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Nederlog

November 15, 2018

Crisis: Creeping Fascism, U.S. Postal Service, On Assange, The Next Crash, Wall Street Democrats


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 15, 2018

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 15, 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 15, 2018:
1. The Signs of Creeping Fascism Are All Around Us
2. Save the U.S. Postal Service
3. United States Will Bring Assange to US in Chains
4. The Next Crash
5. Will the Wall Street Democrats Part the Blue Wave?
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 Signs of Creeping Fascism Are All Around Us

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:
I’d just finished reading Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley’s new book, “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them,” a timely study of fascist politics past and present.

Stanley examines how modern authoritarian and nationalist—“fascist,” if you like (Stanley obviously does)—politicos have used and subverted purportedly democratic electoral politics to gain power.

Well... I have not read Stanley's new book and very probably never will, simply because I cannot read all or most of the new books that appear, while I have been reading more than 50 years about politics - and this last is a decent list of important books on politics that I have read (among very many more).

But there is a problem with Stanley and his new book: Once again, I have no idea what he means by "fascism", and my reasons are quite simple, for there are at least 21 definitions (or rather: "defininitions", for most are not proper definitions) of fascism, and they all contradict each other. Here is my own, that is better than the 21 that I have read: Fascism. And here is my survey of 21 other definitions of the same term: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions

My guess must be that Stanley also does not supply a decent definition of "fascism". As I said, I have not read his book, so this must be a guess (but it seems likely).

In any case, here is Street's summary of "10 common themes animating fascist ideology" in Stanley's book:

He finds 10 common themes animating fascist ideology and propaganda:

  1. Invocation of a mythic national past marked by racial, ethnic, religious and/or cultural purity—a supposedly glorious history to which the nation needs to return.
  2. Propagandistic use of outwardly virtuous ideals (including anti-corruption, democracy, liberty and free speech) to advance abhorrent ends that contradict those ideals.
  3. An anti-intellectual assault on education, universities, science, expertise and language, accompanied by charges of Marxism and “political correctness” against liberal and leftist enemies and the advance of simplistic nationalist and authoritarian ideals. This is fertile soil for the deadly denial of climate change that has occurred and for such absurd claims as the notion that whites are now more damaged by racism than are black, Latinx and Native American people in the U.S.
  4. An insidious attack on truth and on people’s ability to perceive and agree on truth. Regular and repeated obvious lying is combined with the advance of conspiracy theories and the promotion of “news as sports” and demagogic strongmen as “stars.”
  5. An ugly faith in natural hierarchies of worth and a rejection of equality as dangerous, unnatural, Marxist and liberal delusion.
  6. An aggrieved and counterfeit sense of victimhood among dominant “us” groups (racial, ethnic and/or religious) that feel threatened by having to share citizenship, resources and power with minority groups (“them”). This ironic victimology feeds an oppressive nationalism devoted to maintaining “natural” hierarchies and uniting “chosen” but supposedly oppressed racial, ethnic, religious groups (whites in the U.S., Christians in Hungary, Hindus in India, and so on.) against the supposedly false claims and unjust demands of “them”—those designated as “naturally” inferior others.
  7. A stern embrace of law and order that targets minority others (“them”) as criminal threats to the safety and security of the majority (“us”).
  8. Sexual anxiety about the threat supposedly posed by minority, criminal and alien others to “our” traditional male roles, status and family values.
  9. A loathing of cities seen as racially and sexually corrupt, ethnically impure, sexually perverse, parasitic criminal zones loaded with a polyglot mass of some inferior, nation-weakening “them.” By contrast, the rural countryside is lauded as the noble wellspring of virtue, strength, self-sufficiency and racial-ethnic purity. The rural heartland/fatherland/motherland/homeland is the sacred and foundational “blood and soil” preserve of “us.” It is the noble native soil of the “volk”—the true ancestral people who embody the spirit of a once-grand nation that needs to be made great again through the defeat of liberal and supposedly leftist elites who have been giving the nation’s resources and power away to naturally inferior others (“them”).
  10. A sense of the chosen-people majority (“us”) as hard-working, upright, virtuous and deserving, combined with the notion of demonized minorities and others (“them”) as lazy, dissolute, shifty and undeserving.
I am sorry, but while there are a number of more or less known points, I think my definition of fascism is a lot shorter and clearer, and also more objective. Here it is, once again:
Fascism: Fascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with centralized authority and a dictator, that suppresses the opposition through propaganda, censorship and terror, that propounds an ethics founded on discipline, virility, and collectivism, that has a politics that is totalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-equality, and anti-Marxist, that is also authoritarian, rightwing and nationalistic, and often racist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy, b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
I do think that this is a lot clearer than Stanley's list, and it is what I understand by "fascism".
Also, without
a somewhat decent definition of the same term, this is what I will understand by it (and will be understanding by it until I get a more decent definition than my own).

