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Nederlog

March 2, 2015
Crisis: Abby Martin, Ukraine, Tariq Ali, Austerity Kills, 10 commandments, Fascism 
  "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. Abby Martin Breaks the Set One Last Time
2. Clapper Calls for Arming Ukrainian Forces: Who Would
     That Actually Empower?

3.
Tariq Ali: The Time Is Right for a Palace Revolution
4.
Austerity Kills: Economic Distress Seen as Culprit in Sharp
     Rise in Suicide Rate Among Middle Aged

5.
The Ten Commandments for a Better American World
6. Why the Rise of Fascism Is Again the Issue


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, March 2, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 6 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 is on Abby Martin, who stopped Breaking the Set; item 2 is on Glenn Greenwald who tries to clarify the Ukraine; item 3 is on Chris Hedges on Tariq Ali (and I like it); item 4 is about the considerably increased number of suicides in the
crisis; item 5 is on ten commandments for a  better world; and item 6 is another person who speaks of fascism (and I - more or less - halfly agree). 

1.  Abby Martin Breaks the Set One Last Time

The first item today is not an article but a video by Abby Martin (<- Wikipedia) + team:

In case you don't know who Abby Martin (<- Wikipedia) is: See the Wikipedia link. This is from Wikipedia on Breaking the Set (minus note numbers):

Martin began hosting her own show, Breaking the Set, on RT America in September 2012 from Washington, D.C. The show mixes media criticism with investigative journalism. It describes itself as "a show that cuts through the pre-written narrative that tries to tell you what to think, and what to care about", and as a show that "cuts through the false Left/Right paradigm set by the establishment & reports the hard facts". The original opening credits depict Martin applying a sledgehammer to a television tuned to CNN. The current opening depicts Martin traveling in a helicopter over Manhattan's Central Park. According to Rolling Stone magazine, past shows have investigated "Monsanto, Nestle, the U.S. federal electoral system, the drone program, the NSA, Israel, Obama, and water fluoridation".

Martin drew widespread media attention when she closed her show on 3 March 2014 with a minute-long statement condemning the Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
In fact, that was the time - the beginning of March 2014 - that I first got to know about her existence and about Breaking the Set. (I am one of the very few Westerners who never even owned a TV since 1970, and I don't because it taught me very little, takes a lot of time, and is full of propaganda and advertisements, which I detest - but this is an aside.)

Since I found her, I did watch Breaking the Set regularly, and occasionally reported on it, perhaps indeed not enough, but then I can do only so much.

Now the program got finished, and the above link is to the last of the series.

I think it is a pity, for I really liked it, which indeed was mostly because of Martin: she is one of the very few of her age - 30 - who I can take seriously,
intellectually speaking. (Which doesn't mean I always agree, for I don't. And incidentally, the same holds for people of all ages - but for this reason it was
nice to see and hear a sensible young person, in considerable detail also.)

To be sure, I didn't like everything (especially not the music, but then I was in my teens and twenties in the 60ies and 70ies), but I liked it a lot, and I also do
so rarely.

So... in case you never saw anything by her, there still are most of the 532 programs she made the last 2 1/2 years on Youtube. Probably the best way to view her is to select items that interest you, many of which are presented separately.

2.  Clapper Calls for Arming Ukrainian Forces: Who Would That Actually Empower?

The next item is an article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

It’s easy to forget that just two years ago, President Obama was determined to bomb Syria and remove the Assad regime, and U.S. establishment institutions were working to lay the groundwork for that campaign. NPR began dutifully publishing reports from anonymous U.S. officials that Syria had stockpiled large amounts of chemical weapons; the NYT was reporting that Obama was “increasing aid to the rebels and redoubling efforts to rally a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down” Assad; Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced that forced removal of Assad was “a matter of national security” and “a matter of the credibility of the United States of America.”

(..)

The U.S. is now bombing Syria, of course, but rather than fighting against Assad, the Syrian dictator is (once again) America’s ally and partner. The rationale for the U.S. bombing campaign is the same one Assad long invoked: that those fighting against him are worse than he is because they are aligned with Al Qeada and ISIS (even though the U.S. funded and armed those factions for years and their closest allies in the region continue to do so).

A similar dynamic is at play in Russia and Ukraine.

And that dynamic gets explained in the rest of the article, part of which is the following:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long said that the Ukrainian coup of last year, and the subsequent regime in Kiev, is driven by ultra-nationalists, fascists, and even neo-Nazi factions. The Russian TV outlet RT also frequently refers to “the active role far-right groups have played on the pro-government side in Ukraine since the violent coup of the last year.”

(...)

But just as was true in Syria: while some involved in the Ukrainian coup were ordinary Ukrainians fighting against a corrupt and oppressive regime, these claims about the fascist thugs leading the fight for the Kiev government are actually true.

