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Nederlog

December 15, 2015
Crisis: Environment, Trump & Stupidity, Middle Class, Kill Chain, CISA
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Introduction


Introduction

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about the Paris Conference, and I find myself (a bit oddly) in agreement with George Monbiot, who thinks nothing real was achieved; item 2 is about Matt Taibbi on Trump and TV: it seems to me that - as usual - the lack of intelligence and education of the majority of Americans is left out; item 3 is about Reich who wrote about "a revolt of the middle class" in the USA that I see no evidence for (and that for Reich may take another 15 years or so); item 4 is about an update on one of the Drone Papers; and item 5 is about how Congress slipped in a bill that will probably pass and kill encryption (that is not easily breakable by the NSA).

1. A Turning Point for the Climate or a Disaster?

The first item is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows, and I explain why the item is here under it:
In what’s been described as a historic turning point, nearly 200 nations agreed in Paris Saturday to a global accord to rein in rising greenhouse gas emissions blamed for warming the planet. The accord was reached at the conclusion of the two-week U.N. climate change conference, known as COP21. Under the deal, nations will make voluntary commitments to begin cutting emissions. In addition, the deal provides billions more dollars to help poor nations cope with the transition to a greener economy powered by renewable energy. "What we saw in the last two weeks was that every country around the world agreed we have to do much, much more to fight climate change effectively, and to begin to set up a dialogue and mechanism for rich countries to aid the poor countries, and to make room for continuous ambition moving forward," says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club and author of "Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal." But climate justice activists disagree on how effective the agreement will be in rolling back the effects of climate change. "What I see is an agreement with no timetables, no targets, with vague, wild aspirations," says British journalist and author George Monbiot, columnist with The Guardian and author of the 2006 book, "Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning." "I see a lot of backslapping, a lot of self-congratulation, and I see very little in terms of the actual substance that is required to avert climate breakdown." We speak with both Brune and Monbiot about the agreement.
In fact, I gave the explanation yesterday: See item 3 and note 1 there. And on this issue I am (at least with a bit of amazement) at the side of George Monbiot, who is quoted as having said in the discussion:
GEORGE MONBIOT: Well, I wish I could be as optimistic as Michael, but what I see is an agreement with no timetables, no targets, with vague, wild aspirations. I mean, it’s almost as if it’s now safe to adopt 1.5 degrees centigrade as their aspirational target now that it is pretty well impossible to reach. I see a lot of backslapping, a lot of self-congratulation, and I see very little in terms of the actual substance that is required to avert climate breakdown. That’s what we’re facing. We’re facing an existential crisis for humankind. And the response by the world’s leaders has been anything but commensurate with that crisis.
Quite so. There is rather a lot more in the article, but this is what it comes down to. And besides, it seems as people like Michael Brune have let themselves bewitched by propaganda and vague promises without any assurance they will be kept.

2.
Matt Taibbi: It's Too Late To Turn Off Trump

The second item is by Dartagnan on AlterNet (and originally on Daily Kos):
This starts as follows:
At some undefined moment over the past two weeks a light bulb suddenly came on over the talking heads in our corporate media as it dawned on them that Donald Trump was saying things that were really not so nice and kinda scary.  Why it took them nearly half a year to reach this epiphany has not been satisfactorily explained or even examined,  but as Matt Taibbi takes note in Rolling Stone, a good bet is that it had something to do with ratings, a fact ironically acknowledged by Trump himself.
I think the good ratings are part of the explanation, but there is also probably more, simply because Trump has been saying these things for a long time.

One possible additional explanation is that since 1980 a new kind of "journalist" has come to the top of their profession: Those who don't do any real investigative reporting while making a good living by not asking any really critical questions of the government, and basically handing on the government's rendering of the news that the government gives.

Another possible explanation, that may be beneath the previous one, is that many of the new kind of "journalists" have been trained by postmodernists, and have no faith in truth or honesty: truth is just one of many possible "narratives"; honesty is for fools trying to speak the truth; and a well-meaning "journalist" should try to keep his job, make money, and be tacit on anything that is critical or very critical of anything his or her government does.

But I am guessing. I think both influences are there, but I cannot estimate their sizes.

As to Trump, there is this:

Trump simply embodies the TV culture that created him and that most Americans wallow in every night of their lives. His views and pronouncements, in their idiotic simplicity and unworkability, follow suit:
This seems notable especially because of what it leaves out:

The stupidity - sorry: the lack of intelligence and education - that marks the majority of everyday Americans (left, right and center).

You may complain about Trump's massive inanities, but the reason these are and remain popular is simply because so many members of his audience (i) have no better ideas or values and (ii) do not even see any need to look beyond the mainstream media that provide their mostly bullshit "news".

I dislike Trump, but the basic problem is not Trump but the fact that so many Americans  don't have decent ideas or values (other than the shit their TVs offer them), and also seem not to care or not able (even) to read the necessary sources for somewhat informed ideas and values.

Here is some more:
As Taibbi puts it,  “TV is the ultimate leveling phenomenon. I makes everyone, rich and poor, equally incapable of dealing with reality.”

So it’s long past the point where taking Trump off the air would do any good. That ship probably sailed when Americans duped themselves into voting for a B-movie actor in 1980 who talked tough while bankrupting the country, and told themselves ever since that this was a good idea.
Possibly Matt Taibbi is right, but not about me: I don't have a TV since 1970 and rarely viewed it since, simply because it is too stupid and contains far too many advertisements, far too much propaganda, and far too many stupidities, inanities and bullshit. I just do not want to waste time on bullshit mostly designed to please the halves with IQs that are 100 maximally.

And I don't think that is due to any peculiarity of myself, apart from the fact that
I am more intelligent than most and better educated than most. If there were more like me (as there are, but not many) there would be fewer who watch TV or at least fewer who lap up the propaganda as if it were true.

Again: It is not Trump who is the problem, but the many Americans who have hardly any ideas or values other than their TVs tell them.

3. The Revolt of the Anxious Class

The third item is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:
The great American middle class has become an anxious class – and it’s in revolt.
Really? I don't think so myself. Here is some of my evidence, given by Reich:

The odds of falling into poverty are frighteningly high, especially for the majority without college degrees.

Two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Most could lose their jobs at any time.

Many are part of a burgeoning “on-demand” workforce – employed as needed, paid whatever they can get whenever they can get it.

Yet if they don’t keep up with rent or mortgage payments, or can’t pay for groceries or utilities, they’ll lose their footing.

And this means that the great majority of the middle class, that anyway does not have radical ideas, simply have no money and no other resources to start a revolt on.

There is also this, which seems mostly correct:

Government won’t protect their jobs from being outsourced to Asia or being taken by a worker here illegally.

Government can’t even protect them from evil people with guns or bombs. Which is why the anxious class is arming itself, buying guns at a record rate.

They view government as not so much incompetent as not giving a damn. It’s working for the big guys and fat cats – the crony capitalists who bankroll candidates and get special favors in return.

Here is Robert Reich's lesson:

Now someone comes along who’s even more of a bully than those who for years have bullied them economically, politically, and even violently.

The attraction is understandable, even though misguided.

If not Donald Trump, then it will be someone else posing as a strongman. If not this election cycle, it will be the next one.

The revolt of the anxious class has just begun.
But is this a "revolt of the anxious [middle] class"? I think not. What Reich sketched is not so much a revolt as a turning to fascists, authoritarians, bullies, liars and peddlers of bullshit.

He may be right, but this is not "a revolt".

4. The Kill Chain

The fourth item is by Cora Currier on The Intercept:

This starts as follows (after a general introduction) and seems a partial repeat, with some additional material, of an item first published in October 2015, as part of The Drone Papers:

The Obama administration has been loath to declassify even the legal rationale for drone strikes — let alone detail the bureaucratic structure revealed in these documents. Both the CIA and JSOC conduct drone strikes in Yemen, and very little has been officially disclosed about either the military’s or the spy agency’s operations.

“The public has a right to know who’s making these decisions, who decides who is a legitimate target, and on what basis that decision is made,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Both the Pentagon and the National Security Council declined to respond to detailed questions about the study and about the drone program more generally. The NSC would not say if the process for approving targets or strikes had changed since the study was produced.

Essentially, this means that the American government acts as if it is an authoritarian government that denies its inhabitants the right to be properly informed about the government's actions.

And I think that is true. There is a lot more in the article, that is recommended.

5. Congress Reportedly Slipping CISA Spy Bill Into Must-Pass Omnibus

The fifth item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Digital rights groups are sounding the alarm after sources reportedly confirmed on Monday that the controversial cyber-surveillance bill formerly known as CISA has been slipped into the "must-pass" omnibus spending bill that Congress is expected to vote on later this week.

Fight for the Future, a leading digital rights group that has organized fierce grassroots resistance to CISA (otherwise known as Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act) and similar bills, issued a statement saying that all eyes will be on President Barack Obama should the legislation reach his desk.

"Now is when we’ll find out whether President Obama really cares about the Internet and freedom of speech, or whether he’s happy to roll over and allow technologically illiterate members of Congress break the Internet in the name of cybersecurity," said the group's campaign director, Evan Greer.

Negotiators have been working to pass some version of the CISA bill, which would allow the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and technology and manufacturing companies, for more than three years.

Gore Vidal said around 2007 that it would take 10 to 15 years to neutralize the internet.

He may have been too optimistic: It seems the present bill will pass and that will be the end of all encryption (that is not easily breakable by the NSA).

Also, this is again an example of how Congress these days work: Attach any bill with authoritarian anti-democratic degeneracy to another bill that must pass, and you can create an authoritarian anti-democratic state in a few years.

And it works, because only a very few will raise questions: Most members of Congress  (nearly all millionaires) are much more concerned about getting the money that they think is due to them from their lobbyists.

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