November 1, 2018

Crisis: 60% Of Wildlife Wiped Out, American Fascism, Billionaires, On Brazil, Deborah Lipstadt


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 1, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 1, 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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from November 1, 2018:
1. 60% of Earth's Wildlife Wiped Out Since 1970
2. Trump’s Endless Mendacity and the Dawn of American Fascism
3. New Research Exposes "Stealth Politics" of America's 100 Richest

4. Brazil: the Day After
5. 'We Will Win Because History Is On Our Side'
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. 60% of Earth's Wildlife Wiped Out Since 1970

This article is by Julia Conley on Common Dreams. It starts as follows (and I shortened the title):
Scientists from around the world issued a stark warning to humanity Tuesday in a semi-annual report on the Earth's declining biodiversity, which shows that about 60 percent of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles have been wiped out by human activity since 1970.
I say, for I did not know this, while this is quite horrible. Here is more:

The World Wildlife Fund's Living Planet Index details how human's uncontrolled overconsumption of land, food, and natural resources has eliminated a majority of the wildlife on the planet—threatening human civilization as well as the world's animals.

"We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff," Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF, told the Guardian. "If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China, and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done."

Precisely! Here is more:

"Species population declines are especially pronounced in the tropics, with South and Central America suffering the most dramatic decline, an 89 percent loss compared to 1970," reads the report. "Freshwater species numbers have also declined dramatically, with the Freshwater Index showing an 83% decline sinceRepublican allies and outlets who repeat his outlandish and bogus assertions 1970."

Destruction of wildlife habitats is the leading human-related cause of extinction, as people around the world are now using about three-quarters of all land on the planet for agriculture, industry, and other purposes, according to the report.

Mass killing of animals for food is the second-largest cause of extinction, according to the report, with 300 mammal species being "eaten into extinction."

I think all of this is true. Here is more:

Rather, the survival of the planet's ecosystems is now a matter of life and death for the human population, according to the WWF.

"Nature contributes to human wellbeing culturally and spiritually, as well as through the critical production of food, clean water, and energy, and through regulating the Earth's climate, pollution, pollination and floods," Professor Robert Watson, who contributed to the report, told the Guardian. "The Living PlanetRepublican allies and outlets who repeat his outlandish and bogus assertions report clearly demonstrates that human activities are destroying nature at an unacceptable rate, threatening the wellbeing of current and future generations."

"Nature is not a 'nice to have'—it is our life-support system," added Barrett.

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

Many scientists believe that studies like that of the WWF demonstrate that a sixth mass extinction is now underway—a theory that would mean the Earth could experience its first mass extinction event caused by a single species inhabiting the planet. The loss of all life on Earth could come about due to a combination of human-caused effects, including a rapidly warming planet as well as the loss of biodiversity.


I don´t think that the fact that humans wiped out ¨
about 60 percent of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles¨ also implies that (bolding added)¨all life on Earth could come about¨, for I believe that while a near 100% of all ¨mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles¨ may be killed by humans (who then will very probably grow extinct themselves), I suppose most smaller animals (lice, mites etc.) may well survive.

Then again, I think that the fact that 60% of all ¨
mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles¨ have been killed in the last 50 years by humans is a rather probable sign that human life may be around for another 50 years or so. And this is a very strongly recommended article. 
2. Trump’s Endless Mendacity and the Dawn of American Fascism

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

American presidents lie. They always have. Just Google “Lyndon Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin,” “Bill Clinton and NAFTA” or “George Bush and weapons of mass destruction.” Even Honest Abe likely told a fib or two.

But no U.S. president has ever lied as prolifically, constantly, insidiously and dangerously as Donald Trump. He never stops. He’s the Energizer Bunny of endless falsehood.

It’s enough to make even Orwell’s head explode.

Trump, who received votes from just one in four U.S. adults in 2016, claimed that he would have won the popular vote over Hillary Clinton were it not for the voter fraud of undocumented immigrants. The alleged criminal votes were never cast.

Trump called his 2016 Electoral College victory “The biggest electoral victory since Ronald Reagan.” It was no such thing.

Trump lied about the size of his inauguration crowd even as aerial photographs of the event contradicted his boasts.

Yes indeed, and the above quotation also is the start of a whole lot more of Trump´s mendacity that I leave to my readers´ interests, although I do want to repeat a remark about Trump that I have made for nearly three years now:

I am a psychologist (which does make a difference when speaking about psychology) and I think since the beginning of 2016 that Trump is insane precisely because he uttered stark raving lies like the ones quoted above and following it.

Also, both of my parents were in the real Dutch resistance in WW II, and my father and his father were arrested in August of 1941, and then convicted by collaborating Dutch judges (who never were punished) as ¨political terrorists¨ to concentration camp imprisonment which my grandfather did not survive, while my father survived over three years and nine months of them.