Next, there is a list of 17 points that illustrate "many episodes in which Trump has
checked the boxes on Stanley’s list of core fascist themes". I have skipped all of them, simply because I have not seen any clear definition of "fascism".

Then there is this:
Not content merely to describe fascist politics, Stanley seeks to explain its success, past and present. Fascism’s taproot, he finds, is harsh socioeconomic disparity:

Ever since Plato and Aristotle wrote on the topic, political theorists have known that democracy cannot flourish on soil poisoned by inequality. … [T]he resentments bred by such divisions are tempting targets for demagogues. … Dramatic inequality poses a mortal danger to the shared reality required for a healthy liberal democracy … [such] inequality breeds delusions that mask reality, undermining the possibility of joint deliberation to sole society’s divisions. …

Under conditions of stark economic inequality, when the benefits of liberal education, and the exposure to diverse cultures and norms are available only to the wealthy few, liberal tolerance can be smoothly represented as elite privilege. Stark economic inequality creates conditions richly conducive to fascist demagoguery. It is a fantasy to think that liberal democratic norms can flourish under such conditions.

Well... I agree with one thing in the above quotation: "Stark economic inequality creates conditions richly conducive to fascist demagoguery".

But (i) fascism - in any shape, form or definition - was unknown in antiquity, while (ii) both Plato and Aristotle were strong opponents of democracy, and (iii) they also lived in cities or city-states, much rather than in the very much larger states of the present, while (iv) something like 3 out of 4 people living in ancient city-states were in fact slaves.

None of these points has been mentioned (but I did not read Stanley's book). Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

He does not say so (this is a problem withHow Fascism Works”), but Stanley surely knows that the neoliberal Democratic Party of the late 20th and early 21st centuries has partnered with Republicans in the creation of a New Gilded Age of spectacular democracy- and tolerance-disabling class disparity. The Democrats have participated for decades in the richly bipartisan making of plutocratic policies that have shifted wealth and income so far upward that three absurdly rich people (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos) now possess as much wealth between them as the poorest half of Americans, while the top 10th of the upper 1 percent has as much wealth as the nation’s bottom 90 percent.

In fact, there is a whole lot more. I leave it to your interests, and can more or less recommend it, provided that you know a clear and respectable definition of fascism.

Meanwhile, I have proposed my own means to oppose plutocracy, and that is to legally forbid it (after at least 2500 years that were most plutocratic): Forbid anyone owning or earning more than 20 times as much as the poorest in one's society - where I should mention Orwell favored 10 times as much, and American workers seem to have favored 7 times as much. For more see my Crisis: On Socialism (that is strongly recommended for those interested in socialism).


2. Save the U.S. Postal Service

This article is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet and originally at Creators.com. It starts as follows:

Unable to find a fatal flaw in our far-flung public mail delivery network, the anti-Postal Service forces manufactured a fake flaw. In 2006, then-president George W. Bush, congressional Republican leaders, the powerful "privatizer lobby" (including FedEx, UPS and Wall Street speculators) and Koch-funded think tanks and Astroturf front groups colluded to put a one-of-a-kind paper "debt" on the books of USPS. Congress enacted a postal-service "enhancement" provision requiring the public postal corporation to pre-fund the health and pension benefits for all postal-service retirees 75 years in advance! Think about that. This arbitrary, wholly unprecedented, legislated requirement to pay now for the retirement benefits of future employees (including those not even born yet) has piled a false cost of about $5 billion a year on the debit side of the agency's balance sheet.

By cooking the books with this false entry, the right wing has been able to wail that our Postal Service is broke and continuing to bleed money, endangering taxpayers with a massive bailout.
I say, for while I did know something like the above, this is the first time that I have read a description as clear as this.

Here is more:

Chances are that you, too, have been caught up in their lie, because supposedly responsible, mainstream news sources (Washington Post, AP, network TV channels, NPR, etc.) have swallowed it whole and routinely repeat it unedited and in unison. At the end of each fiscal year, when USPS is compelled by law to announce yet another multibillion-dollar "loss," mass media outlets report the dramatic number without explaining the bookkeeping hoax hidden in it.

This artificial, 75-year pre-funding decree is an absurd burden that no other corporation or government agency is forced to carry. Take it away, and voila! The Postal Service is a moneymaker. Since 2014, it has posted operating profits totaling $2.7 billion -- a healthy average of $900 million a year.

I say, again. (Also, I like the postal services, simply because it is not inundated with sick spies who try to know everything about anyone, and normally succeed.)

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

Nothing symbolizes our fight for the democratic ideal of the Common Good more than our public post office. This essential, egalitarian, nationwide service literally is us: It was a unifying center of American life before the USA itself was formed, and it is the only agency enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. More profoundly, its 31,000 branches belong to us, not a handful of rich corporate investors, tangibly linking your mailbox and mine to all others. Our postal service is daily proof that we really are "all in this together." To save our public postal service, go to USMailNotforSale.org.

Actually, I don't think the above quotation is very good, but I do like postal services, and strongly hope they will be preserved in the USA. And this is a recommended article. 

3. United States Will Bring Assange to US in Chains

This article is by Ann Garrison on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
It appears increasingly likely Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange will wind up in the clutches of the U.S. government.

It’s hardly surprising, given that in ten years’ time, Wikileaks published more classified information than all other media combined. It exposed human rights abuses, government spying, torture, and war crimes on an unprecedented scale.

WikiLeaks put government, corporations and even the Pentagon, the FBI, the CIA and other intel agencies on notice that they could no longer count on operating in secret.

It created a trove of primary source material that serious journalists and researchers will mine for years to come. Its publications are accessible to readers who prefer primary sources to mostly mediated news.

Wikileaks so infuriates the USA’s most violent, corrupt, and criminal institutions that Hillary Clinton half-jokingly suggested drone-bombing Assange. Other U.S. politicians called for his execution by other means.
Yes indeed: All the facts mentioned in the above quotation are facts, and I agree with the implication that the most likely outcome for Assange is that he "will wind up in the clutches of the U.S. government", who probably will torture him to find out what he knows.

Here is some more, mostly on the so-called "Resistance":
California’s 28th District Congressman Adam Schiff, who became the chair of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats reclaimed the House, said he would speak to Assange “when he is in U.S. custody, not before.”

Schiff is a vociferous and supremely self-righteous leader of the Democratic Party’s “Resistance,” which sullies the name of the underground movement formed in France during World War II to fight Nazi Germany’s occupying forces and the collaborationist Vichy government.

The “Resistance” tolerates only one truth and one loyalty: Russia is the enemy, interfering in Syria, the Ukraine and even U.S. elections. Russia elected Trump with Wikileaks’ help, it says. Russia dares to position missiles on its own borders, it says, to respond to NATO’s missiles on the other side. The U.S. must build more missiles, more drones, more nuclear weapons, and every other sort of weapon to defend the European world against Russia and its ally China.
Well... I don't know precisely how correct Garrison is in reporting about the "Resistance" but I do agree that - after viewing a few of the videos propounded by this group of Democrats - I do not take them serious, and have not done so for years.

Here is something about Kiriakou:
CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who spent two years in prison for exposing the agency’s official use of torture, said if Assange walks out of the embassy without a guarantee of safe passage, he will be extradited to the U.S. in chains:

    “We all know why the British have that embassy ringed. It’s to snatch him and to turn him over to the United States. If that happens, the CIA and the FBI are both going to be on that plane and they’re both going to be at least attempting to interrogate him all the way back home. They will bring him back to the United States in chains because that’s what they do.“
Yes, I agree with Kiriakou. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Dawson feels the FBI and CIA will interrogate and torture Assange to try to obtain information that would allow them to bring Wikileaks down. She has no doubt he’s been preparing for this eventuality for years. She believes he will have made sure the organization has adopted security codes and measures he himself doesn’t know and therefore can’t reveal—even if he’s tortured.

    “They want to know about security files for example. They want to know about the inner processes and workings of Wikileaks. They want access to the knowledge that’s inside Julian’s brain. And they will torture him. And they will interrogate him in order to attempt to get that.

    “Now I trust Julian to be smart enough to have made sure that even he doesn’t possess a lot of that knowledge. In my personal opinion, Julian has spent years planning for these various eventualities, but it won’t stop them from trying.”

Dawson added intelligence agencies are eager to punish him: “At the end of the day they want to punish him for outing their corruption and their crimes."
Yes, I think this is correct. This is a strongly recommended article.

4. The Next Crash

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:
Sorry to deliver the news, but it’s time to worry about the next crash.

