November 3, 2018

Crisis: On The Crash of 2008, On Lee Camp, On 2018, John Bolton * Neofascism, On The Internet


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 3, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, November 3, 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 3, 2018:
1. The Crash That Failed
2. Lee Camp: 'We're in a New Age of McCarthyism'
3. Haters and Partisans Have Always Been With Us. But This Is Different
4. John Bolton Hails Brazilian Strongman as Welcome Ally
5. Global Internet Freedom Plummets as Governments Use Censorship
     and Surveillance
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. The Crash That Failed

This article is by Robert Kuttner on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows and is in fact the review of a book by Adam Tooze: Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World:

The historian G.M. Trevelyan said that the democratic revolutions of 1848, all of which were quickly crushed, represented “a turning point at which modern history failed to turn.” The same can be said of the financial collapse of 2008. The crash demonstrated the emptiness of the claim that markets could regulate themselves. It should have led to the disgrace of neoliberalism—the belief that unregulated markets produce and distribute goods and services more efficiently than regulated ones. Instead, the old order reasserted itself, and with calamitous consequences. Gross economic imbalances of power and wealth persisted. We are still experiencing the reverberations.
Yes indeed: I completely agree, and in fact have maintained the crisis index since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch). Indeed at that time, and for more than month to follow, the Dutch government thought or pretended there was hardly any serious trouble at all, and the prime minister told the Dutch that all they had to do was ¨to cycle a bit faster¨.

It was utter nonsense, whatever its cause, but then I have maintained the crisis index for over ten years now, and to the best of my knowledge I was and am the only one who did so. (I admit it is hard to prove this, but I did daily read 35 sites most of these ten years, and I found not a sign of anyone else who did this.)

Here is more:
In the United States, the bipartisan financial elite escaped largely unscathed. Barack Obama, whose campaign benefited from the timing of the collapse, hired the architects of the Clinton-era deregulation who had created the conditions that led to the crisis. Far from breaking up the big banks or removing their executives, Obama’s team bailed them out. None of the leading bankers whose fraudulent products caused the economy to crash went to jail; criminal prosecution took a back seat to the stability of the system. Obama’s tepid program provided just enough stimulus, via a modest public-spending program and cheap unlimited credit for bankers, for a slow recovery. But the economic security of most Americans dwindled, and the legitimacy of the system was called into question.
I mostly quite agree, but I don´t quite accept that ¨the legitimacy of the system was called into question¨. In fact, I agree there were some who did doubt the current economical system, but they were and are - still - in a minority.

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

The political result was the same on both sides of the Atlantic—declining prospects for ordinary people, animus toward elites, and the rise of ultra-nationalism. In the US, there is at least a left-wing opposition in waiting, with a coherent explanation for what went wrong and a progressive alternative to Trumpism. Progressives have been gaining influence in the Democratic Party, and it’s possible that a neo-Rooseveltian left that supports financial regulation, public investment, and redistribution will come to power in 2020.

Not so in Europe. Parties such as the German Social Democratic Party, the British Labour Party, and the French Socialists disgraced themselves as co-sponsors of the neoliberal formula that brought down the economy. The European left today is weaker than at any time since World War II. There is just one EU member nation with a left-wing government and a working majority in the national parliament—Portugal—and it is a tricky three-party coalition.
I don´t know and I have two remarks on the above two quoted paragraphs:

The first paragraph mentions ¨ultra-nationalism¨. I think that is a very vague slogan, and I fear that is used by people who are afraid to use the terms fascism or neofascism, which in fact also are both vague terms, but not for the reason ¨ultra-nationalism¨ is (which I rarely saw used in the last ten years), but because there is an enormous literature on fascism, and while that is interesting, in part at least, it also showed that there are vast differences in explaining what ¨fascism¨ really stands for - and see my 
On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions in case you are interested.

Besides, I think Kuttner is a bit too optimistic about ¨the left¨ in the USA, but then I am glad if I am mistaken. (Perhaps we will find out after the results of the next elections are known.)

As to the second paragraph: Kuttner is not a European, and I am. For one thing, I don´t think that counting leftist governments is a good way of appraising the strength of ¨the left¨, but then again I agree that the Social Democrats, the Labour Party and the Socialists all have been enthusiastic ¨
co-sponsors of the neoliberal formula that brought down the economy¨.

But in sum, I don´t know, and the rest of this article is a rather enthusiastic review of Tooze´s book, that I have not read and skip. This is a recommended article.

2. Lee Camp: 'We're in a New Age of McCarthyism'

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:
“We’re in a new age of McCarthyism,” Camp tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer. “I grew up with people telling me, ‘What a dark time in America’s past! Let’s never go back to such a barbaric way of thinking’ … of guilt by association and letting our cognitive abilities just go by the wayside.”

For the past four years, Camp has hosted “Redacted Tonight” on Russia Today—a comedy show that explores the all-too-familiar ills of American empire: unchecked militarism, Wall Street greed and, perhaps most importantly, the propaganda of our political press. During that time, he has developed a cultlike following among leftists desperately searching for an alternative to corporate media.
I did not know that ¨Camp has hosted “Redacted Tonight” on Russia Today¨ and indeed still does, and two of my reasons are that I am not an American while Camp is also on pay TV, and I refuse to pay for the internet (and am very poor).

But I do know Camp from articles he wrote, that I liked. Here is Lee Camp on McCarthyism:
LC: But anyway, yeah, we’re in, you know–and I didn’t live through it, but we’re in a new age of McCarthyism. And you know, I grew up with people telling me, oh man, what a dark time in America’s past! Let’s never go back to such a barbaric way of thinking and guilt by association and being so afraid, and you know, just letting our cognitive abilities just go by the wayside to just point people and say, you know, you’re Russian, you sympathize with the Russians because you want peace, or you stand for something that I don’t necessarily agree with. And we’re all back, it seems like so much, so many Americans are just back there, you know, led by corporate media to just push this ridiculous red-baiting and neo-McCarthyism. And it’s a disgusting time in that sense.
In fact - and see McCarthyism - I think the present situation is considerably more serious than McCarthyism was, and the main reasons are the internet, the internet´s propaganda by and for the stupid and the ignorant, and the surveillance of everyone by the secret services and rich corporations. (None was there in McCarthy´s time.)

Here is more (and from now on the speaker is Lee Camp):
And immediately after school, went to New York to be a standup comic. And you know, I think like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing this for, I’ve been doing standup comedy for 20 years. It became increasingly political after the Iraq invasion in 2002; you know, that’s when I kind of had, continued to have my awakening as to what was really going on in our world. Started reading people like Chomsky and Hedges and yourself, and started to really understand the truth behind the corporate media, that maybe they don’t really want to touch on so much.
Camp did make the right choices, but I do want to add that he belongs to the intelligent minority, while the majority in the USA did not make these choices.

Here is Camp on comedy:
And that’s, I think, the great gift of comedy, is that people will sit and listen to ideas that they might disagree with, despite finding them a bit appalling or upsetting or uncomfortable or what have you. Whereas if you just lecture somebody and they disagree, they’ll often walk out in the first five minutes. And you know, I think that’s what’s exciting about comedy.
Yes, I agree. And here is Camp on George Carlin, whom I admire ever since I discovered him in 2010 (and it was impossible to do so earlier with the telephone modem I had from 1996 till 2009):
You know, Carlin said some very important things, and that’s why his legend continues to live on, and I think it’ll just continue to grow. And it’s because he already had that audience, he’d developed a large audience without saying things that threatened corporate America or the, you know, the gatekeepers. And then once he was threatening, it was too late; he was, he had such a massive platform, and was adored by so many people that it was too late. And some of his stuff in the nineties and early thousands is really important thought, for a comedian, at least, on the fact that we’re bombing endlessly, and that we perpetrate war so often, and those type of things that you don’t hear a lot from your entertainment.
Yes, and Camp is right that Carlin started to be radical and outspoken around 1990. In fact here is something I wrote in 2012 which contains a good list of videos with George Carlin, which still work: DSM-5 and a real philosopher: George Carlin

And here is a quotation from another bit that I wrote in 2012 on May 18:

As I have repeatedly said, I like the late US comedian George Carlin, who died in 2008, and - I have no TV since 1970 - whose existence was not known to me until 2010.

My main reasons to like him is that he is one of the few men I consider intelligent; one of the few men I consider courageous; and one of the very few men who dared to speak the truth as he saw it, and who saw sharply and spoke wittily.

Here is a link to piece of stand-up comedy that seems to be from the last year of his life, that is entitled on Youtube "You are a slave" and is a comical rant about a series of very serious and frightening facts. You find the video under the last link, and you find the text here, indented:

But there's a reason. There's a reason. There is a reason for this. There is a reason that education sucks, and that it will never ever ever be fixed. It is never going to be any better. Don't look for it. Be happy with what you've got. Because the owners of this country don't want that. I'm talking about the real owners now, the big wealthy businessmen who control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They have long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State Houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies so they can control just about all the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They are not interested in that. That  doesn't help them. That's against their interests. That's right. They don't want people smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard, thirty fucking years ago. They don't want that. You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paper work and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you're going to collect it it. And now they're coming for your social security money. They want your fucking retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you, sooner or later. Cause they own this fucking place. It's a big club and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club. By the way it is the same club that used to beat you over the head all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long beating you over the head in their media, telling you what to believe, and what to think, and what to buy. The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Good honest hard working people, white collar, blue collar, it doesn't matter what color shirt you have on, good honest hard working people continue - these are people of modest means - continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don't give a fuck about them. They don't give a fuck about you; they don't give a fuck about you: they don't care about you. At all. At all. At all. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That's what the owners count on: The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white an d blue dick that's being jammed into their assholes every day. Because the owners of this country know the truth. It's called "The American Dream", cause you have to be asleep to believe it.

As I said, it is a comical rant, by which I mean that it is best understood on a metaphorical and not a literal level, but with that qualification most of it makes a lot of sense:

There is a ruling élite, that combines the governing elite and the corporate elite; it does own most of the US and all the big companies; its executives in the media rule the opinions of ordinary men and women in the US; there is not much of a real difference between Democrats and Republicans in policies, for US politicians are bought and owned by the ruling élite and function as their sock puppets, and it is likely things will go much worse before they ever get better, mostly because those in power are corrupt or incompetent, and want it the way things are going now, with the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, while a police state is in the making to repress any protest, and because the solid majority of the electorate is stupid and can be deceived all of the time.

Indeed, from my point of view - and see my series Crisis - there are three possible outcomes: An economical and social collapse, possibly Real Soon Now, if Greece and Spain collapse, and then Europe; an authoritarian police-state, with or without collapse; or competent crisis management back to a regulated economical system and a relatively free society as was broken down from Reagan onwards.

As it is, the two first possibilities are far more likely than the third (...)

Back to the article. Here is the last bit that I quote from it:

And you know, I’ve–ever since I was little, you know, I wasn’t an activist, but I’ve always been very angry at being lied to or being misled. I, manipulation just makes me furious. And so [Laughs] I think that’s part of what has kept the fire of my anger going, and you know, kept me angry on this latest standup special, is I just hate to see so many people manipulated and then exploited through that manipulation.

I quoted this because it agrees with my own experiences: ¨I’ve always been very angry at being lied to or being misled. I, manipulation just makes me furious¨ and indeed I discovered this when I was 10, in 1960. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Haters and Partisans Have Always Been With Us. But This Is Different

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Hate, blame, greed, bigotry and fear have always been part of our politics.  If you doubt that, consider these statements from our second Presidential campaign in 1800, which pitted Adams against Jefferson for the second time.

Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
Franklin Roosevelt was called a fascist and a warmonger, and Wall Street and the big banks even tried to engineer a coup against him.  

 So, yes, hate fear bigotry, greed and blame have always been part of our politics, and there have always been idiots and haters among us.

Quite so, and there is in fact more on the place of ¨(...)¨ that I have skipped for this review.

Here is more:

Why this moment in history is different

There are several things that make this moment in history different.

First and foremost, unlike in times past, this president doesn’t try to stand above the fray and allow the basest of his followers to fan the flames of hate and divisiveness for him—he leads the hate parade; he ignites the fires of bigotry and blame; he scapegoats and actively and continuously appeals to the worst parts of our nature, and to the worst among us.  He doesn’t only seek to use hate, he mobilizes it.  His is a campaign of continuous and conscious attempts to wholesale hate and the “isms” he uses to create it. Thus, he doesn’t simply harness the hate of the marginalized and compromised among us, he seeks to expand the circle of hate to the mainstream.

Yes, I agree. This is important, but there is more, such as this:

For most of the 20th Century, the media was kept honest by laws that enabled the FCC to assure that:
  • Americans were exposed to a diversity of viewpoints from a wide variety of owners;
  • stations which spread lies and falsehoods were punished and reigned in; 
  • news stations presented opposing viewpoints.

But since Reagan and Clinton eviscerated these controls, information—or rather misinformation—mono-cultures like Fox “News,” IHeartMedia, and Sinclair have been allowed to spring up and proliferate. And with Trump, they have functioned as a state media to serve up hate, lies, and ignorance

Meanwhile, the mainstream media has been taken over by a few corporate interests and it has embraced “balance” and false equivalency as their canon, rather than factual reporting, the pursuit of truth, and the full exploration of context and nuance, so the lies from rightwing media and politicians (..)
I more or less agree, but there is - in my opinion - one important item missing, and that is that all of the above would have been quite impossible if the majority of the American population was not fairly to very stupid (and ignorant, but that was named in the above quote, quite correctly).

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

Social media compounds the problem of media monocultures by allowing misinformed right-wing mobs to coalesce around outlandish and counterfactual conspiracy theories.

