual monopoly?

I think this may be true as well, although I also observe that (i) the disdain of the strong for the weak is probably as old as mankind, and (ii) ¨an Israeli defense official¨ is not much of a reference.

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

As to whether Europe today might move in an independent direction, I'm skeptical. Despite Trump's moves to diminish and isolate America, and to alienate allies, and despite the exit of America's major advocate (Britain) from the European Union, I suspect that Europe will be unwilling to pose a serious challenge to Washington. Europe faces too many internal problems, and despite Trump, the US still remains unmatched as a global power, with means of violence and coercion that it is not reluctant to use, as the world knows all too well.

Yes, I think this is probably correct. There is a lot more in this article, that is recommended.

3. South Korean President Moons Bolton

This article is by Ray McGovern on Common Dreams. This starts as follows:

Thanks no doubt to his bellicose national security adviser John Bolton, President Donald Trump has now lost control of the movement toward peace between the two Koreas.  Trump has put himself in a corner; he must now either reject — or, better, fire — Bolton, or face the prospect of wide war in the Far East, including the Chinese, with whom a mutual defense treaty with North Korea is still on the books.

I do not know much about Bolton (but I agree, as a psychologist, with the thesis that he is a madman) but I agree with McGovern that the Chinese still have ¨a mutual defense treaty with North Korea¨ and may reply with their own atomic weapons if the USA blows up both Koreas with atomic weapons. And this is indeed an important fact in the background.

Here is some on the present relations between North and South Korea:

The visuals of the surprise meeting late yesterday (local time) between the top leaders of South Korea and North Korea pretty much tell the story.  South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in drove into the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), and Seoul quickly released a one-minute video of what, by all appearances, was an extremely warm encounter with Kim Jung-un.
Well... I think both Korean leaders were moved by the threat that Trump may blow up both countries (if one goes, so does the other) with atomic weapons, simply because he threatened to do so. And I also think that both Korean leaders were correct in that assumption.

Finally, there is this bit:
One cannot rule out the possibility that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has some cojones beneath his girth. He has a personal, as well as a diplomatic stake in whether or not Bolton succeeds in wrecking the summit. (Trump, after all, deputized Pompeo, while he was still CIA director, to set it up.)  It’s also possible some non-crazy advisers are warning Trump about Bolton’s next “March of Folly.” Other advisers may be appealing to Trump’s legendary vanity by dangling the prospect that he may blow his only shot at a Nobel Peace Prize.
I don´t know, but I agree Ray McGovern knows much more about the personalities in American politics than I do. Anyway... this is a recommended article.
4. Facebook and Free Speech

This article is by Faiza Patel and Rachel Levinson-Altman on Common Dreams and originally on Just Security. This has a subtitle which I reproduce:
Facebook should adopt a policy of extreme transparency.
And I reproduced this subtitle because it amounts to hopeless wishful thinking: Facebook will never do so, if only because this will limit the - literally - billions a year Zuckerberg makes (which is what Facebook is really about: Zuckerberg´s billions).

In fact, I think the present article may have been written with Facebook´s help, in Facebook´s interests, but of course I don´t know.

But let´s see. The article starts as follows:

In the weeks since Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress, Facebook has made two important policy announcements. The company released a document explaining what posts and accounts it removes on the basis of its internal rules, known as “community standards,” and it engaged outside consultants to review the social media platform’s impact on various communities. The company also released its first transparency report on the enforcement of its community standards.

These are all welcome developments, but they lay bare a fundamental question raised by Zuckerberg himself: What obligations does the public want companies to fulfill when deciding which speech deserves a place on the Internet and social media?
No, this is bullshit.

First of all, the appraisal of Facebook´s news that these were ¨
important policy announcements¨ is Zuckerberg´s own appraisal. Mine is that these announcements were two typical deceptions of the spy and thief of billions upon billions of private mails.

Second, these are not ¨
welcome developments¨.

And third, Zuckerberg´s ¨fundamental question¨ is utter baloney, total bullshit and a stinking deception. The question should be: WHY does Zuckerberg and Facebook have any right on any private mails? He steals them: he is the greatest private thief that ever existed. And he is a sick spy on two billion of his victims (whom he calls ¨dumb fucks¨ because they trust him).

Fourthly, Facebook and Zuckerberg have NO right WHATSOEVER to decide (bolding added) ¨
which speech deserves a place on the Internet¨: That is utter sickness and complete bullshit.