I say. There is considerably more under the last dotted link.

3. Tariq Ali: The Time Is Right for a Palace Revolution 

The next item is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows (and I added a Wikipedia link):
Tariq Ali is part of the royalty of the left. His more than 20 books on politics and history, his seven novels, his screenplays and plays and his journalism in the Black Dwarf newspaper, the New Left Review and other publications have made him one of the most trenchant critics of corporate capitalism. He hurls rhetorical thunderbolts and searing critiques at the oily speculators and corporate oligarchs who manipulate global finance and the useful idiots in the press, the political system and the academy who support them. The history of the late part of the 20th century and the early part of the 21st century has proved Ali, an Oxford-educated intellectual and longtime gadfly who once stood as a Trotskyist candidate for Parliament in Britain, to be stunningly prophetic.

The Pakistani-born Ali, who holds Pakistani and British citizenships, was already an icon of the left during the convulsions of the 1960s. 
Yes, indeed: I was in London in August of 1968 and there met a Pakistani student of economics who was called Jamil, who was a few years older than I was, and who was - as I was, at the time - a Marxist of his own invention, and an atheist,
and quite intelligent, and
Tariq Ali was one of the then prominent leftists we discussed.

I do not know anymore what we thought about him, except that he seemed likable, and I also do not know what happened to Jamil, for we soon lost contact, while Tariq Ali currently is 71, whitehaired, and still a Marxist (of sorts) or at least a leftist.

And this is Chris Hedges' interview with him, of which I will quote and comment a few bits, on the presumption that Tariq Ali is one of the few leftists of roughly my age who did not sell out (for nearly all
leftists of roughly my age did, long ago, also).
He lamented the loss of the radicalism that was nurtured by the 1960s counterculture, saying it was “unprecedented in imperial history” and produced the “most hopeful period” in the United States, “intellectually, culturally and politically.”
Perhaps - but Tariq Ali (whose parents also were communists, like mine) should know that most of the radicalized were from conventional backgrounds, and many had impracticable ideals - and I don't mean "impracticable ideals" as conservatives would use the phrase.
The devolution of the political system through the infusion of corporate money, the rewriting of laws and regulations to remove checks on corporate power, the seizure of the press, especially the electronic press, by a handful of corporations to silence dissent, and the rise of the wholesale security and surveillance state have led to “the death of the party system” and the emergence of what Ali called “an extreme center.” Working people are being ruthlessly sacrificed on the altar of corporate profit—a scenario dramatically on display in Greece.
Yes, I agree. There is also this on Greece:
The clash between the Greeks and the corporate elites that dominate Europe, Ali said, is “not economic.” The European Union is “prepared to pour billions into fighting Russians in the Ukraine,” he said. “It’s not a question of the money. They can throw away the bloody money, as they are preparing to do and are doing in the Ukraine. With the Greeks they pretend it is economic, but it’s political. They are fearful that if the Greeks pull it off, the disease will spread.
This also seems correct, in part also because the Greeks really suffered more
than other Europeans (as can be seen from relevant statistics).

Then there is this:
Ali said he fears that should Americans become politically conscious and resist, the corporate state will impose naked forms of militarized repression. Government’s reaction to the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon stunned him.
Yes, although I was mostly stunned by the extent of the militarization of the ordinary American police, and less by the "government’s reaction".

Then there is this on leftist parties and the radical blacks:

“Just as the traditional left parties have been wiped out all over the world, so has the radical segment of the African-American population and their organizations,” he said.
Yes, but at least the leftist parties I knew have been destroyed with the active help of their political leaders, who were bought: They may not have been corrupt, but surely most really wanted the money they could get as professors or parliamentarians. (This was clear to me already in the early seventies.)

Then there is this on the lack of knowledge in would-be revolutionaries and/or social critics:
He worries that Americans lack an understanding of their own history and that very few are literate in basic revolutionary theory, from Karl Marx to Rosa Luxemburg. This illiteracy, he said, means that opposition movements are often unable to effectively analyze the structures and mechanisms of capitalist power and cannot formulate a sophisticated political response.
Well... I surely am "literate in basic revolutionary theory" - but it didn't teach me much I could agree on (and I come from parents and grandparents who were - real! - communists and anarchists).

Also, it is a fact that this "
basic revolutionary theory" is much more accessible on the internet than it was in the 60ies and 70ies - but then it also wasn't taken seriously, at least not in my eyes. (There was a lot more at the time than there is now, but most of it was quasi-religious rather than sensible, I'd say. [1])

My own view of the matter is that in any case only a small minority is seriously interested in theory (revolutionary or otherwise), and also these small groups rarely get much to say: What moves people - if at all - are rhetorics and personalities, much rather than theories, and if large groups are moved by theories, it is mostly because these have articulated an end the majority can emotionally agree on without having to read the theories.