And finally, there’s no real opposition party. Rather than standing on values and representing the people’s interests, Democrats have chosen tactics and empty rhetoric so they could continue to get their share of corporate and fat-cat largess to run their campaigns. 

But having a President who sows hate and blame, with what amounts to a state media is what makes this period in history unique, and uniquely dangerous.

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article. 
4. John Bolton Hails Brazilian Strongman as Welcome Ally

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Declaring not just sympathy but outright admiration for a fascist who has threatened violence against his leftist political opponents, celebrated the use of torture, and promised to give the police free rein to murder at will, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton on Thursday praised Brazil's newly elected strongman President Jair Bolsonaro as a "like-minded" partner who shares the Trump administration's commitment to so-called "free market principles."
Yes indeed - and I also would conclude from this quotation that John Bolton, like Donald Trump, is in fact a neofascist (which I think is correct in both cases, as it is for Bolsonario). Also, I add that the ¨so-called "free market principles"¨ are all either total delusions or straight lies (and besides, Trump is trying to regulate the market with China).

Here is more:
Bolton went on to proclaim that with the rise of Bolsonaro, "the Troika of Tyranny in this hemisphere—Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua—has finally met its match," coining a phrase that immediately drew comparisons to former President George W. Bush's infamous "Axis of Evil" line, which was used repeatedly to justify America's disastrous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vox's Alex Ward described Bolton's remarks as a "modern-day 'Axis of Evil' speech."

Intensifying fears that the Trump administration could be considering military action against Latin American nations it has deemed enemies, Bolton announced that the White House plans to take "direct action against" Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua "to defend the rule of law, liberty, and basic human decency in our region."

I think all of this is quite correctly reported, while I totally disagree with the neofascist Bolton. And this is a recommended article.

5. Global Internet Freedom Plummets as Governments Use Censorship and Surveillance

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Countries across the globe are following in the footsteps of the Chinese government, adopting authoritarian digital practices that pose serious threats to democracy, according to a new Freedom House report released Thursday.

For Freedom on the Net 2018 (pdf), more than 70 researchers comprehensively reviewed internet freedom in 65 countries that represent 87 percent of the world's internet users. They documented declines in 26 countries—including the United States under the Trump administration as well as Egypt, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Venezuela—and improvements in only 19 nations.

They found that "disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere. The unbridled collection of personal data has broken down traditional notions of privacy. And a cohort of countries is moving toward digital authoritarianism by embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018."

Precisely! I also recommend Freedom on the Net 2018 (pdf), but that is 8.8 MB. And in fact I have been warning since 2012 - see here - that what the internet threatened to be was the foundation of surveillance and the strong promoter of neofascism, and six years later I still think the same, but more so.

Here is more on the future of surveillance:

As Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz told AFP, this pattern of countries shifting toward China's model "poses a threat to the open internet and endangers prospects for greater democracy worldwide."

Writing for the Washington Post's opinion page on Thursday, Abramowitz and Freedom House chairman Michael Chertoff expanded on the dangers of China exporting its digital authoritarianism.
One main reason is that China expands its own - totalitarian, neofascist - internet regime, where every Chinese is checked for obedience to the government and for his or her opinions, values and ideas, and gets punished for those opinions, values and ideas that oppose the government, also to other countries (where governments tend to embrace it, simply because it does give them effective total control).

Here is more from this article:
While calling on Congress to reintroduce and pass the Global Online Freedom Act, which would increase pressure on countries that engage in repressive digital practices to change their ways, they argued that:

...the best way for democracies to stem the rise of digital authoritarianism is to prove that there is a better model for managing the internet. We will have to tackle social media manipulation and misuse of data in a manner that respects human rights, while also preserving an internet that is global, free, and secure.

Well... I agree with the principles of the last quotation, but I also think that it is too late: This report - which is good - should have been made shortly after 2001.

Here is more on the collapse of democracy that is caused by the internet:

In addition to calling out China for fueling a global decline in internet freedom the new report also details contributions from the United States and the Trump administration. Bolstering findings from Reporters Sans Frontières published earlier this year, Freedom House found that authoritarian governments the world over have co-opted President Donald Trump's favored phrase "fake news" to justify crackdowns on dissent and digital rights.

"In the past year, at least 17 countries approved or proposed laws that would restrict online media in the name of fighting 'fake news' and online manipulation," the report states.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the government has also taken steps over the past year to enable surveillance and limit the open internet. The GOP-controlled Congress reauthorized the FISA Amendments Act, including Section 702, and the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality protections that required internet service providers to treat all content equally.

And this is followed by a list of recommendations that is too long to review here. Again, I mostly agree with the recommendations and the principles, but I also think - as I said - that it is too late now to implement them. And this is a strongly 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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