Then there is about Facebook´s policies:
In the meantime, progressive voices have demanded that Facebook address concerns about hate speech and harassment on the platform, as well as the censorship of “Black, Arab, Muslim, and other marginalized voices.” Anecdotal data suggests that posts by people of color, as well as Muslims, are disproportionately targeted for content takedowns, while white nationalist movements are largely left alone. Facebook has removed posts that accuse white people of complicity in racism or report racial slurs, while leaving up scores of posts and accounts promoting white supremacy and violence against marginalized groups.
Again utter bullshit. It is NOT Facebook that should ¨address concerns about hate speech and harassment on the platform¨: That is like inviting a pimp to distinguish which whores are honest enough. Some objective, financially and politically totally independent, legal institution should do so. NOT Facebook itself.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
First, Facebook should ensure that it is living up to its stated presumption in favor of allowing speech. The platform should ensure removals are carried out in narrow, targeted ways, and any process for removing posts and accounts should take at least equal account of the value of a robust exchange of ideas, including unpopular ideas.
Utter bullshit. Facebook should be broken up, and Zuckerberg should be prosecuted for stealing the private mails from two billion people he regards as ¨dumb fucks¨ because they trust him.

And this is a sick and sickening article.

5. Making Sense of America's Empire of Chaos

This article is by Mark Karlin on TomDispatch and originally on Truth-out. It starts as follows (abd is an interview with the maker of TomDispatch, Tom Engelhardt):

Mark Karlin: How much money has gone to the U.S. war on terror and what has been the impact of this expenditure?

Tom Engelhardt: The best figure I’ve seen on this comes from the Watson Institute’s Costs of War Project at Brown University and it’s a staggering $5.6 trillion, including certain future costs to care for this country’s war vets. President Trump himself, with his usual sense of accuracy, has inflated that number even more, regularly speaking of $7 trillion being lost somewhere in our never-ending wars in the Greater Middle East. One of these days, he’s going to turn out to be right.

I say. I have read fairly widely differing estimates of the costs of the ¨War on Terror¨. The present estimate is fairly conservative (compared to other estimates, though not compared to the trillions that are involved anyhow).

Then again, I take it - but do not know - these are the costs to the USA of its wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, since 2001.

Here is more:

What makes the U.S. pretension to empire different from previous empires?
I think that two things have made us different, imperially speaking. The first was that post-1991 sense of ourselves as the ultimate winner of a vast imperial contest, a kind of arms race of many that had gone on since European ships armed with cannon had first broken into the world in perhaps the fifteenth century and began to conquer much of it. In that post-Soviet moment of triumphalism, of what seemed to the top dogs in Washington like the ultimate win, a forever victory, there was indeed a sense that there had never been and never would be a power like us.
Finally, of course, there’s climate change -- that is, for the first time in the history of empires, the very well-being of the planet itself is at stake. The game has, so to speak, changed, even if relatively few here have noticed.
I don´t know whether this is an answer to the question, but Engelhardt is correct, in my opinion, in stressing the major importance of the USA´s defeat of the Soviet Union (although that fell mostly through its own weaknesses) and the major importance of ¨climate change¨ or the environment.

And this is the last bit that I quote from this article, which raises another important point:

What role did the end of the draft play in enabling an unrestrained U.S. empire of war?

It may have been the crucial moment in the whole process. It was, of course, the decision of then-president Richard Nixon in January 1973, in response to a country swept by a powerful antiwar movement and a military in near rebellion as the Vietnam War began to wind down. The draft was ended, the all-volunteer military begun, and the American people were largely separated from the wars being fought in their name. They were, as I said above, demobilized. Though at the time, the U.S. military high command was doubtful about the move, it proved highly successful in freeing them to fight the endless wars of the twenty-first century, now being referred to by some in the Pentagon (according to the Washington Post) not as “permanent wars” or even, as General David Petraeus put it, a “generational struggle,” but as “infinite war.”

Yes, I think Engelhardt is right about the draft, and indeed that has opened the way for ¨permanent wars¨, for ¨generational struggle¨ and for ¨ïnfinite war¨ that are all three extremely sick and uncivilized ideas but that became possible through the end of the draft, which meant the end of protests of being sent out to fight and die in insane wars at the other side of the globe, whether you wanted or not.

This 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 (!!).
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