The combination of stagnant wages with most economic gains going to the top is once again endangering the economy. 

Most Americans are still living in the shadow of the Great Recession that started in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009. More have jobs, to be sure. But they haven’t seen any rise in their wages, adjusted for inflation.

Many are worse off due to the escalating costs of housing, healthcare, and education. And the value of whatever assets they own is less than in 2007. Which suggests we’re careening toward the same sort of crash we had then, and possibly as bad as 1929.

Clear away the financial rubble from those two former crashes and you’d see they both followed upon widening imbalances between the capacity of most people to buy, and what they as workers could produce. Each of these imbalances finally tipped the economy over.

Well... I agree there will be another crisis (but I also think anyone who is somewhat informed about economics expects this) and I also agree with Reich that when it occurs it probably wlll be a major crisis.

Then again, I do not know whether I agree with Reich on the cause(s) of crises, and I do like to add that I am the only one - to my knowledge - who has written explicitly about the crisis of 2008 (for then it started in Holland) for ten years now. I wrote over 2100 articles about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (and will continue).

Here is more on the next crisis:

The same imbalance has been growing again. The richest 1 percent of Americans now takes home about 20 percent of total income, and owns over 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.

These are close to the peaks of 1928 and 2007.

The underlying problem isn’t that Americans have been living beyond their means. It’s that their means haven’t been keeping up with the growing economy. Most gains have gone to the top.

But the rich only spend a small fraction of what they earn. The economy depends on the spending of middle and working class families.

By the first quarter of this year, household debt was at an all-time high of $13.2 trillion. Almost 80 percent of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.

It was similar in the years leading up to the crash of 2007. Between 1983 and 2007, household debt soared while most economic gains went to the top.
I think this is all true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Similarly, between 1913 and 1928, the ratio of personal debt to the total national economy nearly doubled. After the 1929 crash, the government invented new ways to boost wages – Social Security, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, a minimum wage, the requirement that employers bargain with labor unions, and, finally, a full-employment program called World War II.

After the 2007 crash, the government bailed out the banks and pumped enough money into the economy to contain the slide. But apart from the Affordable Care Act, nothing was done to address the underlying problem of stagnant wages.

And these are major reasons to suspect or assume that a new crisis will recur in the near future.
This is a recommended article.


5. Will the Wall Street Democrats Part the Blue Wave?

This article is by Les Leopold on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Some Democratic Party leaders believe they have discovered a new winning formula: Suburbanites, women and minorities, and forget about the white working class.

The Wall Street Democrats sure hope so. They have little desire to emphasize working class economic issues, many of which could threaten their vast riches. After all, aren't suburbanites supposed to be liberal on social issues and fiscally conservative?

As the Democrats move towards 2020, it is crucial to recall that Wall Street benefited mightily from the policies put forth by the Clinton and Obama administrations. Bill Clinton gave us massive financial deregulation, NAFTA, and welfare cuts.  Barack Obama bailed out Wall Street, but not Main Street, called for austerity to cut deficits, and then pursued the Trans-Pacific free trade agreement, which labor abhorred.  He did pass the Affordable Care Act, but it depends heavily on the private insurance industry and therefore poses no threat to financial interests. Even Dodd-Frank did little to shackle Wall Street’s financial strip-mining activities.

Yes indeed: I basically agree and strongly dislike Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, for the given reasons. Then I have a question: How many of the elected Democrats (in the House and the Senate, especially) are "Wall Street Democrats" i.e. have been effectively bought by Wall Street?

In fact, I don't know but my reasonably well-founded guess (after Clinton and Obama) is something like 9 out 10 (and remember there are also many lobbyists per elected person).

I do not know, but my strong guess is that it certainly is the majority. Here is something like a foundation for my guesses:

It simply a matter of modern laissez faire economics. Wall Street wants little regulation on itself or the global economy as it rapidly moves capital around the globe. Wall Street also wants governments to balance their budgets in order to stall even the slightest whiff of inflation. This often means pressing for austerity policies for the masses in the form of constrained government spending on social programs and public employment. However, when trouble hits, say goodbye to the free-market ideology: government handouts to Wall Street are demanded and received. 

This formula, which academics call neoliberalism, has given us forty years of runaway inequality, stagnant wages and the worst financial crash since the Great Depression. Many working class voters first looked to the Obama administration for hope and help. Later, many of these same voters turned to Trump.

Yes indeed. There is a lot more in this article, but I will only answer the question the title of this article asks, and my answer is yes, they will.


Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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