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Nederlog

December 10, 2015
Crisis: Capitalism (Two Kinds), Fascism, Torture Report, Trump
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Introduction


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, December 10, 2015.

This is a crisis file. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about a rather strange and quite propagandistic article by a Mr Trasher (originally in The Guardian, and therefore hardly quoted by me); item 2 is about another rather strange and quite propagandistic article on AlterNet (and I must guess the Americans who wrote it do not know much about Europe); item 3 is a recommended article about the torture report that now is a year old and is unread while the torturers are unpunished; and item 4 is an interesting article that explains some of the beliefs Trump exploits: it goes by party lines.

1. We Won’t Fix Inequality by Tweaking Capitalism

The first item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This starts as follows, and mostly quotes Stephen Trasher from The Guardian, that I cannot quote anymore [1].

The disparities in wealth that we term “income inequality” happened by design, writes social critic Stephen Thrasher in The Guardian. And “they can’t be fixed by fiddling at the edges of our current economic system.”

“It is not as if the rich are a little more equal and the poor a little less equal, and if we shift a bit we’ll all come out in the middle,” Thrasher continues. “What we’ve been calling ‘income inequality’ might be better understood as a war waged by US political and economic policy on the poor.”

Let me start by saying that I do not know who Mr Trasher is. He seems to be a black (perhaps a halfblack, like Obama) American homosexual (which may not be the right term: if not, I am sorry), in so far as I can make this out from The Guardian.

What he is saying in the above quotation seems to me to be propaganda:

Income inequalities, as they are called, indeed happened by design, but the design used to be by many different groups (from the public, from the government, from all kinds of organizations, from trade unions, from the rich) that also had different ideas about the reasons for income inequalities, and different ideas about how to cure them or at least diminish them.

Also, I am pretty certain (at 65, meanwhile) that I have lived under two kinds of capitalism, and the same holds for anyone my age who lived in West Europe, the USA or Canada:

What I shall call Keynesian capitalism, or capitalism-with-a-human-face, that ruled form 1946-1980, approximately, and what I shall call Friedmanian capitalism, or capitalism-with-an-inhuman-face [2], that started under Thatcher and Reagan, and that meanwhile has mostly won.

It won by propaganda, deceptions, lies, falsehoods, and especially illegal deregulations, but it won. And it could win by
propaganda, deceptions, lies, falsehoods mostly because a large part of the public they deceived were unintelligent and uneducated, and therefore very easily deceived. (Incidentally, this last part - the lacks of real intelligence and real education of the majority - tends to be totally disregarded by almost anyone who writes about politics in any way.)

And while I am somewhat sympathetic to the view that currently, under capitalism-with-an-inhuman-face, in which the very rich have mostly won, the very rich are abusing their power mostly to exploit the poor and the middle classes, I don't think it makes much sense to call this "a war", and especially not if one of the parties is not described as the very rich (who did invest billions to get even richer) but as "
waged by US political and economic policy". (?!)

That is so vague as to mean virtually nothing. Also, it is definitely not "a war", though indeed the outcomes are very unfair. And it simply is not a war because there is no war: there are no armed fights by armies organized on either side - which is what we mean if we say "war".

But then I fear that Mr Trasher is not at all interested in questions of fact or verity (and indeed, in so far as I know his type, he may well not believe in truth at all): he addresses your feelings much more than your intellect, and he does so by systematic exaggeration.

Here is a taste of his prose, quoted from Truthdig [1]. Because I cannot quote anymore from The Guardian, I will only quote the first sentences of four successive paragraphs (the rest of the paragraphs is support):

Income inequality is better termed structural racism. (...)

Income inequality is better viewed as structural sexism. (...)

Income equality is better viewed as structural child abuse. (...)

Income inequality is better viewed as economic genocide, which shortens the lives of the poor. (...)

I am sorry, but this is mere propaganda, that is structured as is anti-catholicism that equates catholicism and the inquisition: Yes, catholicism led to the inquisition, but the two are not equivalent. (And no, I am not a catholic, but an atheist from a family of atheists.)

It simply is not true that "income inequality" (which I agree is a vague term) is "better termed" or "better viewed" by the other terms offered - that is: it is not true if you are interested in a rational debate, much rather than in stiff doses of terminological propaganda.

Then again, I am afraid that Mr. Trasher, who is much younger than I am, means what he says, and indeed that he may - as were nearly all the many "leftists" I met in the University of Amsterdam - not believe in truth or morals or ethics, though I do not know that.

2. Fascism Is All the Rage in Europe, and It’s Coming to America

The second item is by Sean Illing on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
The spectre of fascism has loomed over Europe for several years, and it’s reached a fever pitch. In France, the United Kingdom, Austria, Greece, Denmark, and Sweden, right-wing nationalist movements are gaining steam with every election.
I say, for this is pretty amazing. Here is my explanation for my being amazed:

I am a European; I have always lived in West Europe; my grandfather was murdered in a German concentration camp (as a "political terrorist": he resisted the Nazis); my father survived over 3 years and 9 months of German concentration camps
(as a "political terrorist": he resisted the Nazis); I have diagnosed the recent enormous rise of the corporate rich in the United States as a kind of "corporate fascism" in 2012 because that seemed the best term - but I have not even read the word "fascism" in European papers (except perhaps to refer to the Nazis) for at least 15 years. (And I am looking at 40 dailies and weeklies every day, indeed not all European.)

What I have seen in the papers was not - emphatically not: the term was almost wholly avoided - the rise of fascism, but the increasing popularity of right-wing views of various kinds, that indeed gained a lot in popularity.

But these are rarely identified with fascism, which indeed also in many cases would be questionable (though not in all).

Here is some of the support Illings quotes. The writer is Thane Rosenbaum (also not a European but an American), who wrote the following in August of 2014:

“In some countries, like France, where fashion always matter, the voters gave the boorish National Front the largest share of votes. Similar extreme right-wing sentiment fueled the electoral outcome in England, where the United Kingdom Independence Party out-polled all other parties. In both countries, extremists captured more than a quarter of the vote…Things were only slightly better in Austria, Denmark, and Sweden. In Hungary, the demonstrably anti-Semitic Jobbik party finished second. In Greece, the Golden Dawn party, a neo-Nazi outfit that dresses in what looks like Nazi uniforms, captured seats for the first time. Even in Germany, where Nazi memorabilia and romanticism are outlawed, a neo-fascist claimed a seat…
But while the right indeed has become a lot stronger in Europe, not all of "the right" consists of fascists (indeed mostly not, in so far as I know), and much of the above are (or may be) incidents (of 1 1/2 years ago, also).

Then I get the following astounding claim:

Everyone saw this coming.

There are very real fears in Europe, fears that we would do well to understand, however exaggerated they are
I am very sorry, but I am a highly educated European who consults over 40 dailies each day, for years now, but I saw absolutely NO ONE who "saw this coming"; I saw almost no one who used the term "fascism"; and if they did it was almost always to describe explicit extremists.

Then we are assured the following:

This is fertile soil for fascism. And make no mistake: Fascism is not a political artifact of twentieth century Europe. History and human nature being what they are, it can – and almost certainly will – happen again. Fascism feeds on a stew of nationalism, militarism, and state power. And an enemy, real or imagined, is needed in order to whip people into a patriotic frenzy.

Muslims have become that enemy.

At this point I must ask what Mr Illings means by a term like "fascism". He certainly gives no definition, and somebody who assures me that "Fascism is not a political artifact of twentieth century Europe" really seems not to know what he is talking about.

Then again, one of the reasons for Mr Illings' article seems to have been the recent gains of the French National Front:

Over the weekend France’s far-right National Front (FN) won 30 percent of the national vote in the first round of regional elections, becoming the most popular party in France. The FN, as Salon’s Ben Norton noted, “runs on a harshly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim platform. Le Pen [president of the FN], wants to eliminate immigration and make it much more difficult for migrants already in the country to attain citizenship. The FN says it has zero tolerance for undocumented immigrants, and hopes to ban dual nationality for non-Europeans.”

The rise of the FN is an indication of where France – and Europe more generally – is heading. Across Europe, parties that traffic in xenophobia and neo-fascism are finding more and more success in electoral politics, and right-wing demagogues are capitalizing on growing frustrations among their electorates.

I deplore this as well, though I agree with the National Front (!) that (1) there is no space for all the Muslims who would move to Europe if given the chance (though I completely disagree with the methods of the National Front) and (2) I see no need or justification for a dual nationality.

So basically I see much I do not understand (as a European, who never lived outside Europe) or do not agree with in this article, though the following last bit that I will quote may be correct:

Trump presents a real challenge to our political system. It’s a mistake to think fascism – real fascism – can’t happen here, or that it would never look anything like it has in the past. That’s a dangerous illusion. It’s not at all implausible to say we’re one more terrorist attack or economic downturn away from something like a Donald Trump presidency.

Yes, but if this happens (as I agree it may, though I still think a Trump presidency is quite unlikely) the main reason is not the untalented Mr Trump, but the very many unintelligent and uneducated Americans he appeals to with his false rhetoric.

3. Torture Report at One Year: Unread, Unpunished, and Still Up for Debate

The third item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows (and is an update on the torture report, that was discussed rather a lot a year ago):

In the one year since the Senate Intelligence Committee released its account of the Central Intelligence Agency's brutal torture regime, the perpetrators have gone unpunished and the report remains unread, while—at least for some presidential candidates—torture still remains a topic for discussion.

On December 9, 2014, the 525-page executive summary of the Senate torture report was published, amid great controversy and fanfare. At the time, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who had led the campaign for the investigation, said: "I hope this report is the catalyst CIA leaders need to acknowledge that torture did not work and close this disgraceful chapter in our country’s history."

However, one year later, "there has been no accountability for these crimes," as noted by Widney Brown with Physicians for Human Rights on Wednesday, and instead the supposed viability of torture has reappeared in mainstream discourse.

Yes, indeed. And in fact what happened was worse:

As The Hill reported on Wednesday, "Talk of returning to the days of waterboarding and 'stress positions' has erupted on the campaign trail, with some candidates calling for a return to the 'enhanced interrogation' techniques that critics condemn as torture."

Of course, leading this charge is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who notoriously said he'd approve waterboarding "in a heartbeat." 

Trump's GOP competitors have also indicated their openness to such techniques. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stated in August that "there’s a difference between enhanced interrogation techniques and torture." And Sen. Marco Rubio has openly opposed the recently-enacted torture ban, saying: "I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use, and denying future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people."

I take it Mr Rubio believes that all Americans are Ex-Cep-Tio-Nal, which means something like "superhuman", and liberates them from any sanctions and any international law. Mr Obama also seems to believe this. (I don't.)

As to the torture report that now has been published for a year:

Elizabeth Beavers, a policy coordinator focusing on torture at Amnesty International, told Hussain that administration officials "appear to be taking a 'see no evil, hear no evil' [stance] with regards to the proof of criminal acts it may contain." But, she added, "for the administration to not even to read the whole report, and to look the other way while it is possibly buried or even destroyed, sets a dangerous precedent by excusing major crimes like torture and forced disappearance."

Quite so. And this is an article that is recommended.

4. Republican Voters Like What Donald Trump Is Selling

The fourth item is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones:

This starts as follows:
Why is Donald Trump not paying a price for his increasingly unhinged rhetoric? Two recent polls tell the story.

At the top is a Bloomberg poll that asks if you agree with Trump's call for a ban on Muslims entering the country. Less than a quarter of Republicans oppose it. At the bottom is an MSNBC poll that asks what kind of person Trump is. Only a quarter of Republicans think he's insulting and offensive. These aren't polls of tea partiers. They aren't polls just of conservative states. These are polls of all Republicans in the nation. By a very wide margin, ordinary Republican voters think the stuff Trump is saying sounds great. Only about a quarter don't like what they're hearing.

In fact, here are the numbers, and they show a nearly total split per party:

On the first question (banning): 65% of the Republicans for, 75% of the Democrats against; on the second question (insulting or not): 71% of the Republicans think Trump "tells it like it is", while 79% of the Democrats think he is "insulting and offensive".

I say. And the numbers are based on polls of all Republicans and all Democrats. Kevin Drum's conclusion seems valid:

In any case, it's increasingly clear why Trump isn't paying a price for what he says: It's because most Republicans like it.

---------------------------------------------
Note
[1] In fact, this is the main reason that the crisis series has ended in the form it had from September 1, 2008 till November 8, 2015: See Nederlog November 8, 2015.

I grant that my view of The Guardian also rather radically changed, but this has also to do with other changes they recently introduced, all without any discussion that I saw:

See January 29, 2015, January 30, 2015, February 15, 2015, August 28, 2015 (when one horrible change was undone, all again - as usual - without any indication by The Guardian), November 8, 2015 and November 9, 2015.

Also, the most awful changes (in my opinion) are the great increase in spying software (half of the articles you now get is Javascript) and the tricks these Javascripts (?) play with my computer.

[2] This is also one of the few things (in politics and economics) that I am quite certain of.

Part of the reason is that I have lived in both systems: 30 years in the Keynesian system, 35 years in the Friedmanian system (that was built up then, mostly through successive deregulations); part of the reason is that I have read Keynes (and Marx, and a lot of politics and economics); and part of the reason is that I cannot be a socialist as long as socialism involves expropriating those with property and assigning that property to "everyone" or "the public", because that means in fact that the state will own everything, which will give the state far too much and far too many powers.

See also my Nederlog on socialism.

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