January 2, 2019

Crisis: Chomsky on Brazil, and Human Life, Brazil's Neofascist, Bernie Sanders, The US Democrats


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 2, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, January 2, 2019. 

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 three 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 January 2, 2019:
1. Noam Chomsky on Brazil’s New Far-Right President Jair Bolsonaro
2. The Future of Organized Human Life Is At Risk Thanks to GOP’s Climate
     Change Denial

3. Brazil's Bolsonaro Assumes Presidency, Promises Big Changes

4. A Bold, Progressive Agenda for a Happier and Healthier New Year

5. The War for the Democratic Party Continues
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. Noam Chomsky on Brazil’s New Far-Right President Jair Bolsonaro

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

As Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro prepares to take office on Tuesday, we return to our conversation with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky shortly after the election. Bolsonaro’s impending presidency marks the most radical political shift Brazil since military rule ended more than 30 years ago. Bolsonaro is a former Army officer who has praised Brazil’s former military dictatorship, spoken in favor of torture and threatened to destroy, imprison or banish his political opponents. Bolsonaro has also encouraged the police to kill suspected drug dealers, and once told a female lawmaker she was too ugly to rape. Noam Chomsky calls Bolsonaro a “disaster for Brazil.”

Yes, and I agree with Chomsky - and bear in mind that Brazil is much larger and much more populous than Hitler's Germany.

Here is more:

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, it’s entirely natural for Bolton to welcome Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro is definitely his kind of guy. He’s vicious, brutal, a strong supporter, enthusiastic supporter of torture. He was a little bit critical of the military dictatorship—because it didn’t kill enough people. He thought it should have killed 30,000 people, like the Argentine dictatorship, which was the worst of the U.S.-backed dictatorships in Latin America. He wants to throw the country open to investors, turn Brazil into a kind of a caricature of a country. This includes opening up the Amazon to his agribusiness supporters. It’s a serious blow, if not even a death knell to the species. It means virtual genocide for the indigenous population. According to Bolsonaro, they don’t deserve a square centimeter. But, by and large, just the kind of guy that Bolton would greatly admire.

Yes, I agree, although - while I think the human species is very seriously threatening getting itself extincted, I do not know whether the election of Bolsonaro is sufficient for that. Then again, I am also not quite sure what Chomsky means.

Here is more:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Among the Cabinet ministers that Bolsonaro is likely to appoint is Paulo Guedes. Could you say something about his background? He’s going to be Bolsonaro’s chief financial adviser, the head of the so-called super ministry combining the current planning, finance and industry ministries. What is this person’s background?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, Guedes is a ultra-right-wing Chicago economist. He’s spent time in Pinochet’s Chile. He’s been very frank and open in interviews in the Brazilian press about his plans. It’s very simple: As he puts it, privatize everything—everything, infrastructure, anything you can think of. The reason, the motive, is to pay off the debt which is owned by the predatory financial institutions that have been robbing the country blind. This will give away the resources of the country for the future. And as I mentioned, one part of it is Bolsonaro’s favorite program of opening the Amazon to agribusiness. So, he’s exactly the kind of person who succeeded in driving Chile’s economy to utter disaster within only a few years.

Yes, I quite agree with Chomsky. Incidentally, "privatize everything" = short for "give everything to the few rich".

Here is more:

So, this is the man who’s one of their great admirers, is now taking over the Brazilian economy. And it will be a heyday for investors. Stock market loves it. They think they’ll be able to rob freely. Brazil does have enormous wealth and resources, which they’re glad to get their hands on. For the future of Brazil, it’s a disaster, I think; for the region, quite harmful. One of the things that Guedes has already said is that they may pull Brazil out of Mercosur, the South American trade system that had been established and, in fact, Lula had pushed forward. And for the world, it will also be a potential disaster. Destroying—if they proceed to destroy the Amazon, that is a very serious attack on the environment.

Yes, I totally agree. Here is the ending of this article:

Elites in Latin America simply have no responsibility for the welfare of the country. They don’t pay taxes, export capital, import luxury goods—radically different, say, from East Asia, which has developed with much less resources. The PT did nothing to change this. They also did nothing to open up more possibilities for a less monopolized media which would have other voices. And, very unfortunately, they fell prey to the corruption which is endemic in the Brazilian political class, bad enough, not to the extent of their accusers, but bad enough. And all of that has given an opportunity for the far right to carry out this process that I just described, which led to the election of the most malicious and vicious creatures of the current range of pretty ugly characters that we see around the world.

I mostly agree, although I think at least one or two items are missing: Not only did the PT make mistakes, but I also think it seriously underestimated the grip that stupidity and ignorance have on large sections of Brazil's population. There is more in this article, which is also strongly recommended. 

2. The Future of Organized Human Life Is At Risk Thanks to GOP’s Climate Change Denial

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

As the death toll from the climate change-fueled Camp Fire in California continues to rise and hundreds remain missing, we rebroadcast our conversation about climate change with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky from October. He says Republican Party leaders are dedicated to “enriching themselves and their friends” at the cost of the planet, and warns: “We have to make decisions now which will literally determine whether organized human life can survive in any decent form.”

Yes, I agree with Chomsky. I also assume that I did review the present article in October, but am not quite sure. In any case, the matter discussed is serious enough to review it again:

NOAM CHOMSKY: A couple of weeks ago, the IPCC, the international group of scientists monitoring climate change, came out with a very ominous report warning that the world has maybe a decade or two to basically end its reliance on fossil fuels if we’re to have any hope of controlling global warming below the level of utter disaster. And that, incidentally, is a conservative estimate. It’s a consensus view. There are—repeatedly, over the years, it has been shown that the IPCC analyses are much less alarmist than they should be.

Yes indeed, this is quite correct. Here is more (and Chomsky is speaking):

I should—at the same time, the Trump administration, right now, is opening up new areas of the West for fracking, for increasing the use of fossil fuels. You’ve probably seen maybe discussed one of the most amazing documents I have ever seen. The Trump department of highway standards, whatever it’s called, just issued a long report, hundred-page report, urging that all regulations on automotive emissions should be ended. And they had a very logical argument. They said if we extrapolate current trends by the end of the century, the climate will have warmed several degrees centigrade, meaning a huge rise in sea level, which they underestimate. So, basically, we’re going over the cliff anyway, and automotive emissions really don’t add much to this, so there’s no point cutting them back. The assumption of the department is that everyone in the world is as criminally insane as we are, and isn’t going to do anything about it.

I fear this is also mostly correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

We have to make decisions now which will literally determine whether organized human life can survive in any decent form. You can just imagine what the world would be like if the sea level rises, say, 10 or 20 feet or even higher, which is within the range—easily within the range of predictions. I mean, the consequences are unimaginable. But it’s as if we’re kind of like the proverbial lemmings just happily marching off the cliff, led by leaders who understand very well what they’re doing, but are so dedicated to enriching themselves and their friends in the near future that it simply doesn’t matter what happens to the human species. There’s nothing like this in all of human history. There have been plenty of monsters in the past, plenty of them. But you can’t find one who was dedicated, with passion, to destroying the prospects for organized human life. Hitler was horrible enough, but not that.

Again I think this is mostly correct. There is more in the article, which is strongly recommended.

3. Brazil's Bolsonaro Assumes Presidency, Promises Big Changes

This article is by Yesica Fisch, Mauricio Savarese and Peter Frengaman on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in as Brazil’s president Tuesday, taking the reins of Latin America’s largest and most populous nation with promises to overhaul myriad aspects of daily life and put an end to business-as-usual governing.

For the far-right former army captain, the New Year’s Day inauguration was the culmination of a journey from a marginalized and even ridiculed congressman to a leader who many Brazilians hope can combat endemic corruption as well as violence that routinely gives the nation the dubious distinction of being the world leader in total homicides.

A fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, the 63-year-old longtime congressman rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-gun agenda that has energized conservatives and hard-right supporters after four consecutive presidential election wins by the left-leaning Workers’ Party.

Well... I cannot say this is what I would call "factually correct" - and see Chomsky in item 1 on precisely the same man. Here is some more:

Once inside Congress, Bolsonaro and his vice president, retired Gen. Hamilton Mourao, took the oath of office. Bolsonaro then read a short speech that included many of the far-right positions he staked out during the campaign.

He promised to combat the “ideology of gender” teaching in schools, “respect our Judeo-Christian tradition” and “prepare children for the job market, not political militancy.”

“I call on all congressmen to help me rescue Brazil from corruption, criminality and ideological submission,” he said.

A short time later, Bolsonaro spoke to thousands of supporters outside, promising to “free Brazil” from socialism and political correctness.

At least here the term "far-right" is used - which often means, and certainly in the present Brazilian context: Fascist or neofascist. Besides, the last two paragraphs differ little from propaganda.

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

“We are counting on Congress to provide the judicial support so police can do their jobs,” Bolsonaro said, signaling that he may soon submit legislation that would allow police to be tried outside the criminal system.

Human rights groups fear that defense of police violence could shield officers from investigations of misconduct and lead to more extrajudicial killings.

This would mean, in my opinion, that the Brazilian police will stand like Supermen - Ȕbermensche, in German - above the population they control (and torture and kill, all according to Bolsonaro). And this is a strongly recommended article.

4. A Bold, Progressive Agenda for a Happier and Healthier New Year

This article is by Bernie Sanders on Common Dreams (and I am quite glad that Common Dreams managed to continue to exist: it is one of the two best magazines that I can get these days in English).

It starts as follows:

Dear friends,

Jane and I want to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very healthy and happy new year.

It goes without saying that 2019 will be a pivotal and momentous time for our country and the entire planet. As you know, there is a monumental clash now taking place between two very different political visions. Not to get you too nervous, but the future of our country and the world is dependent upon which side wins that struggle.

The bad news is that in the United States and other parts of the world, the foundations of democracy are under severe attack as demagogues, supported by billionaire oligarchs, work to establish authoritarian type regimes. That is true in Russia. That is true in Saudi Arabia. That is true in the United States. While the very rich get much richer these demagogues seek to move us toward tribalism and set one group against another, deflecting attention from the real crises we face.

The good news is that, all across this country, people are getting politically involved and are fighting back. They are standing up for economic, political, social and racial justice.

Well... I like Bernie Sanders, but I would have put this differently. Then again, he is a politician and I am not.

Here is more:

As we enter 2019, it seems to me that we must mount a two-pronged offensive. First, we must vigorously take on the lies, bigotry and kleptocratic behavior of the most irresponsible president in the modern history of our country. In every way possible, we must stand up to the racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and religious intolerance of the Trump administration.

In fact, I have been saying since 2016 that Trump is a neofascist in my sense of the word (which I think is clearer than any other definition I have read), which means that I agree with the above.

Here is more:

While the rich get richer, 40 million live in poverty, millions of workers are forced to work two or three jobs to pay the bills, 30 million have no health insurance, one in five cannot afford their prescription drugs, almost half of older workers have nothing saved for retirement, young people cannot afford college or leave school deeply in debt, affordable housing is increasingly scarce, and many seniors cut back on basic needs as they live on inadequate Social Security checks.

Quite so. Here is more:

Politics in a democracy should not be complicated. Government must work for all of the people, not just the wealthy and the powerful. As a new House and Senate convene next week, it is imperative that the American people stand up and demand real solutions to the major economic, social, racial and environmental crises that we face. In the richest country in the history of the world, here are some (far from all) of the issues that I will be focusing on this year. What do you think? How can we best work together?

And this leads to the following list, all of which comes with text, that I have suppressed in this review. If you want to read the texts, click here:

Protect American democracy:

Take on the billionaire class: 

Increase Wages: 

Make health care a right: 

Transform our energy system:

Rebuild America: 

Jobs for All:

Quality Education:

Retirement Security:

Women's rights:

Justice for All: 

Comprehensive immigration reform:

Social Justice:

A new foreign policy:

I do think this is a good list, and this article is strongly recommended.

5. The War for the Democratic Party Continues

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

Elizabeth Warren just threw her hat in the ring for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. If the Democrats were smart, they’d get in line behind her, or Bernie Sanders.

Unfortunately, Pelosi, Schumer and Hoyer are doing everything in their power to keep the progressive insurgency in check, and keep their neoliberal/corporate money machine in power.  Beyond the many moral and ethical problems with this, it’s just plain stupid politics.  About the only way Democrats could lose their 2018 momentum in 2020 is to return to the same old neoliberal, corporate-friendly policies that lost them the election in 2016.

Yes, I agree. Here is more:

If the shock of 2016 wasn’t enough to convince the neoliberals that they were on the wrong side of history, the lessons from 2018 should have. Specifically, turnout is critical for Democrats, and a progressive platform is critical for getting a good turnout.

But the neoliberal establishment is still marching, lemming-like, for the cliff.  The names being proffered for the 2020 election include Joe Biden, Bet O’Rourke, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, and an assortment of other neoliberals. Most of them are feigning left since 2018, but the other lesson from 2016 is that folks are tired of the Democrats’ tendency to spout progressive rhetoric around election time, then spring back into the neoliberal corporate party that has left most of America behind. Since the days of the DLC and triangulation, Democrats have consistently backed policies that favored the rich at the expense of the rest of us, and people are wise to it.

Well... I hope this is correct, but do not know. Here is more:

Meanwhile, the party and its neoliberal enablers are gathering against the two genuine progressives—Sanders and Warren—in a confederacy of dunces, just as they did in 2016. The result of these efforts, should they successfully block a real progressive from winning the nomination, is likely to be another November defeat to the GOP.

Yes, and if the Democrats may win, it may be with a figure like Joe Biden. Here is more:

The fact is, on an issue-by-issue basis, Americans overwhelmingly poll progressive.  They favor a living minimum wage, aggressive action on climate, Medicare for All, marijuana reform, more regulation on Wall Street and big banks, a fairer tax code, a more tolerant foreign policy, prison reform, gun control … on and on it goes.  And this is true even in red states.

This poses a conundrum.  Why don’t people who back progressive issues consider themselves progressives?  The answer is that a decades-long coup has successfully wielded hate, fear, jingoism, money and skilled rhetoric to brand “liberal” and government as negative things.

Well... I agree with the first of the above two quoted paragraphs, but I do have a different answer than Acheson to the conundrum he answers in the second paragraph: I am sorry, but none of that would have been possible if Americans had been considerably less stupid and less ignorant.

Here is more:

The resulting government of, by and for the rich and corporations left the vast majority of Americans out of the economic growth we’ve enjoyed since 1980. Between 1980 and 2015, the top .01 percent saw their income rise by 322 percent, while income for the bottom 90 percent rose by just .03 percent. No wonder people are angry.

Precisely. Here is the final bit from this article that I quote:

The thing about power, is that it is relinquished reluctantly, it becomes an end in and of itself, and it builds an infrastructure that is often impervious to the public will.  The neoliberals controlling the Democratic Party have done just that. Their network of donors, their not-for-profits, their press and media and pundits, will continue to back the neoliberal tenets they’ve been embracing for decades now – not because it’s worked.  The free market/small government prescription has failed utterly and miserably for all the but the wealthiest and most powerful. But this system is their ticket to their elite status, and they won’t abandon it willingly.

What’s needed is a people’s revolution and a radical insurgency that restores government to the governed.  Nothing short of that will prevent future Trumps, or solve our very real problems.

Yes, I think this is correct - and the rich neoliberals in the Democratic Party (the vast majority) did what they did the last 40 years because they got personally a lot richer by doing what they did. They were corrupt, and since corruption pays, they will very probably continue until they are ousted from power. 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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