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Nederlog

December 28, 2015
Crisis: On Freedom, Cold War Terrorism, TPP, Review of 2015
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Introduction
1. The Illusion of Freedom
2. Declassified Cold War Files Show Disturbing Nuclear
     Targeting of Population Centers

3. Trans-Pacific Partnership is a wonderful idea – for China
4. 2015 in Riew: The Best of Truthdig’s A/V Booth Posts

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, December 28, 2015.

This is a crisis blog, with 4 items and 8 dotted links: Item 1 is about a good article by Chris Hedges on freedom and its illusions; item 2 is about another good article by Lauren McCauley that shows the USA had (and quite probably still has) the greatest terrorist network ever designed, and it is atomic; item 3 is about the TPP, that the writer says is good for China but not the USA; and item 4 is about a review-article about 2015 on Truthdig, from which I lifted four links that I know to be quite interesting.

1. The Illusion of Freedom

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows
The seizure of political and economic power by corporations is unassailable. Who funds and manages our elections? Who writes our legislation and laws? Who determines our defense policies and vast military expenditures? Who is in charge of the Department of the Interior? The Department of Homeland Security? Our intelligence agencies? The Department of Agriculture? The Food and Drug Administration? The Department of Labor? The Federal Reserve? The mass media? Our systems of entertainment? Our prisons and schools? Who determines our trade and environmental policies? Who imposes austerity on the public while enabling the looting of the U.S. Treasury and the tax boycott by Wall Street? Who criminalizes dissent?
These are good questions and they are all answered at the beginning: Political and economic power have been seized by the multi-national corporations.

The seizing of power took them 35 or 45 years [1] but the US government and the multi-national corporations, including banks and their managers, have confluenced both in persons and in policies, for the people designing and implementing policies are often former bank managers who will again be bank managers after their stints in government.

And as I've said before (repeatedly) these are the facts: All important US policies are policies that further the financial interests of the multi-national corporations and their managers, at the cost of the interests of everybody else (who is not very rich).

And Chris Hedges is quite right this takeover of power isn't happening, anymore: it has happened, and the powers that protesters - who want democracy, higher wages, good and payable education for everyone, clean air, clean waters, and less influence of the mega-rich - face a far greater and considerably militarized power that is indeed "unassailable" in most ways.

Here is the result for everybody who is not a rich CEO, his or her lawyers, or a prominent politician:
Our rights and opinions do not matter. We have surrendered to our own form of wehrwirtschaft. We do not count within the political process.

This truth, emotionally difficult to accept, violates our conception of ourselves as a free, democratic people. It shatters our vision of ourselves as a nation embodying superior virtues and endowed with the responsibility to serve as a beacon of light to the world. It takes from us the “right” to impose our fictitious virtues on others by violence.
I agree also with the second paragraph, though I add that I never believed in this myth of the USA as "a free, democratic people" (etc.) simply because it seemed to me that most Americans did not and do not know enough about politics, power, and economics to have the reasonably informed opinions that would make them a real democracy (if they are free to say what they think, and free to organize themselves, and are able to be truly informed about society and reality).

Then again "a free, democratic people" always is a matter of degree, and by now the USA is less free and less democratic than it has ever been, and is also continueing to be even less free and less democratic.

Here are Chris Hedges' expectations for the future of the USA
:
No vote we cast will alter the configurations of the corporate state. The wars will go on. Our national resources will continue to be diverted to militarism. The corporate fleecing of the country will get worse. Poor people of color will still be gunned down by militarized police in our streets. The eradication of our civil liberties will accelerate. The economic misery inflicted on over half the population will expand. Our environment will be ruthlessly exploited by fossil fuel and animal agriculture corporations and we will careen toward ecological collapse. We are “free” only as long as we play our assigned parts. Once we call out power for what it is, once we assert our rights and resist, the chimera of freedom will vanish.
I think this is all quite correct, and it all follows from the fact that the rich few have succeeded in getting the powers they wanted, and are using these powers only to further the interests of the (Western) very rich: Clearly they are unwilling to do anything for the poor or the middle class.

