November 6, 2018

Crisis: Scum vs. Scum, Chomsky, U.K. Scientists Risk Prison, Congress Collapsed, U.S. Poverty


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 6, 2018
     B. Extra On The U.S. Elections

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, November 6, 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 6, 2018:
1. Scum vs. Scum
2. Noam Chomsky: Republican Party Is the “Most Dangerous Organization
     in Human History”

3. U.K. Scientists Risk Prison to Urge Climate Action
4. The Complete Collapse of Congress as a Democratic Institution
5. The Evidence Pours In: Poverty Getting Much Worse in America
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. Scum vs. Scum

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:
Scum versus scum. That sums up this election season. Is it any wonder that 100 million Americans don’t bother to vote? When all you are offered is Bob One or Bob Two, why bother? One-fourth of Democratic challengers in competitive House districts in this week’s elections have backgrounds in the CIA, the military, the National Security Council or the State Department. Nearly all candidates on the ballots in House races are corporate-sponsored, with a few lonely exceptions such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, members of the Democratic Socialists of America who are running as Democrats.
I agree that "Scum vs Scum" seems a quite decent description of the present American elections, and the main reason is (in my opinion) the fact that "[n]early all candidates on the ballots in House races are corporate-sponsored".

But I do not quite agree with the appeal to the 100 million non-voting Americans (in the last presidential election of 2016), and I do not because I do not know their motives, and in fact suspect (but cannot prove) that many are stupid and ignorant (which seem to be two terms - especially stupidity - that are not the be used in the American press when describing Americans).

Besides, there is a difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, although I quite agree with Hedges that nearly all are paid by major and rich corporations, and that the choice is effectively from two evils.

Here is more on financial corruption and the Democrats:

“In interviews with two dozen Wall Street executives, fund-raisers, donors and those who raise money from them, Democrats described an extraordinary level of investment and excitement from the finance sector … ,” The New York Times reported about current campaign contributions to the Democrats from the corporate oligarchs.

Our system of legalized bribery is an equal-opportunity employer.

Of course, we are all supposed to vote Democratic to halt the tide of Trump fascism. But should the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, hate speech and violence as a tool for intimidation and control will increase, with much of it directed, as we saw with the pipe bombs intended to decapitate the Democratic Party leadership, toward prominent Democratic politicians and critics of Donald Trump. Should the white man’s party of the president retain control of the House and the Senate, violence will still be the favored instrument of political control as the last of democratic protections are stripped from us. Either way we are in for it.

I do not think that the last paragraph is a good argument not to vote. Also, I agree with Hedges that Trump is a neofascist (though Hedges says fascist, but I doubt he has a good definition in mind), while the Democrats are bad but less so.

Anyway... here is more:

Trump is a clownish and embarrassing tool of the kleptocrats. His faux populism is a sham. Only the rich like his tax cuts, his refusal to raise the minimum wage and his effort to destroy Obamacare. All he has left is hate. And he will use it. Which is not to say that, if only to throw up some obstacle to Trump, you shouldn’t vote for the Democratic scum, tools of the war industry and the pharmaceutical and insurance industry, Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry, as opposed to the Republican scum. But Democratic control of the House will do very little to halt our descent into corporate tyranny, especially with another economic crisis brewing on Wall Street. The rot inside the American political system is deep and terminal.

Well... all I am saying is that the Democrats are less evil than the Republicans, and in the given circumstances it is therefore better to vote for the least evil. And while I agree that there undoubtedly will be "another economic crisis" I have no idea when it will arrive, and I think no one has a rationally based idea on this.

Here is more:

Bertram Gross (1912-1997) in “Friendly Fascism: The New Face of American Power” warned us that fascism always has two looks. One is paternal, benevolent, entertaining and kind. The other is embodied in the executioner’s sadistic leer. Janus-like, fascism seeks to present itself to a captive public as a force for good and moral renewal. It promises protection against enemies real and invented. But denounce its ideology, challenge its power, demand freedom from fascism’s iron grip, and you are mercilessly crushed. Gross knew that if the United States’ form of fascism, expressed through corporate tyranny, was able to effectively mask its true intentions behind its “friendly” face we would be stripped of power, shorn of our most cherished rights and impoverished. He has been proved correct.
I did not know about Bertram Gross and he seems to have been a rational and reasonable man. In fact, there is considerably more on him, including quotations, in this article. I do not quote him because this review is quite long already.

