Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

January 12, 2015
Crisis: USA Crazy (?), Obama & Democrats, Paris Yesterday, Hedges 
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1. Is This Country Crazy? Inquiring Minds Elsewhere Want to
     Know

2. It’s not just Fox News: How liberal apologists torpedoed
     change, helped make the Democrats safe for Wall Street

3. Paris unity rally: France on the march for fraternity and
     for freedom

4.
A Message From the Dispossessed 


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 12, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is an easy piece of journalism that I didn't like (I explain why); item 2 is a good and long article about Obama; item 3 is a report on The Guardian of the demonstrations in Paris (and other places) yesterday; and item 4 is an article by Chris Hedges, that I think simplifies too much (I explain why).

Also, I am sorry the video I linked yesterday seems not to have been viewable on
"xs4all" (in fact: KPN). I can't do anything about "xs4all", and am sorry.
It was shown without any problem on maartensz.org. (And I don't take another provider, because these are as bad and as dishonest as is "xs4all", which indeed is not the real xs4all, where I started in 1996, but is merely a company of KPN.)

1. Is This Country Crazy? Inquiring Minds Elsewhere Want to Know

The first item today is an article by Ann Jones. I found it on Common Dreams, but it first appeared on tomdispatch:
This starts as follows:
Americans who live abroad -- more than six million of us worldwide (not counting those who work for the U.S. government) -- often face hard questions about our country from people we live among. Europeans, Asians, and Africans ask us to explain everything that baffles them about the increasingly odd and troubling conduct of the United States.
Well... I am willing to believe it, but I also find it difficult to take this seriously.
Let me explain.

First, I've talked to very many Americans since 1970, and also lived with an American woman, but I must say that, while I did meet some intelligent and informed Americans, most I've met, indeed like most non-Americans I've met, were neither intelligent nor informed, indeed also more or less regardless from whether or not they had studied something, although my guess is that most I talked to had studied (and I am not much interested in answering the questions the unintelligent uninformed may ask: "one fool may ask more than any wise man can answer").

Second, if I want "
to explain everything" to someone (anyway an odd notion, but OK: I am a philosopher) I will - if the people are intelligent enough - much less refer to my own thoughts than to relevant books I've read, and recommend these, indeed as a sort of invitation to civilization and civilized thought.

Third, I don't think the U.S.A. is crazy, and I also don't think this is a helpful notion, because countries are not the kinds of things that are crazy: only people are. But I do think many Americans are stupid and ignorant, as indeed most non- Americans are (in my views, which are those of one who got one of the best M.A.s ever awarded, also while I was ill and much opposed), and I also think the many stupid and ignorant are intentionally abused by a few clever rich men - but then this is common through most of history, and indeed especially in politics and religion.

Fourth, the people one meets and talks to necessarily are an extremely small sample of the very many one might have talked to (there are about three times more persons alive than there are seconds in your life, if you are 70), and those one does meet and talk to tend to be more like you are than the ones you don't meet.

These are some of the reasons why I cannot take the conversations Ann Jones had, with unspecifiied people about unspecified themes, very seriously, nor indeed the ideas she got from conversing with
unspecifiied people.

But there is more:

Then recently, I traveled back to the “homeland.”  It struck me there that most Americans have no idea just how strange we now seem to much of the world. In my experience, foreign observers are far better informed about us than the average American is about them. This is partly because the “news” in the American media is so parochial and so limited in its views both of how we act and how other countries think (...)
Well... again yes and no: Nobody gets specified other than as "most Americans" or "average Americans" or "foreign observers", and no numbers or percentages are given, but yes: I agree that "average Americans" are - in my view - neither intelligent nor well informed, and indeed often have fairly stupid ideas because most of the information they know comes from TV, and TV is full of lies and deceptions. (But again, this is much like any other country, though indeed - perhaps - a bit worse than in many countries.)

Ms Jones lives in Norway (where I've also lived, but 40 years ago) and tells us:

In Norway, where I live, all citizens also have an equal right to education (state subsidized preschool from age one, and free schools from age six through specialty training or university education and beyond), unemployment benefits, job-placement and paid retraining services, paid parental leave, old age pensions, and more.  These benefits are not merely an emergency “safety net”; that is, charitable payments grudgingly bestowed upon the needy.  They are universal: equally available to all citizens as human rights encouraging social harmony -- or as our own U.S. constitution would put it, “domestic tranquility.”
That is true, to the best of my knowledge. But then I get some of the questions Ann Jones says she had to answer, and I find them uniformly stupid - and give my answers between square brackets:
  • Why can’t you Americans stop interfering with women’s health care?
    [Some do, some don't. And there are many Christians.]

  • Why can’t you understand science?
    [Most did not get a scientific education.]

  • How can you still be so blind to the reality of climate change?
    [It's in the interest of the rich, who also owe TV and the press.]

  • How can you speak of the rule of law when your presidents break international laws to make war whenever they want?
    [Many presidents broke many laws, not only American ones.]

  • How can you hand over the power to blow up the planet to one lone, ordinary man?
    [I don't like Obama, but he is neither lone nor ordinary.]

  • How can you throw away the Geneva Conventions and your principles to advocate torture?
    [American leaders say it helps battle terrorism.]

  • Why do you Americans like guns so much?  Why do you kill each other at such a rate?
    [License, fear, stupidity.]
So no: I do not think this is a good article - it is vague, unspecific, based on "conversations" with completely unspecified persons, and it does not inform (apart from a few bits about Norway and Scandinavia). It's an easy bit of superficial journalism, in my eyes.

2. It’s not just Fox News: How liberal apologists torpedoed change, helped make the Democrats safe for Wall Street

The next item is an article by Thomas Frank on Salon:
This is a long article that is well worth reading in full. I have one quote from it:

To say that Obama fumbled this most critical issue is to understate the matter pretty dramatically. More to the point is the great unasked question of why he fumbled it so dramatically. Again, let’s review the historical record as it actually exists—not as Obama’s apologists like to imagine it:

* It was fully within Obama’s power to react to the financial crisis in a more aggressive and appropriate way—i.e., laws were in place, there was ample precedent, he wasn’t forced to choose Tim Geithner to run the bailouts or Eric Holder to (not) prosecute the bankers or Ben Bernanke to serve another term at the Fed.

* It would have been good policy had Obama reacted to the financial crisis in a more aggressive and appropriate way—i.e., the economy would have recovered more quickly and the danger of a future crisis brought on by concentrated financial power would have been reduced.

* It would have been massively popular had Obama reacted to the financial crisis in a more aggressive and appropriate way. Everyone admits this, at least tacitly, even the architects of Obama’s bailout policies, who like to think of themselves as having resisted the public’s mindless baying for banker blood. Acting aggressively might also have deflated the rampant false consciousness of the Tea Party movement and prevented the Republican reconquista of the House in 2010.

But Obama did the opposite. He did everything he could to “foam the runways” and never showed any real interest in taking on the big banks. Shall I recite the dolorous list one more time? The bailouts he failed to unwind or even to question. The bad regulators he didn’t fire. The AIG bonuses that his team defended. The cramdown he never pushed for. The receivership of the zombie banks that never happened. The FBI agents who were never shifted over to white-collar crime. The criminal referral programs at the regulatory agencies that were never restored. The executives of bailed-out banks who were never fired. The standing outrage of too-big-to-fail institutions that was never truly addressed. The top bankers who were never prosecuted for anything on the long, sordid list of apparent frauds.
(....)

What I am suggesting, in other words, is that the financial crisis worked out the way it did in large part because Obama and his team wanted it to work out that way.

That is the simplest and most direct explanation.

Yes, indeed.

3. Paris unity rally: France on the march for fraternity and for freedom

The next item is an article by Natalie Nougayrède on The Guardian:
This starts as follows:

After the shock and the horror came the time for collective revival. No one in France can recall anything like this since the images of Paris at the time of the liberation in 1944. Then, as now, we as a nation were desperate to reaffirm what our republic was meant to be, how it wanted to survive, how it would overcome barbarous aggression, as well as the country’s failures and divisions.

Up to 2 million people poured on to the streets of Paris – and an estimated 3.7 million across France – in a demonstration of unity against terror and in defence of values that are at the heart of democracy, and at the heart of Europe. Faces were determined and emotional.

Families had brought their children, including babies in prams, so that every generation may take part in this moment of history in the making. In the compact, solemn crowd, people felt the need to speak about their different ethnic, religious and social backgrounds while holding signs that said “fraternity, freedom, republic”, intent on proving that gunmen could never be victorious in dividing a nation, nor in weakening the very essence of European humanism.

My overwhelming feeling was: may this spirit of resistance last.
There is considerably more in the article.

4. A Message From the Dispossessed

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows (and may be seen as a - sort of - supplement to item 3):

The terrorist attack in France that took place at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was not about free speech. It was not about radical Islam. It did not illustrate the fictitious clash of civilizations. It was a harbinger of an emerging dystopia where the wretched of the earth, deprived of resources to survive, devoid of hope, brutally controlled, belittled and mocked by the privileged who live in the splendor and indolence of the industrial West, lash out in nihilistic fury.

We have engineered the rage of the dispossessed. The evil of predatory global capitalism and empire has spawned the evil of terrorism. And rather than understand the roots of that rage and attempt to ameliorate it, we have built sophisticated mechanisms of security and surveillance, passed laws that permit the targeted assassinations and torture of the weak, and amassed modern armies and the machines of industrial warfare to dominate the world by force. This is not about justice. It is not about the war on terror. It is not about liberty or democracy. It is not about the freedom of expression. It is about the mad scramble by the privileged to survive at the expense of the poor. And the poor know it.

Well...yes and no. I think it was also about free speech; and also about radical Islam; and I do not think that I (who is comprised under "We"), or indeed Chris Hedges, or very many other men and women, did anything to engineer "the mad scramble by the privileged to survive at the expense of the poor".

And again: it is also about justice; also about the war on terror; also about liberty and democracy; also about freedom of expression, and indeed Chris Hedges is right that it is also about inequality a.k.a. "
the mad scramble by the privileged to survive at the expense of the poor".

Besides, while I do not know to what extent free speech, radical Islam, justice, terror, liberty, democracy, and freedom of expression did enter into the motives of the murderers, I think they did play a role, and one should not simplify them
away to concentrate only on "
the rage of the dispossessed".

There is considerably more in the article, that I will leave to your interests, but I want to quote on more thing:
The cartoons of the Prophet in the Paris-based satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo are offensive and juvenile. None of them are funny. And they expose a grotesque double standard when it comes to Muslims. In France a Holocaust denier, or someone who denies the Armenian genocide, can be imprisoned for a year and forced to pay a $60,000 fine. It is a criminal act in France to mock the Holocaust the way Charlie Hebdo mocked Islam.
Well... I do not know anything about how the Armenian genocide is regarded in France. I agree Muslims are unfairly treated and often discriminated, but they went to France (and other European countries) because they wanted to improve their incomes and their chances (to which they have a right). Also, their position is not like the Jews, who are much longer in Europe than Muslims, and of whom 6 million were murdered in a recent world war.

As to the cartoons: I've said before I never saw a Charlie Hebdo. But whether or not their cartoons are "
offensive and juvenile" and not "funny" is mostly a matter of taste, and I am strongly in favor of publishing many things I might or do find "offensive", "juvenile" and not "funny", simply because I hold that almost all points of view have a right to be heard or read, indeed in order to be judged rationally by others.
---------------------------------------------------------------------

       home - index - summaries - mail