I know a lot about fascism because of my background, and I have meanwhile learned that no journalist I have read in the last ten years has as much as a decent definition of either fascism or neofascism ready. I do - see the last two links - and given my definition of neofascism I insist that Trump is a neofascist.

Here is more about Trump:

Trump’s evasion of responsibility follows a hate-filled campaign and 21 months of axe-grinding in the Oval Office that has seen him call immigrants criminal gang-members, murderers and rapists, while maliciously describing his political enemies and media critics and journalists as “evil,” “low lifes,” “low IQ” and “the most dishonest people on Earth.” Along the way, the openly sexist Trump has referred to women as “animals,” “dogs,” “horse-face,” “fat” and worse.

Quite so. And here is an explanation for Trump´s extra-ordinarily many lies:

What accounts for this endless mendacity and rhetorical manipulation? Speaking to “Public” Broadcasting System NewsHour anchor and Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) member Judy Woodruff last week, Dale theorized that Trump and the Republican allies and outlets who repeat his outlandish and bogus assertions want to drive media coverage and political discourse away from topics they wish to avoid—health care, the Mueller investigation and “anything else the president doesn’t want us to talk about,” such as Trump’s still unreleased tax returns, climate change and the party’s regressive tax cuts.

I think this may well be correct for a considerable number of ¨Republican allies and outlets who repeat his outlandish and bogus assertions¨ but I guess myself that for Trump himself it is not as reasoned, but is mostly an indication and an outgrowth of his narcissistic madness.

Then there is this:

As Chris Hedges suggests in his latest book, “America: The Farewell Tour,
Trump and his party’s continuing defiance of reality suggests that the United States is sliding into “corporate totalitarianism”:

Trump and the Republican Party represent the last stage in the emergence of corporate totalitarianism. Pillage and oppression are intensified by the permanent lie. The permanent lie is different from the falsehoods and half-truths uttered by politicians like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. The common political lie these politicians employed was not designed to cancel  out reality. It was a form of manipulation.
The permanent lie is not circumscribed by reality. It is perpetuated even in the face of overwhelming evidence that discredits it. It is irrational. Those who speak in the language of truth and fact are attacked as liars, traitors and purveyors of ‘fake news.’ They are banished from the public sphere once totalitarian elites accrue sufficient power, a power now granted them with the revoking of net neutrality. … “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world – and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end – is being destroyed,” Hanna Arendt wrote in The Origins of Totalitarianism.
The permanent lie is the apotheosis of totalitarianism. It no longer matters what is true. … When reality is replaced by the whims of opinion and expediency, what is true one day becomes false the next. Consistency is discarded. Complexity, nuance, and depth and profundity are replaced with the simpleton’s faith in threats and force.

Perhaps so, and I am writing this because I note two things about totalitarianism:

First, it seems from the above that Chris Hedges may have changed his allegiance from Sheldon Wolin´s ¨inverted totalitarianism¨ (which he seemed to be in favor of in 2014: see here) to a new kind of totalitarianism that he calls ¨corporate totalitarianism¨.

I am not quite certain of this, and my reason is that totalitarianism, which I have been reading about for over 50 years, is - like fascism, like socialism - hardly ever or never properly defined by any journalist I have been reading the last ten years, and has been completely falsified on Wikipedia, which now sports a neofascist re-definition of totalitarianism in which it is no longer the consequence of ideas of individuals but corresponds precisely to a government like Hitler´s or Stalin´s - which makes it impossible to blame anyone who lives outside a totalitarian government to have totalitarian ideas, values, desires, plans etc. for the simple reason that these are no longer totalitarian: only governments are.

This is a sick and sickening lie, but it is what Wikipedia (written by anonymous persons, funded by anonymous groups) now spreads as the truth.

Here is my own definition of totalitarianism, which is completely in line with Orwell´s use, and that of many writers and thinkers:
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.
There is a lot more there. But as I said: This clashes with the Wikipedia´s utterly false and misleading definition of the same term.

And second, I have read most of Hanna Arendt´s books, but I do not admire them. I also do not think they are bad, but they are not as good as many believe they are. And in any case there are more recent and better treatments of totalitarianism than Arendt´s.

Also, I wish to remark that my parents and grandparents lived through 12 years of fascism and five years of WW II in which Holland was a Nazist country run by Germans and Dutch collaborators, but they never lost ¨
the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world – and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end¨.

