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Nederlog

August 26, 2015
Crisis: China, Germany & GMO, Western Democracies, Fascism, MS and vit D

 "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.
Stock markets continue to be volatile as investors fear
     China risk

2. Answering 'Resistance From All Sides,' Germany Moves
     to Ban GMO Crops

3. Western Democracy Is An Endangered Species On Its
     Way To Extinction

4.  The Raping of America: Mile Markers on the Road to
     Fascism

5. Lack of vitamin D may cause multiple sclerosis, study
     finds
 



This is a Nederlog of Wednesday August 26, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about China (and brief: I will not report the speculations); item 2 is about a German move to ban genetically modified crops (and I ask about the TPP); item 3 is about an article by Paul Craig Roberts that argues the USA is on the way to extinction; item 4 is about an article by John Whitehead that the USA is on the way to fascism; and item 5 is not a crisis-item: it is about a very recent discovery that
specific genes + insufficient amounts of vitamin D may cause multiple sclerosis.
(It is here because my disease - M.E. - is also unexplained, as is M.S., and seems related to it: Thus, both are probably auto-immune diseases.)

1. Stock markets continue to be volatile as investors fear China risk

The next article is by Justin McCurry on The Guardian:

As you may know, I've decided to skip journalists' and economists' "inter- pretations" of news about stocks, because these are about as informed as people advising you to bet on red in a casino. So while the stocks are still dithering a lot, I merely report the dithering:

Investor confidence was also hit by a last-minute plunge on Wall Street on Tuesday.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended 204.91 points, or 1.3%, lower, having been up by as much as 441 points earlier in the day.

Wall Street extended its losses for six straight days, its longest losing stretch for more than three years.

In early trading on Wednesday, the Shanghai index fell 1.8% but recovered to end the morning 0.8% up. Australian shares fell 0.5%.

Stocks in New Zealand, Taiwan and south-east Asia were mostly lower.

Some analysts said that fears of a prolonged market crisis sparked by concern over China’s economic outlook may be overblown, but they warned that the region should expect more volatility.

Incidentally, I included the last paragraph because it gives a clear example of the tautologous prose journalists and economists use to pretend they know: "Some analysts" (!!) "said" (!!) ... that it may get better or may get worse. O Lord!

2.  Answering 'Resistance From All Sides,' Germany Moves to Ban GMO Crops

The next article is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Germany on Monday became the latest country in the European Union to take a stand against genetically modified (GMO) crops in its food supply.

German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt told government officials that he will seek to implement the European Union's "opt-out" rule to stop GMO crop cultivation in the country, including those varieties which may be approved by the EU, according to documents seen by Reuters this week.

Individual regions in Germany will have until September 11 to inform Schmidt if they wish to be included in the opt-out. Germany will then have until October 3 to tell the EU whether or not it will participate in the cultivation program.

As agriculture ministry spokesperson Christian Fronczak told Bloomberg, "The German government is clear in that it seeks a nationwide cultivation ban."

"There’s resistance from all sides, from the public to the farmers," Fronczak said.

Note that this means essentially that  Monsanto (<- Wikipedia) - by far the greatest producer of the seeds that produce GMO crops - will be denied to do the same in Europe as they have done in the USA, where indeed they even succeeded blocking the need for saying on some label that the food one buys is GMO.

Also, while I have no strong position on GMOs as such, I do have a strong position on Monsanto and on labeling: Monsanto (<- Wikipedia) is an evil corporation that basically tries to get all the power in American agriculture through its genetically modified seeds. (See the Wikipedia article.) And whether or not a product is genetically engineered must be on the label, simply to give its potential buyers a rational choice.

Incidentally... since that great moral hero Obama opened the roads to the TPP, my guess about what will happen - in the coming five years or so, if the TPP is agreed with the European politicians (that meanwhile are about as corrupt as
their American counterparts) - is that the German rulings will be attacked as "bad for Monsanto's profits" (which is true), and therefore will be forbidden by the lawyers who are to act as judges in TPP-cases.

I may be pessimistic, but this is what the TPP is about: defending the interests
of the rich corporations by insisting
, this time also in "law", that whatever hinders their profits is a crime, even if the decision is explicitly taken to protect the population, and does protect the population.

That will be forbidden because profits go before people, in Obama's - still secret - TPP (that meanwhile got partially known through Wikileaks).

3. Western Democracy Is An Endangered Species On Its Way To Extinction

The next article is by Paul Craig Roberts (<- Wikipedia) on his site (Institute for Political Economy)

First a bit on Paul Craig Roberts, that I quote from the beginning of the Wikipedia article on him (quoted minus notes):

Paul Craig Roberts (born April 3, 1939) is an American economist and blogger. He served for one year as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan administration. He is a former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Scripps Howard News Service.

