September 1, 2015
Crisis: TTIP, Labor vs. Capitalism, Obama, "Propaganda", Germany

 "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


The promised ‘transparency’ around TTIP has been a

2. Labor Day 2028
3. Alaska Becomes Backdrop as Obama's Climate
     Contradictions Laid Bare

4. Thought Policing
5. Dark Germany, Bright Germany: Which Side Will Prevail
     Under Strain of Refugees?

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday September 1, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a piece by a (Green) European Member of Parliament (MEP), which I thought rather revealing, though not quite in the way the MEP seems to believe; item 2 is about an idea of Robert Reich to realize a Keynesian dream (I am afraid this doesn't combine well with capitalism and private property); item 3 is another illustration
that Obama often says X and does not-X; item 4 is about a book by one academic philosopher that is reviewed by a former academic philosopher that shows - if well understood - how academic philosophy works (rather like propaganda, if that term is properly understood); and item 5 is about an article written by a committee on Spiegel On Line, that has the weaknesses committees
tend to have.

1. The promised ‘transparency’ around TTIP has been a sham

The first article is by Sven Giegold on The Guardian:
This has a quite revealing subtitle:
The most important documents about the TTIP talks are unavailable to us MEPs as well as the public – and it suits big business to keep it that way
For this says quite clearly who has the real power now, both in the USA and in Europe: The big corporations, much rather than any parliament, and indeed any government.

And their power is so big that they can keep parliamentarians even from reading the laws they are supposed to decide on, while if - at long last - some of the things kept secret from parliamentarians (once supposed to be the effective heads of power in democratic states) are "made public" what the parliament- arians get are pages like this (and this is one from many more similar pages):

Indeed, the above picture is from a site (you can also click the picture to get there) where there are plenty more.

I will be so free as to suppose that the blacked out pages of proposed laws that the parliamentarians are supposed to judge rationally are as many statements from the corporate lawyers whose menials blacked them out, that say in fact:
"we despise parliamentarians, and here is our proof: Read this, you assholes!"

But indeed the parliamentarians of these days are for the most part so corrupted that they don't care, they don't protest, and they swallow anything from their bosses, the corporate lawyers.

Here is the beginning of the article:

Are you concerned about the implication of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? Don’t worry! Only this month, the EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström promised another offensive on TTIP transparency: even more documents from the negotiations would be made available.

Her promise was put to the test only a few days later: the corporate transparency nerds of Corporate Europe Observatory finally received documents on exchanges between the tobacco lobby and the Brussels institution concerning TTIP and the EU-Japan trade talks. The punchline of the story? Most of the documents were redacted. An exercise in black humour, in the most literal sense possible. A picture of the blackened documents received thousands of shares and likes on social media since.

And I reproduced one of many similar pages that were released as if they were "even more documents", it seems to me with this underlying message: "Fuck you, European parliamentarians! We don't need you! This is all you get, and we know you will approve it unread! And you better do, or we will withdraw your money!"

This is too wild? Well... there is this in the article:

(...) the most important TTIP documents are still unavailable. No one knows what the US government is really asking from Europe. This is why many positive as well as negative claims cannot be substantiated (...)
That is modern "democracy" in action. (Obama approves!) And in fact, it is considerably worse:
Unfortunately, most politicians in the European parliament are as much in the dark as ordinary citizens. We MEPs may get access to a few more documents in the parliament’s reading room than those searching the EU commission’s website. Nevertheless, the most important ones containing the demands of the US government are kept secret, even from MEPs. Even worse, although there are thousands of pages of documents, readers are not allowed to take any notes. Non-native English-speaking MEPs are further deterred by highly technical trade-law jargon. And while we could employ staff who are better trained to read the documents, they are not allowed to access the reading rooms. Therefore, the right of access to documents for MEPs is largely a sham.
Precisely - except that "largely" is an enormous understatement, for there is also no majority of parliamentarians who say: "WE are the boss in a parlia- mentary democracy! Nothing gets passed by us that we have not fully and leisurely read, taken notes on, and discussed among ourselves! That is our duty! That is what we get paid for! Fuck you corporate lawyers!"

And why not? The article is written by a Green MEP, who seems a bit slow:

Green MEPs have consistently demanded that full transparency of trade negotiation should be made a precondition for their progress. I simply do not understand that – in particular – conservative, liberal and socialist colleagues applaud the continuation of negotiations that they cannot effectively control.
Well... I simply do not understand that you simply do not seem to understand that the majority of your colleagues has been bought by money or by promises by the corporate lawyers who also hand them blacked out pages and tell them how to vote. [1]

For otherwise they would, in majority at least, do their parliamentary duties and declare what I just said they should declare.

The Green MEP also has this
TTIP, CETA and other bilaterals are much more than traditional trade agreements. They are deals aimed at harmonising or mutually recognising regulations and standards for goods and services. This touches the very heart of our democracies in Europe.

But as long as the majority of MEPs decided not to pay attention, democracy in Europe is dead in fact, even if there are hundreds of MEPs who pretend it is otherwise. No, it is not, for it if were otherwise the text of the TTIP would be known, and the TTIP had no chance of being passed unread, undiscussed, and unconsidered.