Then there is this on totalitarian propaganda:

The essential component of totalitarian propaganda is artifice. The ruling elites, like celebrities, use propaganda to create false personae and a false sense of intimacy with the public.

The emotional power of this narrative is paramount. Issues do not matter. Competency and honesty do not matter. Past political stances or positions do not matter. What is important is how we are made to feel. Those who are skilled at deception succeed. Those who have not mastered the art of deception become “unreal.” Politics in totalitarian societies are entertainment.
Incidentally, an "artifice" is, according to Merriam-Webster: "dishonest or insincere behavior or speech that is meant to deceive someone". And I'd say all propaganda (not just totalitarian propaganda) uses artifices, for all propaganda is deception to some extent.

But Chris Hedges is quite right that what is most important in propaganda is "how we are made to feel", indeed in part because our feelings are very important parts in our decisions, and because feelings are very easily manipulated by those
who desire to do so (and very much easier than facts). [2]

There is also this:

The more communities break down and poverty expands, the more anxious and frightened people will retreat into self-delusion. Those who speak the truth—whether about climate change or our system of inverted totalitarianism—will be branded as seditious and unpatriotic. They will be hated for destroying the illusion.
Yes, and this is (also) how it went under fascism and nazism. And here are several additions to what the paragraph said. First, it is not just self-delusion people retreat into, but also apathy. Second, it is not just those who speak the truth who will be said aside or persecuted, but anybody who opposes the government or the multi-national corporations. Third, those who are marked as "seditious and unpatriotic" are not - I guess - "hated for destroying the illusion" but much more simply because they do not belong to "We".

Incidentally, the link to
inverted totalitarianism is very well worth clicking, especially if you never heard of Sheldon Wolin.

The article ends as follows:

History may not repeat itself. But it echoes itself. Human nature, after all, is constant. We will react no differently from those who went before us. This should not dissuade us from resisting, but the struggle will be long and difficult. Before it is over there will be blood in the streets.

Yes, I agree that human nature is constant, and that Chris Hedges is quite right in insisting that we should try to resist, and that "the struggle will be long long and difficult".

This is a fine article, and you are recommended to read all of it. It will not make you feel happier, but this is in good part because Hedges speaks the truth, and the truth is pretty awful.

2. Declassified Cold War Files Show Disturbing Nuclear Targeting of Population Centers

The second item is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
I will start this review by quoting from Wikipedia's lemma "Terrorism":
U.S. Code Title 22 Chapter 38, Section 2656f(d) defines terrorism as: “Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience."
I do not think this definition is very good, but it is quite right that (and  I added a bolding) “Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets" does more or less define what most people understand by "terrorism".

Having seen that, here is the beginning of the article:

The National Security Archive on Wednesday for the first time declassified a list of potential Cold War nuclear targets, and the picture is chilling.

Among the industrial infrastructure and military sites that analysts concluded would achieve "high levels of damage" for the Soviet Union is one particularly troubling type of target: "population."

"It’s disturbing, for sure, to see the population centers targeted," William Burr, a nuclear historian and senior analyst at the National Security Archive, told the New York Times.

The SAC [Strategic Air Command] Atomic Weapons Requirements Study for 1959 is broken into two lists: "Air Power," referring to airfields and other military sites, and "Systematic Destruction," which referred to targets in urban-industrial areas including "population" targets. The study lists 1,200 cities total, from East Germany to China, with established priorities.

It is not just "disturbing": These were fully intended to be terrorist attacks on non-combatant "populations". Here is some more:

While it was not a final list for military targets, the SAC file shows that analysts "developed a plan for the 'systematic destruction' of Soviet bloc urban-industrial targets that specifically and explicitly targeted 'population' in all cities, including Beijing, Moscow, Leningrad, East Berlin, and Warsaw," the archive notes.

In an essay that accompanied the SAC study, Burr writes, "In other words, people as such, not specific industrial activities, were to be destroyed."