During the 21st century, Roberts has frequently published in Counterpunch, writing extensively about the effects of the Bush (and later Obama) administrations related to the War on Terror, which he says have destroyed the U.S. Constitution’s protections of Americans' civil liberties, such as habeas corpus and due process. He has taken positions different from former Republican allies, opposing the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, and criticizing Israel’s policies and actions against the Palestinians.

Incidentally, he also got the French Legion of Honor (in 1987) as "the artisan of a renewal in economic science and policy after half a century of state intervent- ionism". (Hm!)

Here is an outline of some of his arguments:

The British Labour Party no longer represents the working class. Under UK prime minister Tony Blair, the Labour Party became a vassal of the One Percent. The result has been a rebellion in the ranks and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, a principled Labourite intent on representing the people, a no-no in Western “democracies.”

Corbyn is too real for the Labour Party Blairites, who hope to be rewarded with similar nest eggs as Blair for representing the capitalist One Percent. So what is the corrupted Labour Party doing to prevent Corbyn’s election?

The answer is that it is denying the vote to Corbyn supporters. You can read the story here:
I quite agree - and the "similar nest eggs" so much coveted by the Blairites are that they too want to make between 20 million and 80 million pounds by advising dictators how to suppress their populations, and such, as did that socialist /catholic hero Tony Blair, who offers a fine example how much money a thoroughly corrupt politician can make, and thus serves as a great inspiration for myriads of other political careerists.

Indeed the last link -
here - is an interesting read, that shows Roberts is quite correct.

Then there is this (from a - former? - Republican) about the USA:
Americans should keep in mind that most of the dollars that they pay in income tax are spent either spying upon themselves and the world or killing people in many countries. Without resources taken from American taxpayers millions of women, children, and village elders would still be alive in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Ukraine, South Ossetia, and other countries. America is the greatest exporter of violence the world has ever known. So wear your patriotism on your sleeve and be proud. You are a depraved citizen of the world’s worst killer nation. Compared to the USA, Rome was a piker.
I mostly agree, but not with the last two statements.

First, as to the average American being "
a depraved citizen of the world’s worst killer nation":

That the USA currently is "
the world’s worst killer nation" is undoubtedly true, but that is almost wholly the work of its leading politicians, who often were bank managers or oil companies' representatives, and normally also, after governing for their interests, will return to be bank managers or oil companies' represent- atives. And these leading politicians - that may well be called "depraved" - have done a whole lot (also helped by many journalists and editors, these days) to misguide, mislead and deceive the average of the population they lead, and have largely succeeded in doing so.

I agree it would have been very nice if the American population were more intelligent, less ignorant and less prejudiced, but they are not. Their excuse is
that they were misled, misguided and deceived, and I think that is correct (even
if they themselves see it otherwise). Put otherwise, they are too stupid and too
ignorant to be (consciously) "depraved".

Next, as to the USA and Rome. I think I am fairly well read in Roman history, such as Suetonius, Plutarch and Tacitus, and indeed also all of the - very enjoyable (!) - seven volumes of Edward Gibbon's "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", and I mostly disagree for (at least) three reasons:

First, Rome was a much more violent society than (even) the present USA: There were for nearly 400 years - for example - the very widely visited "circuses" were very many men and women were killed very cruelly, in order to enjoy and invigorate the population (who loved it). Second, Rome was a slave state: Most of its inhabitants were slaves (about whom extremely little is known: I don't think there were more than three or so slaves whose names were known (Aesop, Epictetus and Spartacus [1]). Third, punishments were much more cruel: People were cruelly but legally murdered, e.g. by crucifixion (thus 15,000 survivors of Spartacus' rebellion were all crucified after being defeated) or in a circus, to amuse the population.

Finally, I also think the comparison between a - these days generally little known - state, that mostly collapsed 1500 years ago, and a modern state, is rather precarious and question-begging (though Gibbon is really interesting, for intelligent persons).

Then there is this about France:

France herself seems to be collapsing as a democracy and no longer respects her own laws. According to this report from Kumaran Ira on World Socialist Website https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/08/19/fkil-a19.html ,
“In the name of the “war on terror,” the French state is dramatically accelerating its use of clandestine operations to extra-judicially murder targeted individuals. French President François Hollande reportedly possesses a “kill list” of potential targets and constantly reviews the assassination program with high-ranking military and intelligence officers.

“This program of state murder, violating basic constitutional rights in a country where the death penalty is illegal, underscores the profound decay of French bourgeois democracy. Amid escalating imperialist wars in France’s former colonial empire and deepening political crisis at home, the state is moving towards levels of criminality associated with the war against Algerian independence and the Vichy regime of Occupied France.”

Where do you suppose the socialist president of France got his idea of an illegal and unconstitutional “kill list”? If you answer from “America’s First Black President,” you are correct.

I think that is basically correct, and indeed is a sign that the government's officials have taken over power from parliaments (which these days anyway tend to be filled with careerists).

And there is this on Western civilization:

I certainly do not believe that Western civilization was ever pure as snow and devoid of sins and crimes against humanity. But it is a fact that in Western civilization, despite the numerous injustices, reforms were possible that improved life for the lower classes. Reforms were possible that restricted the rapaciousness of the rich and powerful. In the US reforms made the impossible come true: ladders of upward mobility made it possible for members of the lowest economic class to become multimillionaires. And this actually happened.

That is also true, and happened mostly - if it happened - somewhere between 1920 and 1980.

Here is Robert's general judgement on the present USA:

Just as the Roman Empire ended in the destruction of the Roman people, the American Empire will end in the destruction of the American people. Judging from histories, Roman citizens were superior to American citizens; yet, Rome failed.

Americans shouldn’t expect any other outcome. The price to be paid for insouciance, self-satisfaction, and complicity is high.

I am not as certain as Roberts is, but indeed the situation is bleak, and it is
especially bleak because more than 50% of the American population is unintelligent, uninformed and prejudiced, while 100% of the American population is heavily propagandized, which the majority simply doesn't seem to see.

4.  The Raping of America: Mile Markers on the Road to Fascism

The next article is by John Whitehead on Washington's Blog:

This starts as follows:

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s an ill will blowing across the country. The economy is tanking. The people are directionless, and politics provides no answer. And like former regimes, the militarized police have stepped up to provide a façade of law and order manifested by an overt violence against the citizenry.

Despite the revelations of the past several years, nothing has changed to push back against the American police state. Our freedoms—especially the Fourth Amendment—continue to be choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

Despite the recent outrage and protests, nothing has changed to restore us to our rightful role as having dominion over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with the government.

Incidentally, while there certainly were precursors like Sheldon Wolin (<- link to the first of a series of interviews Chris Hedges had with him) I was one of the first who insisted that the best general explanation of what has been happening in the U.S., and especially since Bush Jr. was nominated by the Supreme Court, and started the Iraq war, is that it seemed most like a well-prepared and successful grab of power by the corporations - including the banks - and corporate interests, which is politically known as fascism, and has been known as such since Mussolini.

Indeed, I did so before knowing of Edward Snowden, namely on 25 December 2012, which I republished, edited a bit, but left mostly unchanged, on January 31, 2014, after learning about Edward Snowden.

Also, I think my analysis still holds good, but indeed - as Whitehead's title also has it - it still seems a road towards fascism, which hasn't fully arrrived yet, but which is approaching more and more.

Here is some more Whitehead:

Worst of all, it seems as if nothing will change as long as the American people remain distracted by politics, divided by their own prejudices, and brainwashed into believing that the Constitution still reigns supreme as the law of the land, when in fact, we have almost completed the shift into fascism.

In other words, despite our occasional bursts of outrage over abusive police practices, sporadic calls for government reform, and periodic bouts of awareness that all is not what it seems, the police state continues to march steadily onward.

Yes, in so far as it lays a part of the blame with the less intelligent and less educated half of the American population; no, in so far as I don't believe
"
we have almost completed the shift into fascism"; but a qualified yes in that
this does indicate the direction of the changes.

Here are some examples that Whitehead has in mind:

Examples of minor infractions which have resulted in strip searches include: individuals arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, driving with an inoperable headlight, failing to use a turn signal, riding a bicycle without an audible bell, making an improper left turn, engaging in an antiwar demonstration (the individual searched was a nun, a Sister of Divine Providence for 50 years). Police have also carried out strip searches for passing a bad check, dog leash violations, filing a false police report, failing to produce a driver’s license after making an illegal left turn, having outstanding parking tickets, and public intoxication. A failure to pay child support can also result in a strip search.

It must be remembered that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to prevent government agents from searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause (evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot). While the literal purpose of the amendment is to protect our property and our bodies from unwarranted government intrusion, the moral intention behind it is to protect our human dignity.

I agree with all that, but it is not - yet, at least - a proof of fascism, though it does seem considerable evidence that the American police has been heavily militarized, and also seems to have changed their main task of protecting the people to suppressing the people, with considerable and totally unmerited violence as well, especially against blacks.

Here is the last quotation I will give:

With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to a society in which we have little real control over our lives. As Rod Serling, creator of the Twilight Zone and an insightful commentator on human nature, once observed, “We’re developing a new citizenry. One that will be very selective about cereals and automobiles, but won’t be able to think.”

Indeed, not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them—tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on.

In this way, we have created a welfare state, a nanny state, a police state, a surveillance state, an electronic concentration camp—call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have no true freedom.