As it probably will.

2. Labor Day 2028 

The next article is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

In 1928, famed British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would advance so far in a hundred years – by 2028 – that it will replace all work, and no one will need to worry about making money.

“For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem – how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

We still have thirteen years to go before we reach Keynes’ prophetic year, but we’re not exactly on the way to it. Americans are working harder than ever.

And for the most part are not taking home more money than they did in the late 1970ies, when their payments are corrected for inflation. How come?

Capitalist private property, that guarantees that those who owe the factory - though not: the country, the city, its infra-structure, its peace, its laws, its education and its citizens - privately owns every penny of profit they can squeeze out of it:

But he overlooked one big question: How to redistribute the profits from these marvelous labor-saving inventions, so we’ll have the money to buy the free time they provide?

Without such a mechanism, most of us are condemned to work ever harder in order to compensate for lost earnings due to the labor-replacing technologies.

That is one answer. Here is some more:

The economic model that predominated through most of the twentieth century was mass production by many, for mass consumption by many.

But the model we’re rushing toward is unlimited production by a handful, for consumption by the few able to afford it.

I do not know whether the last alternative is really where it is at: I think there still is mass production by many - except the many now live in the third world countries (as they were once known) where wages are a tenth or less from the
wages in the West, which makes profits correspondingly higher for the rich Western owners of the factories that make them.

The western factories have moved to the third world, where labor is extremely cheap, and the children of the Western laborers are "re-educated" as "service- workers", with lower wages and more, longer and more boring "work".

Robert Reich considers shortening the periods of patents, but then hits on another idea about them:

Instead of shortening the patent period, how about giving every citizen a share of the profits from all patents and trademarks government protects? It would be a condition for receiving such protection.

Say, for example, 20 percent of all such profits were split equally among all citizens, starting the month they turn eighteen.

In effect, this would be a basic minimum income for everyone.

The sum would be enough to ensure everyone a minimally decent standard of living – including money to buy the technologies that would free them up from the necessity of working.

Well... it is a nice idea, but it will not work because it is at fundamental variance with capitalist private property: the owners of patents and factories will never agree to it, and they have the power.

I agree it would be nice:

Such a basic minimum would allow people to pursue whatever arts or avocations provide them with meaning, thereby enabling society to enjoy the fruits of such artistry or voluntary efforts.

We would thereby create the kind of society John Maynard Keynes predicted we’d achieve by 2028  – an age of technological abundance in which no one will need to work.

But we will not do so, and one important reason has been recognized around 200 years ago:

If mankind had wished for what is right, they might have had it long ago. The theory is plain enough; but they are prone to mischief, "to every good work reprobate."
-- William Hazlitt: On the Pleasure of Hating

3. Alaska Becomes Backdrop as Obama's Climate Contradictions Laid Bare

The next article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Though President Obama made headlines Sunday night by signing an executive order that officially renames Alaska's Mt. McKinley to Denali—the name used by Indigenous people and most Alaskan residents—his visit to the country's most northern state remains clouded for many by a contradictory stance in which he calls for strong climate action on one hand while simultaneously championing offshore Arctic drilling with the other.

In restoring Mt. McKinely's name as Denali—which at 20,320 feet is North America's tallest mountain—Obama was instating, as the Associated Press notes, a moniker Alaskans have informally used for centuries. The name means "the high one" in Athabascan.

With Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry now in Alaska for a three-day visit, however, the optics are a challenge to the two men who have used powerful speeches to indicate the administration's understanding of the threat posed by human-caused global warming, but continue to come up short, in the eyes of experts and environmental campaigners, when it comes to taking concrete steps.

There is more in the article, but this is easily sufficient to provide yet another instance of Obama's saying X (whatever he thinks his votes or supporters love to hear) and doing not-X (whatever serves the interests of his big corporate backers), and meanwhile changing the meanings of terms, wherever possible in a politically correct way:

- The president changed the name of McKinley to "
a moniker Alaskans have
   informally used for centuries
" (how many "Alaskans"? I guess 1 in a 1000,
   except in the 18th C and before) to "Denali"
- Meanwhile, he gave Royal Dutch Shell the right to destroy the arctic in their
  search for more oil, but
- he also likes you voters/supporters to know how much he - truly, honestly,
  sincerely - cares for human-caused global warming.

In brief: Typical Obama. He serves the rich in law, and serves the poor in words.
("Change! Change! Change! Yes, we can!")

4. Thought Policing

The next article is by David Johnson (an ex-academic philosopher) about a book by an academic philosopher, that seems - in so far as I could see - mostly - highly pretentious, many-syllabled - nonsense:

The subject is a book by Jason Stanley (still an academic philosopher) who wrote a book that he called "How propaganda works", although a much better title seems to have been "How I think what I call "propaganda" might work", for he certainly has his own meaning of "propaganda", that is totally new, and not at all what propaganda is according to others (like Chomsky) who studied the subject with some care.