Which is to say (again): It was a fully conscious project of the vastest terror ever imagined, simply in terms of the USA's own definition of "terrorism".

And there is this:

According to the Ploughshares Fund, the current U.S. nuclear weapon stockpile is 7,200 weapons—second in the world to Russia, which holds 7,500.
The article doesn't mention that Obama has decided he wants to modernize the present American nuclear weapons, and has set aside many billions for that purpose, but he has. ("Change!". "Change!". "Change!". "Yes we can!")

3. Trans-Pacific Partnership is a wonderful idea – for China

The third item is by Dan Breznitz on The Globe And Mail:
This is a fairly long article on the TPP, that is written from a different background than I have, and with different values than I have, but it is quite critical of the TPP.

It starts as follows:

The website of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative proudly describes the Trans-Pacific Partnership as “Made in America.” It does so to position this treaty, made up of a motley crew of allies, as a bulwark of free competitive markets against China. It is only fair, then, to judge the TPP on these merits: Will it lead to freer, more competitive markets and more rapid economic growth? Does it offer a better future for the U.S. and Canadian middle classes?

Worryingly to those of us who believe that entrepreneurship is crucial for economic growth, the TPP is failing on its declared goals. Once ratified, the agreement will make our markets less free and less competitive, and it will particularly hurt innovation- based entrepreneurship. This could not come at a worse time for our future economic growth, since, as The Economist has just reported, we are already at historic lows in the formation and growth of new companies and historically high levels of concentration across many industries.

The criticisms in the second paragraph are all supported by the rest of the article.
Also, it offers - what I think is - a correct explanation for the genesis of the TPP:

The only explanation for this outcome is that, in the secrecy under which the TPP was negotiated, interests representing a very narrow slice of U.S. society were allowed in, and the public interest was blocked at the door.

Precisely: It was written in secrecy; it was kept in secrecy, in good part because the real consequences of the TPP are completely undemocratic and authoritarian; and the only ones who could contribute to it were the lawyers and the managers of the multi-natonal corporations whose interests it so strongly serves, at the cost of all other interests.

There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended, indeed in part because it is not based on my kinds of assumptions and values, but reaches a somewhat similar conclusion: The TPP is an extremely bad idea for everyone who is not a rich manager or big shareholder in multi-national corporations. It is written by them; it is written for them; and it will end most of democracy in the countries which adopt it.

4. 2015 in Review: The Best of Truthdig’s A/V Booth Posts

The fourth item is by Unknown Author on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
From comedic clips about Edward Snowden and Donald Trump to illuminating interviews featuring Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer, Noam Chomsky, columnist Chris Hedges and President Carter, here are our readers’ favorite audiovisual posts from 2015. Click on the titles to listen and watch each of the entries below.
And this is followed by a selection from ten articles, from which I again selected the following four, because I know I liked them:
All of them are well worth (re-)reading.
-------------------

Notes
[1] Namely, depending on where you start from: (Nearly) 45 years ago, judge Lewis Powell sent around a memo that called on the rich to organize themselves, and around 35 years ago Thatcher and Reagan were elected.

Personally, I strongly tend to: 35 years ago, for that also coincides with the beginning of the fact that remained so ever since: In real terms, all wages other than the wages of the rich managers and their lawyers were flat or declining for 35 years, whereas the wages of the rich managers and their lawyers went up by enormous amounts (and this without considering the much less taxes the rich have to pay)
.

For more see Robert Reich's
Inequality for All which you also find reviewed here.

[2] In fact, this is almost the only thing psychiatry has done that was true: That it is - for people who are paid to deceive so as to sell more products with their deceptions - much easier to manipulate people by manipulating their feelings about themselves and others ("It will make you feel better!" "Your neighbors want it as well!") than it is to manipulate the facts ("It is much better than other products!" "It will save you money!").

For more, see the nephew of Freud, Edward Bernays, and his book Propaganda (on my site).



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