Government surveillance, police abuse, SWAT team raids, economic instability, asset forfeiture schemes, pork barrel legislation, militarized police, drones, endless wars, private prisons, involuntary detentions, biometrics databases, free speech zones, etc.: these are mile markers on the road to a fascist state where citizens are treated like cattle, to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse.

I mostly agree, with three notes. First, I agree that these - e.g. in the last paragraph - are strong tendencies towards fascism, but it hasn't fully arrived yet. And second, I also agree that a major responsibility for these developments
lay with the American population.

But third - and this is also why I disagree with the quote by Rod Sterling -
the basic problem is the lack of intelligence and knowledge in the 50% of
the most stupid - sorry: the least intelligent - Americans, together with their
deception by political leaders they trust.

And it is true that nearly all political leaders in the USA have behaved as if
they are best served by the least intelligent or the least knowledgeable, and
have done their mighty best to see to it that the 90% of the poor and middle
class get as bad and as worthless an education as can be managed (which is
pretty easy with less and less money for education).

But it is not true "a new citizenry" is being produced: All that gets reproduced is an ever larger mass of adults who know very little, think very little, and try to get by by pleasing their authorities and by avoiding taking any controversial point of view.

5. Lack of vitamin D may cause multiple sclerosis, study finds

The final item for today is not a crisis item, but is related to the - bureaucratically totally denied - real illness I have since 1.i.1979:

For those who are interested, first a very brief bit on the real status of some  unexplained diseases:

I am since 1989 - according to my doctor, who also knew me quite well - a patient who suffers from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) and/or Fibromyalgia (F.M.), and the last was especially indicated because I had (and have) rather a lot of pain.

Next, there are two related diseases that also are mostly unexplained: Lyme's disease (where the mode of transmission is known, but not the details about how the disease works) and Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) of which the cause is also unknown.

OK - now for the news:

Lack of vitamin D may be a direct cause of multiple sclerosis (MS), a study has found. The discovery may have important public health implications since so many people have insufficient levels of the essential vitamin, researchers say.

The findings may help explain why rates of MS, a potentially disabling auto-immune disease that damages nerve fibres, are higher in high-latitude regions such as northern Europe, which have fewer sunny days. Sunshine triggering a chemical reaction in the skin is the primary source of vitamin D.

Previous studies have suggested an association between lower vitamin D levels and a higher risk of MS. But now scientists have demonstrated a genetic correlation that points strongly to a causal link.

Scientists who scoured the DNA of 33,996 participants identified four single-letter variants in the genetic code that were closely associated with a vitamin D blood marker.

A comparison between thousands of MS sufferers and healthy individuals found that people whose genetic makeup was associated with a lack of vitamin D – meaning they had fewer of the biomarker variants – were at least twice as likely to have MS.

I say. And I definitely was low in D until well in my thirties (when it got better because I started taking lots of supplements in 1984). And no, I am not saying
I really have M.S.: I am saying that supplementing with vitamins and minerals
is important, because (1) this may help battle a cause of a disease one has or may develop, known, partially known, or unknown; (2) very much about the human body is still unknown; and (3) with proper supplements (wisely taken) one at least provides one's body with a good grounding to battle against disease. [2]

Here is the last bit, that also shows the discovery is important:

MS, which affects about 100,000 people in the UK, occurs when the immune system attacks the protective myelin sheath that surrounds nerve fibres and acts as an insulator. Nerve signals are disrupted, leading to symptoms that can range from mild tingling sensations to full-blown paralysis. In rare cases that progress rapidly, the disease can be fatal.

Dr Benjamin Jacobs, from the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital in London, said: “This study reveals important new evidence of a link between vitamin D deficiency and multiple sclerosis. The results show that if a baby is born with genes associated with vitamin D deficiency they are twice as likely as other babies to develop MS as an adult. This could be because vitamin D deficiency causes MS, or possibly because there are other complex genetic interactions.”

Yes, but it is strong evidence for some important tie between insufficient vitamin D (which is very common in the U.S. and Northern Europe) and MS.

P.S. Aug 27, 2015: Removed some typos.

--------------------------------------
Notes

[1] In fact, I owe this point to George Orwell's "Collected Essays" (etc.), part 3.

[2] Incidentally, while I definitely have gotten older in looks since 2012, when I still had no grey in my hair and no curves in my face, I think I still look - emphatically not: feel - 20 years younger than I am, which indeed also was the
case in my early forties, when I saw someone drop off her chair when I told her
my age (43, while she had taught I looked like 23). In fact, "Life Extension" was
an important reason for people to take megavitamins, and while I never took vitamins for that purpose, I am a good example for the thesis that it may help.
That is, if mere looks (without the associated feelings) are important.

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