This is the third paragraph of Johnson:
One of my Michigan colleagues during that year was Jason Stanley, a distinguished philosopher of language and epistemology. Although we didn’t chat about topical issues at that time, it’s clear from his subsequent writing that he, too, was deeply disturbed by the same political moment. In 2011, Stanley, now a professor at Yale, began writing a series of pieces related to propaganda, ideology, and democracy for The Stone, the New York Times’ philosophy opinion blog. His new book, How Propaganda Works, is the fruit of his turn from his core specialties to politics.
That is: 10 years after 9/11 Stanley started writing bits about propaganda, and 4 years after that he had enough for a book. Here is one question Stanley raises in Stanley's words:
The lead-up in 2003 to the Iraq War again raised the philosophical mystery of the power of propaganda. A Washington Post poll in September 2003 found that almost 70 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks on New York City. . . . How is it that propaganda can thoroughly convince the majority of the country of something that later appears to have been obviously false at the time? The questions of the effectiveness of ideology and propaganda bear the characteristic hallmarks of philosophical problems.
I would answer that question as follows: 70 percent of the Americans believed falsehoods, because they were told falsehoods, and were given little or no evidence that it were falsehoods. Indeed, that is what propaganda is - but not according to Stanley, who insists that telling falsehoods to further your own ends is a " philosophical mystery" and has "the characteristic hallmarks of philosophical problems".

Indeed, here is Johnson on this academic philosophical book:

How Propaganda Works runs into trouble early on, when it seeks, in its second chapter, to define its basic terms of inquiry. Stanley begins by rejecting the “classical sense of propaganda” as derived from Immanuel Kant—which holds that propaganda is “manipulation of the rational will to close off debate”—as well as the closely related “biased speech” definition advanced by Noam Chomsky: that propaganda is “speech that irrationally closes off certain options that should be considered.” In Stanley’s view, neither account explains the popular appeal of propaganda, especially in a liberal democracy, or its relationship to ideology.
If so, Stanley is a fool, who first discards over 200 years of more or less correct use of the term "propaganda" because he cannot see how lying to further your own interests "explains the popular appeal of propaganda", and who also cannot see what the "relationship to ideology" might be - and I presume the last is so because he also has a completely personal definition of "ideology".

To end, here is Stanley's definion (?) of "propaganda":

“The essence of political propaganda,” Stanley argues, “is that it is a kind of speech that fundamentally involves political, economic, aesthetic, or rational ideals, mobilized for a political purpose.”
In brief: it is speech (not: written language, it seems) that is used for a political purpose (nothing with economical, religious or artistic ends, to name a few, can possibly be "propaganda", in Stanley's sense) that appeals to ideals. Also, it
seems there are no lies, deceptions, attempts to mislead, or bias, in Stanley's sense of "propaganda" (and indeed Stanley may be one of those who doesn't believe in lies because he doesn't believe in truth).

In brief, it is 100% academic philosophy, that has nothing to do with the real world, and mostly consists in using perfectly familiar words in totally new senses.

5. Dark Germany, Bright Germany: Which Side Will Prevail Under Strain of Refugees?

The last article of today is by Spiegel Staff on Spiegel On Line:

In fact, this was written by a committee of no less than 12 journalists, and the result is pretty tasteless or bland. This is from the beginning:

Germany, in this late summer of 2015, can be a confusing place. There are migrants in uniform who have to protect the chancellor, herself from East Germany, from an eastern German mob.

The attacks on refugee hostels in Germany have reached a shocking level this year. By July 6, there were fully 199 of them, and the attacks have shown no signs of stopping. At the same time, though, Germans seem more willing to help than ever before. They visit refugee hostels, bringing along clothes and toys. They cook together with the Syrians and Sudanese. They invite migrant boys to join the football teams where their own children play.

Which Germany will prevail? The Germany of racist chants from the roadside? The Germany of rioters and drunken rock-throwers? "Dark Germany," as President Joachim Gauck calls it? Or will it be the new, bright Germany, represented by the young policeman with his roots in Afghanistan?
I say: There are 81 million Germans, and there are some differences between them!! (The "young policeman" is from the - American-style - beginning: Begin with A Personal View By A Real Person. You can check it out yourself.)

Here is a fact (sort of, in view of "may" and "likely"):
As many as 800,000 refugees and migrants may arrive in Germany this year, according to Interior Ministry forecasts. And even if we don't really know how things will develop in coming years, one thing is certain: The numbers aren't likely to drop appreciably.
I accept there may arrive as much as nearly 1% of the German population as "refugees and migrants" in Germany, which I agree is quite a lot. But we don't learn much more about their reception from the committee that wrote this, for their judgement seems to be this:
There's never been as much hate, but also never as much helpfulness -- it's a simple formula that accurately sums up the new Germany. The silent majority falls between these two poles.
That is: there are the haters and there are the lovers and there is the silent majority, and the rest is up to you.

Maybe fewer journalists should be engaged in writing the piece - 12, in this instance - if you want an opinion?


[1] Actually, I think he understands it: He just doesn't want to admit it, and indeed if he admitted it, his whole role as an MEP stands revealed for what it has become: A mere sham of "democracy" that the ladies and gentlemen MEPs have allowed Europe to become, where it is not they who decide things, but American
and European corporate lawyers
(who despise them and who trample their rights). 

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