Back to the article:

It is important to understand, as Hedges does, that the Trump-led assault on veracity, evidence and our very ability to separate truth from falsehood has been able to gain traction only because a decades-long corporate coup has devastated and discredited public education, academia, organized labor and the legal and criminal justice systems. It has done all this and more while turning the Democratic Party into what the late Princeton political scientist Sheldon Wolin called the nation’s Inauthentic Opposition.
Well... I agree that ¨public education, academia, organized labor and the legal and criminal justice systems¨ have been partially destroyed, also in Holland, and I date my own recognition of this fact to 1977/1978, when I had returned from Norway (the worst mistake in my life: I lived there and could have studied there then) to study in Holland, and found a university that was vastly corrupted and vastly more simple minded and less scientific than I thought they should be (and had been learning from reading philosophy and logic for ten years).

And while it is a fact that education in Holland has approximately halved since 1965, it also is a
fact that almost no one seems to care, because the vast majority is much more interested in making money than in acquiring knowledge, while it is a corresponding fact that the press in Holland, except for a brief period in 2008, simply does not seem to care.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article, and it is from its ending:

As marchers celebrating a rare legal victory over a white supremacist U.S. police state in Democratically-controlled Chicago chanted last month, “The whole damn system is guilty as Hell.” It’s the whole damn system that must be democratized from the bottom up.
I take it (but do not know) that Street favors a socialist revolution. And this is a strongly recommended article.
3. New Research Exposes "Stealth Politics" of America's 100 Richest Billionaires

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
While some of the most famous ultra-rich Americans—such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and the Koch Brothers—have very public profiles and readily disclose where they stand ideologically or on key issues, new research reveals that a cabal of the U.S. billionaires largely operates in the shadows as they use their vast wealth and influence to maintain their status and undermine democracy.

In a piece published by the Guardian on Wednesday, Northwestern University professors Benjamin I. Page, Jason Seawright, and Matthew J. Lacombe lay out the findings of their "exhaustive, web-based study of everything that the 100 wealthiest U.S. billionaires have said or done, over a 10-year period, concerning several major issues of public policy."

The trio of researchers found that "both as individuals and as contributors to Koch-type consortia, most U.S. billionaires have given large amounts money—and many have engaged in intense activity—to advance unpopular, inequality- exacerbating, highly conservative economic policies."

I did not know this, but I think this is both quite true and also quite understandable, for the simple reason that all billionaires have strong financial interests in the continuance of ¨inequality-exacerbating¨ policies.

Here is more:

Their research, also detailed in their forthcoming book Billionaires and Stealth Politics, shows that despite spending tons of money over the past decade to advance policies that safeguard and even expand their wealth, "billionaires who favor unpopular, ultraconservative economic policies, and work actively to advance them (that is, most politically active billionaires) stay almost entirely silent about those issues in public."

"Billionaires have plenty of media access, but most of them choose not to say anything at all about the policy issues of the day. They deliberately pursue a strategy of what we call 'stealth politics,'" the researchers explain. "This sort of stealth politics," which enables wealthy individuals to stay off the radar of the general public and avoid political accountability while wielding significant influence over politicians and government institutions, "is harmful to democracy."

I think this is also quite understandable, and indeed it has been made very much easier by several pronouncements of the Supreme Court, notably the Citizens United decision of 2010.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

To combat the issue of American billionaires using their outsize wealth and power "to rig the political rules and preserve and expand their private wealth dynasties," the IPS report argues that imposing "a direct tax on wealth paid by the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent could generate significant revenue to be reinvested in creating and restoring opportunities for low wealth households to prosper," and that "taxing inherited wealth as income would help break up current and future wealth dynasties."

I more or less agree but I also hold that the wealthy should pay far higher taxes than they do now e.g. as they did under the Republican Eisenhower. Then again, this will be quite impossible in the present circumstances. And this is a recommended article.
4. Brazil: the Day After

This article is by Francesc Badia i Dalmases on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

The world has to prepare for the day after.

Brazil is already suffering from a tide of unbearable verbal and symbolic violence, and the incendiary hate speeches are already claiming their share of victims. Bolsonaro's victory seems indisputable and is forcing us to get ready for a double action.

The first thing will be to protect ourselves and prevent verbal attacks from turning violent under the cloak of euphoria for the victory of a candidate who considers the losers not ideological or political rivals but enemies who must be eliminated. Communist worms, they call them.

Second, the narratives and the strategies of the progressive forces will have to be rethought through and through. We will have to come up with a contingency plan to minimize the damage, and then rebuild the political space and prepare for standing up and going into battle and winning in an urgent near future.

I say, which I do this time because I think both plans sound pretty irrealistic in my eyes.

Here is more:

But protection will now be the top priority. We must protect ourselves against the danger that the ultra-aggressive statements which one could perhaps be tempted to excuse in the light of the heat of the electoral battle, can serve as coverage for hot-headed individuals to attack all that has been demonized by the Bolsonarista discourse:

"We shall put an end to all kinds of activism", he shouted recently. This is a direct threat to LGBT communities, afro-descendants, indigenous people, feminists, environmentalists... Anyone whom they consider hateful and smells of leftism, of "petism", of tolerance and diversity today is being attacked unscrupulously. Social leaders are now most vulnerable.