There is this on the Occupy movement:

“I was sympathetic to the Occupy movement, but not to the business of not having any demands,” he said.
Yes, I agree: you need a program and you need leaders, and to say you don't only means that you are not really serious, and are in fact playing.

Finally, there is this prediction:
Ali predicted that the current global speculation would result in another catastrophic financial crash. This new crash will give birth to “movements and people who will say, ‘Enough.’ ”
I agree there probably will be "another catastrophic financial crash". I hope people will then turn against politicians of all accepted kinds and creeds, for these have seriously and since 1980 deluded and deceived and betrayed the people who elected them.

But I don't know - though this article of Chris Hedges again was good and deserves your full reading.


4.  Austerity Kills: Economic Distress Seen as Culprit in Sharp Rise in Suicide Rate Among Middle Aged 

The next item is an article by Yves Smith on Nakedcapitalism:

This starts as follows:

I’m surprised, but perhaps I shouldn’t be, that a recent study hasn’t gotten the attention it warrants. It points to a direct connection between the impact of the crisis and a marked increase in suicide rates among the middle aged. This link seems entirely logical, given how many citizens found themselves whacked by a one-two punch of job loss or hours cutbacks combined with the sudden plunge in home prices. Normally, a last ditch course of action for most middle and upper middle class income members in the pre-crisis days, when things got desperate, was to sell you house and cut costs radically by moving into a much more modest rental. But that option vanished in all but the most stable markets (as in some flyover states that the subprime merchants ignored) due to home price declines trashing equity for all but those with small or no mortgages.

And you have the further psychological toll of the difficulty of re-inventing yourself if you are over 35.
I say, but not really. Here are some details (quoted from Science):

Suicide rates for adults between 40 and 64 years of age in the U.S. have risen about 40% since 1999, with a sharp rise since 2007. One possible explanation could be the detrimental effects of the economic downturn of 2007-2009, leading to disproportionate effects on house values, household finances, and retirement savings for that age group. In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that external economic factors were present in 37.5% of all completed suicides in 2010, rising from 32.9% in 2005.

In addition, suffocation, a method more likely to be used in suicides related to job, economic, or legal factors, increased disproportionately among the middle-aged. The number of suicides using suffocation increased 59.5% among those aged 40-64 years between 2005 and 2010, compared with 18.0% for those aged 15-39 years and 27.2% for aged >65 years.

All I can say is that I am probably the poorest Dutchman (having never had
a yearly income "as high" as the lowest legal income since 1967), although I am one of the best educated (in terms of both knowledge and of academic marks), but a good part of that is due to my now 37 years of - officially unacknowledged! - illness.

And no, I am not suicidal and haven't been since 1991: I can manage, for I've learned to live on very little.


There is considerably more under the last dotted link, also about Greece (where suicides doubled, compared to before the crisis).

5. The Ten Commandments for a Better American World

The next item is an article by Tom Engelhardt on tomdispatch:

This also has an alternative title: "My War on Terror". In any case, it starts as follows:
My War on Terror
Letter to an Unknown American Patriot

Dear American Patriot,

I wish I knew your name. I’ve been thinking about you, about all of us actually and our country, and meaning to write for a while to explain myself.  Let me start this way: you should feel free to call me an American nationalist.  It may sound ugly as hell, but it’s one way I do think of myself. True, we Americans usually reserve the more kindly word “patriot” for ourselves and use “nationalist” to diss other people who exhibit special feeling for their country.  In the extreme, it’s “superpatriot” for us and “ultranationalist” for them.

In any case, here’s how my particular form of nationalism manifests itself. I feel a responsibility for the acts of this country that I don’t feel for those of other states or groups.
OK - I can understand that feeling, if only because "what the country does" tends to be done from the tax money you have to pay as an American citizen. [2]

Then there is this:
And this is part of the reason I’m writing you. I keep wondering how, in these years, it’s been possible to hold onto such fictions so successfully. I wonder why, at least some of the time, you aren’t jumping out of your skin over what we do, rather than what they’ve done or might prospectively do to us.
I don't have that feeling, but indeed I admit that I regard most people as - not very intelligent nor very knowledgeable, to keep it to more or less kind terms.
Put otherwise, I do not know how to argue or talk with someone with an IQ of around 90 and succeed in convincing him or her they are politically or ethically mistaken.

Anyway, there is a lot more there, including a list of Ten Commandments, that is introduced as follows:
(...) my suspicion is that what's right and moral is also what's practical and realistic.  In that light, let me offer, with commentary, my version of the Ten Commandments for a better American world (and a better world generally). Admittedly, in this day and age, it could easily be the Twenty or Thirty Commandments, but being classically minded, let me just stick with 10.
Here they are, but without the intervening texts:
1. Thou shalt not torture
2. Thou shalt not send drones to assassinate anyone,
     American or not

3. Thou shalt not invade another country
4. Thou shalt not occupy another country
5. Thou shalt not upgrade thy nuclear arsenal
6. Thou shalt not intercept the communications of thy
     citizens or others all over the world or pursue the
     elaboration of a global surveillance state based on
     criminal acts

7. Thou shalt not be free of punishment for crimes of state
8. Thou shalt not use a massive system of secret
     classification to deprive Americans of all real knowledge
     of acts of state

9. Thou shalt not act punitively toward those who want to
     let Americans in on what the national security state is
     doing in their name

10. Thou shalt not infringe on the rights of the citizenry to
     life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

I agree - and I also note how much has changed, that these principles now should be articulated.

There is a lot more under the last dotted link, and I advice you to read all of it.
(I don't agree with all, but it is interesting. And I am not an American, which also makes a difference.)

6. Why the Rise of Fascism Is Again the Issue

The last item for today is an article by John Pilger (<- Wikipedia) on truth-out [3]:
This starts as follows:
The recent 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was a reminder of the great crime of fascism. Its Nazi iconography is embedded in our consciousness. Fascism is preserved as history, as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal societies, with war-making elites urging us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism is suppressed; for it is their fascism.
 
"To initiate a war of aggression," said the Nuremberg Tribunal judges in 1946, "is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

Had the Nazis not invaded Europe, Auschwitz and the Holocaust would not have happened. Had the United States and its satellites not initiated their war of aggression in Iraq in 2003, almost a million people would be alive today, and Islamic State, or ISIS, would not have us in thrall to its savagery. They are the progeny of modern fascism, weaned by the bombs, bloodbaths and lies that are the surreal theatre known as news.
I say. There is a lot more on the very many wars the U.S. conducted since 1946 that I will leave to your interests, and there also is more on the current conflict in the Ukraine, that I also leave to your interests.

What I am mostly interested in here and now is fascism. Here is one quotation:
Since 1945, more than a third of the membership of the UN - 69 countries - have suffered some or all of the following at the hands of the United States' modern fascism. They have been invaded, their governments overthrown, their popular movements suppressed, their elections subverted, their people bombed, their economies stripped of all protection, and their societies subjected to a crippling siege known as "sanctions." The British historian Mark Curtis estimates the death toll in the millions. In every case, a big lie was deployed.
I mostly agree, although I would not call America's international policies, many of which did start wars, "fascism" till well into the 80ies, at the very least.

Here are my reasons:

I do agree many of the wars the U.S. fought were dominated by U.S. economic interests, and were mostly conservative in inspiration, but at that time the United States were not fascistic; nor was the government secretly collecting everything it could secretly find about anyone, by stealing everything they could find on anyone's computer of cellphone; nor was the U.S. police militarized; nor were the incomes of the 90% falling all the time, all in order to pay the 1% many millions a year; nor were the big criminals who are bankmanagers protected for six years to do as they please, because prosecuting them "might bring down the economy"; nor were secret treaties like the TPP and the TPIP, that threaten to take away many of the rights of governments and give them to big multi-national corporations, prepared without anybody's knowledge, in secret, and ready to be steamrolled through Congress without almost anyone there having the time to even read them.

These are factors in my diagnosis of "fascism". John Pilger looks more at the aggression, the greed, the egoism, the lack of reason, the many cruelties, and the very many killed - which also are factors.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

P.S. Mar 3, 2015: I added a "University of Amsterdam" to note 3.

Note

[1] You may disagree, but I still have parts of the Marxist mimeographs that were spread in the early 1970ies in the University of Amsterdam on a large scale - for then the University of Amsterdam was in the hands of the students, which it would formally be until 1995 (!!), though nearly all the time it was as corrupt as the Soviet Union. I do not think they were taken very seriously, and indeed much of it was in fact infighting between two or three very radical, very small groups.

[2] I know you can escape paying this, but I also know this will make your life quite difficult (when you continue to live in the U.S.).

[3] I can't forbear saying that I was told in August of 1978 in a public lecture, supported by the Board of Directors, that was meant to open the academic year 1978-1979, the horrible lie that "everybody knows that truth does not exist" - which then was taught for more than ten years in the University of Amsterdam, and was accepted, postmodernistically, by most students and by most lecturers and professors that I heard in three studies (studying philosophy, psychology and Norwegian) ....

This is really one of the events that taught me there are larger differences between those with an IQ over 140 and those with considerably lesser IQs, like nearly all of the students and nearly all of the lecturers and professors at the University of Amsterdam, than the ordinary student or professor are inclined to think.

(And please note that this also, in a way at least, serves as the excuse for many: They didn't do any better, because they could not.)

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