Here is more:
No totalitarian state has mastered propaganda better than the corporate state. Our press has replaced journalism with trivia, feel-good stories, jingoism and celebrity gossip. The banal and the absurd, delivered by cheery corporate courtiers, saturate the airwaves. Our emotions are skillfully manipulated around manufactured personalities and manufactured events. We are, at the same time, offered elaborate diversionary spectacles including sporting events, reality television and absurdist political campaigns.
Probably so, but I think that one may - so far, at least - escape most of the consequences of viewing the mainstream (aka corporate) media. In fact, I do, but the price may be too high for many: I have no TV since 1970 (because I hate propaganda and rarely learned anything from TV); I don't use a tablet at all (for I don't want to be contained in advertising); and in fact I only use Firefox and normal e-mail and DuckDuckGo for searches.

I feel quite good about this set-up, but it may be difficult for others. Here is more:
You cannot use the word “liberty” when your government, as ours does, watches you 24 hours a day and stores all of your personal information in government computers in perpetuity. You cannot use the word “liberty” when you are the most photographed and monitored population in human history. You cannot use the word “liberty” when it is impossible to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs or General Dynamics. You cannot use the word “liberty” when the state empowers militarized police to use indiscriminate lethal force against unarmed citizens in the streets of American cities. You cannot use the word “liberty” when 2.3 million citizens, mostly poor people of color, are held in the largest prison system on earth. This is the relationship between a master and a slave.
I completely agree. Here is some on Sheldon Wolin:
The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin, refining Gross’ thesis, would later characterize this corporate tyranny or friendly fascism as “inverted totalitarianism.” It was, as Gross and Wolin pointed out, characterized by anonymity. It purported to pay fealty to electoral politics, the Constitution and the iconography and symbols of American patriotism but internally had seized all of the levers of power to render the citizen impotent.
In fact, the link is to a series of interviews that Hedges had with Wolin in 2014. I think these interviews are quite interesting and wrote reviews of all of them, which you can find here. Both are strongly recommended.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The elites, Republican and Democrat, belong to the same club. We are not in it. Take a look at the flight roster of the billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of prostituting dozens of underage girls and ended up spending 13 months in prison on a single count. He flew political insiders from both parties and the business world to his secluded Caribbean island, known as “Orgy Island,” on his jet, which the press nicknamed “the Lolita Express.” Some of the names on his flight roster, which usually included unidentified women, were Bill Clinton, who took dozens of trips, Alan Dershowitz, former Treasury Secretary and former Harvard President Larry Summers, the Candide-like Steven Pinker, whose fairy dust ensures we are getting better and better, and Britain’s Prince Andrew.
I admit that I quoted this last bit especially because of Steven Pinker, whom I dislike ever since hearing a personal lecture by him in Amsterdam in - I believe - 1996, simply because it was mainly baloney (about the human mind): He also went (like Bill Clinton, Dershowitz and Summers) with "the Lolita Express" to "Orgy Island". I say. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Noam Chomsky: Republican Party Is the “Most Dangerous Organization in Human History”

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
In the run-up to the U.S. midterm elections, we speak with world-renowned linguist, dissident and author Noam Chomsky. “What are the domestic policies of the Trump administration?” Chomsky says. “Very straightforward: lavish gifts on the rich, powerful corporate sector and try to undermine and destroy anything that might be of benefit to the general population.”
Yes, I agree with Chomsky. Also, this interview is one of three with Chomsky on Democracy Now! Here is more:
NOAM CHOMSKY: So, is it the most gravest moment in my life? Yes. But also in all of human history. And things like the election will have an impact on this.
I suppose Chomsky's reason is that there are two ways today in which all of human civilization and probably all of human beings may be destroyed, namely an environmental collapse and a nuclear war.

Here is more:

NOAM CHOMSKY: What are the domestic policies of the Trump administration? They’re very straightforward: lavish gifts on the rich, powerful corporate sector and try to undermine and destroy anything that might be of benefit to the general population. That’s quite explicitly what’s happening before our eyes.

So, take the legislative achievement that the Republican Party is most proud of: their tax bill—as economist Joseph Stiglitz described it, the donor relief plan of 2017. It’s an enormous gift to wealth, corporate power, including real estate interests, incidentally. Enormous gift, frankly. And it has the secondary advantage—as the Republican leadership was quick to point out, it has the advantage of creating a huge deficit, which can be used as a pretext for getting rid of social spending. U.S. social spending is already very meager by world standards. We’re down at the bottom of the OECD, the 30 rich countries, along with Greece and Turkey, in social benefits spendings. But there’s something there, so let’s get rid of it. Let’s undermine Medicaid, which goes to the undeserving poor; let’s undermine Social Security, which working people just rely on for survival—all because we have to lavish gifts on the super-rich and ensure that the corporations have profits bulging out of their ears.
I completely agree - and like to add I said so already in 2012, when I wrote - and see my Crisis: Hypotheses about CF+SS (which is strongly recommended):
  1. What or whoever cannot be exploited for some corporate profit deserves not to be at all.
  2. Truth is what the state organs state.
  3. Good is what the state organs order. 
  4. Whoever does not collaborate with state officials and state policies is - effectively - a terrorist.
  5. Whoever is a terrorist deserves to die.
  6. Anything is permitted against any terrorist (suspect).
Here is more from the article:

AMY GOODMAN: And on that issue, you have been extremely critical of Democrats. But with this whole discussion of whether the House will turn Democrat, and possibly the Senate, do you think it matters?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I think it matters. Yes, we have every reason to be critical of the Democrats. These policies of the last generation, the neoliberal policies that have led to these conditions we’ve been talking about, the so-called New Democrats, the Clinton Democrats, have been right at the forefront. Say, deregulation of financial institutions, one of Clinton’s great achievements, which led directly to the financial crisis, along with—one of the factors that led to it—his attack on the welfare program. Lots that we can blame them for.

Yes, and I agree with Chomsky. And as I said, there is another interview with Chomsky preceding this one, and also one following it, all on Democracy Now! All are strongly recommended. 

3. U.K. Scientists Risk Prison to Urge Climate Action

This article is by Alex Kirby on Truthdig and originally on the Climate News Network. It starts as follows:

A growing number of British academics, writers and activists say they are ready to go to prison in support of their demands for action on the environment.

Scientists are not normally renowned for their political activism, and the UK is hardly a hotbed of determined and risky protest against its rulers. But, if this group of nearly 100 British scientists and their backers is right, all that may be on the brink of changing.

Today sees the launch of ExtinctionRebellion, which describes itself as an international movement using mass civil disobedience to force governments to enter World War II-level mobilization mode, in response to climate breakdown and ecological crisis.

I say!

I do so because I am a psychologist and a philosopher, in university-terms, and because I have very many experiences with Dutch academical scientists - that is, scientists who were employed by a Dutch university - and my own main lesson from that (mostly, I admit, in the 1980ies, but it went on until 2011) were that if you are a Dutch academic you hardly say or write anything whatsoever that could possibly disoblige your employers, and nothing whatsoever that could put you in jail.

So I admit I am a bit surprised by this English academic movement. Here is more:

The group is launching a Declaration of Rebellion against the UK government “for criminal inaction in the face of climate change catastrophe and ecological collapse” at the Houses of Parliament in central London.

“Now is the time because we are out of time. There is nothing left to lose.”

The group’s demands include the declaration by the UK government of a state of emergency, action to create a zero carbon economy by 2025, and the establishment of a national assembly of “ordinary people” to decide what the zero carbon future will look like.

“We need ExtinctionRebellion as part of the mosaic of responses to the extremely precarious situation we now find ourselves in”

From today it promises “repeated acts of disruptive, non-violent civil disobedience” if the government does not respond seriously to its demands, and says “there will be mass arrests.”

I say, again - and I have to admit that while I respect these academics and scientists, I also expect that they will fail (and I am sorry, but that is my expectation).

Here is more:

Based on the science, it says, humans have ten years at the most to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to zero or the human race and most other species will be at high risk of extinction within decades.

“Children alive today in the UK will face unimaginable horrors as a result of floods, wildfires, extreme weather, crop failures and the inevitable breakdown of society when the pressures are so great. We are unprepared for the danger our future holds.”

I think the last two quoted paragraphs may well be correct (and I agree that "[w]e are" - still, in large majority, to the best of my considerable knowlede - "unprepared for the danger our future holds").

Here is the last bit from this article:

On 30 October the Worldwide Fund for Nature reported that humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970, something it says threatens the survival of civilization. ExtinctionRebellion says the loss of species shows that “the planet is in ecological crisis, and we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event this planet has experienced.”

Its members say they are willing to make personal sacrifices, to be arrested and to go to prison. They hope to inspire similar actions around the world and believe this global effort must begin in the UK, today, where the industrial revolution began.

Well... I hope they succeed, but my guess is that they will not. I hope my guess is mistaken, but I also have been following the environment for 50 years without seeing hardly any effective measure to improve it. And this is a recommended article.

4. The Complete Collapse of Congress as a Democratic Institution

This article is by Derek Willis from ProPublica and Paul Kane from The Washington Post. It starts as follows:

For more than 200 years, Congress operated largely as the country’s founders envisioned — forging compromises on the biggest issues of the day while asserting its authority to declare war, spend taxpayer money and keep the presidency in check.

Today, on the eve of a closely fought election that will determine who runs Capitol Hill, that model is effectively dead.

It has been replaced by a weakened legislative branch in which debate is strictly curtailed, party leaders dictate the agenda, most elected representatives rarely get a say and government shutdowns are a regular threat due to chronic failures to agree on budgets, according to a new analysis of congressional data and documents by The Washington Post and ProPublica.

This seems mostly correct (with some reservations about the first paragraph). Here is more:

The study found that the transformation has occurred relatively fast — sparked by the hyperpolarized climate that has enveloped politics since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama and the subsequent dawn of the tea party movement on the right. During that time, as the political center has largely evaporated, party leaders have adhered to the demands of their bases, while rules and traditions that long encouraged deliberative dealmaking have given way to partisan gridlock, the analysis found.

While few of these changes made headlines, taken together they have fundamentally altered the way Congress operates — and morphed this equally powerful branch of government into one that functions more as a junior partner to the executive, or doesn’t function at all when it comes to the country’s pressing priorities.

I think these two paragraphs are quite correct - and I add that my crisis series, that started on September 1, 2008, is the only series about the crisis that I know that was maintained the last 10 years, indeed - I checked it today - for presently close to 400 MB of text (in html).

Here is more from the article:

Tuesday’s elections could bring big changes to the Capitol, particularly if Democrats win control of the House and launch aggressive investigations of the Trump administration, but there is little evidence that the leaders of either party are prepared to rebuild the old system.

Again I quite agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

“More and more legislative authority is delegated to the executive branch every year. Both parties do it. The legislature is impotent. The legislature is weak,” Sasse, in just his fourth year in office, said.

Executive branch agencies now make law, not Congress, he said.
I agree again. There is a lot more in the article, which is strongly recommended.

5. The Evidence Pours In: Poverty Getting Much Worse in America

This article is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
A White House report recently proclaimed that the "War on Poverty is largely over and a success." United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said it was "ridiculous for the United Nations to examine poverty in America." 

Well-positioned Americans must talk like this, of course, because admitting the debilitating state of poverty in America might provoke feelings of guilt for 35 years of oppressive economic policies. Wealthier people need to take an honest look at the facts. They need to face reality as it sadly exists in America today.

1 in 7 Americans is Part of the World's Poorest 10% 

According to the Credit Suisse 2018 Global Wealth Databook, 34 million American adults are among the WORLD'S POOREST 10%. How is that possible? In a word, debt. In more excruciating words: stifling, misery-inducing, deadly amounts of debt for the poorest Americans. And it goes beyond dollars to the "deaths of despair" caused by the stresses of inferior health care coverage, stagnating incomes, and out-of-control inequality.
I think all of this is quite correct. Here is more:
Half of Us are In or Near Poverty 

$1 in expenses twenty years ago is now $1.25. $1 in earnings twenty years ago is now still $1

More and more Americans are facing financial difficulty. Estimates of adults living from paycheck to paycheck range from half to 60 percent to 78 percent. Any sign of a recession would be devastating for most of us. 

It's estimated that a typical U.S. household needs about $60,000 annually to meet all expenses. That's only manageable if two adults are working full-time for $15 per hour.
I think this is also correct, but I want to add that a major reason why I am against the feminism that arose in the late 1960ies is that they are at least partially responsible that both the father and mother have to work full-time to be able to raise a family (that they will not see much of, because they are too busy working).

Here is more:

Many of today's 'gig' jobs don't pay a living wage, and most have no retirement or health benefits, no job security, no government regulations backing them, and usually a longer work day, with many people putting in 10- to 12-hour days for $13 per hour or less. According to a New York Times report, "41.7 million laborers — nearly a third of the American work force — earn less than $12 an hour, and almost none of their employers offer health insurance."
I say - and I think this is correct as well. (Also, while I very probably earned less than any other Dutchman who did not go to prison in the last 50 years, I do have a pension and health benefits since 2015, when I got to be 65. Then again, it seems that those who are several decades younger than I am will not have a pension, unless they save it themselves: Progress!)

Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:
The extreme levels of American poverty and inequality are ripping apart once-interdependent communities with mental health  and homelessness problems, and with a surge in drug and alcohol and suicide "deaths of despair." 

Part of the definition of poverty is "the state of being inferior in quality." As one of the most unequal nations in the entire world, America is also, in many ways, one of the most poverty-stricken.
I think this also is correct, and this is a strongly recommended article.
B. Extra On The U.S. Elections

This article is by the staff of Democracy Now!
I shall quote only one bit, and this item is here because of the U.S. elections today:

On Tuesday, November 6, as polls close around the country, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, Juan González and Nermeen Shaikh will be joined by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill to host a rolling roundtable discussion with guests across the country.

In addition to real-time election returns, we will focus on some of the nation’s most contested races and ballot initiatives. A record number of women and people of color are running for every level of elected office. We’ll also be examining the issues and movements at the heart of these midterm elections and the state of U.S. democracy two years into the Trump presidency.

And though I very probably will not view this, it is recommended for people who live in the USA. (Check the details by checking the above dotted link.)


[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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