Well... how does one protect oneself from Bolsonaro? In fact, I have no idea, other than shutting up or moving to another country.

Here is more, this time on the fact that everybody is known to the secret services and the very rich (in principle, for no one can read all that is automatically downloaded by artificial intelligence):

Warnings have been raised for quite some time now that overexposure of personal data - identitarian, social and also political - of free citizens in their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts is a double-edged sword. The data can be sold for spurious political purposes (the Cambridge Analytica scandal is the tip of an iceberg), but also perhaps can be used to identify, detect and persecute unwanted persons by an authoritarian regime.

In the era of social media, Anne Frank would not have survived for more than a couple of days.

Yes, I think that is quite correct. (But why call these spying systems of the rich and the security forces ¨social media¨?!)

This is from the ending of this article:

In a country as violent and emotional as Brazil, it is only too easy to think that the situation will get out of hand. And if, in addition, as Bolsonaro advocates, the legal requirements for firearms possession are relaxed, slaughter could be around the corner.

Yes, that is what I expect: ¨slaughter¨. I strongly hope I am mistaken. This is a recommended article.

5. 'We Will Win Because History Is On Our Side'

This article (an interview) is by Annette Groszbongardt on Spiegel International. It starts as follows:

DER SPIEGEL: Professor Lipstadt, the trial of the Holocaust denier David Irving trial took place in London. How do you feel when you come back to the city today?

Lipstadt: Every time I come to London, I take the same hotel where I stayed then for 12 weeks during the trial. When we won in court, even taxi drivers and people in the street congratulated me. But the trial was not a pleasure, it was an ordeal, years of hard work. Luckily, I had wonderful lawyers and supporters. The court found Irving was a Holocaust denier, a racist and an anti-Semite.

DER SPIEGEL: He denied the mass murder of the Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. He was also well connected with German neo-Nazis. He said that the Jews would keep coming back to the Holocaust because it was the only interesting thing they had ever experienced.

Lipstadt: It was unbearable how he made fun of Holocaust survivors. Before the trial, he once pointed to the tattooed camp number of a survivor and asked her how much money she had made from it. He claimed that more women had died in the backseat of Ted Kennedy's car in Chappaquiddick than in the Auschwitz gas chambers.

I like Deborah Lipstadt, and did follow the trial David Irving started against her. I have stated my reasons to be more interested in fascism than many above.

Here is more:

DER SPIEGEL: At that time, you were under enormous pressure. Holocaust survivors were imploring you to save their history. What was your answer to them?

Lipstadt: I told them: We will win because history is on our side. So were the facts. We had very good evidence.

DER SPIEGEL: During the trial, Irving posed as an allegedly unjustly accused historian.

Lipstadt: Oh yes, that was his big show. He defended himself all by himself and there I was with all my lawyers. He loved to play the victim. But he had sued me, not the other way around.
Well... I do not think that ¨history is on our side¨ (in which Lipstadt is correct in the sense that she clearly was factually correct) is a strong defense, and especially not if one has to defend oneself in a court in a non-democratic country.

Here is more:
Lipstadt: What we fight today is not fascism -- or maybe, not yet fascism. It is populism, from the right and from the left. I am wary of Nazi comparisons, but what I see is a kind of ugly populism whose hateful rhetoric reminds me of how the National Socialists in Germany came to power. It's an ethnocentric populism, it feeds a dangerous mood, a sort of tyranny of the mob. Many Americans think Hitler came to power by a revolution, but he won elections. We should not forget that.
One problem here is that Lipstadt does not define what she understands by ¨fascism¨ (the link is to my definition, which seems far too complex for most journalists); another is that ¨populism¨ also is badly defined (see populism on Wikipedia).

And - once again - I think that the stupidity and ignorance of large segments of the population gives a much clearer idea of what is going on, but it seems also if hardly anyone wants to make these judgements, although - I think - they are clearly factually correct of many, though not of all.

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

DER SPIEGEL: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recently said that the growing contempt for democracy reminded him of the Weimar Republic, Germany's pre-Nazi era democracy. Your publisher has even posed the question: "Are we going to return to the poisonous systematic brutality of the 1930s?" Are we?

Lipstadt: There is a lot of poison and brutality. But is it like in the 1930s? No, thank god. Or maybe not yet? There are disturbing signs on the horizon, Steinmeier is right. My colleagues Timothy Snyder and Chris Bowning have also been pointing out some parallels. When Hitler became chancellor, the conservatives who supported him believed that they could control him. They couldn't. So it is with Trump and the Republicans today.

This is more or less correct though also vague. And there is a lot more in this article, which is strongly recommended.


[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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail