Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Crisis: Nuclear War, Indentured Servitude, Trumpcare, Legalized Theft, The Hippies (1967)

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from July 19, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 19, 2017

The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Nuclear War Would Set Off Climate Catastrophe

This is by Tim Radford on Truthdig and originally on the Climate News Network. This is from the middle of a fairly brief article:

Eight nations now possess a nuclear arsenal: the US, Russia and China all have nuclear weapons big enough to precipitate a nuclear calamity, and a ninth, North Korea, now claims to have nuclear capability.

This prompted researchers and political scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to revisit the question. They contemplated the theoretical effect of a 15-kiloton nuclear warhead with the explosive force of 15,000 tons of TNT.

Once exploded, it would incinerate 1,300 square kilometres of a city and its surrounds. This would be quite enough to push five million metric tons of black carbon smoke particles into the stratosphere.

This would be enough to screen solar radiation, reduce the agricultural crop season by between 10 and 40 days a year for at least five years, and lower global temperatures to a point lower than normal for at least 25 years.

In the very short term, this cold snap would be colder than anything for the last 1,000 years. Rainfall would decrease by as much as 20% to 80% in the Asian monsoon region.

The American southwest and western Australia could become 20% to 60% drier. South America and southern Africa, too, would see less rain. This global “nuclear drought” and the resulting famines “could kill up to a billion people from starvation.”

I say. Then again we are all safely in the hands of the present superintelligent American president, whose wisdom, calmth, and insight are proverbial...

There is some more in the article, that is recommended.

2. A 21st-Century Form of Indentured Servitude Has Already Penetrated Deep into the American Heartland

This is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Indentured servitude is back in a big way in the United States, and conservative corporatists want to make sure that labor never, ever again has the power to tell big business how to treat them.

Idaho, for example, recently passed a law that recognizes and rigorously enforces non-compete agreements in employment contracts, which means that if you want to move to a different, more highly paid, or better job, you can instead get wiped out financially by lawsuits and legal costs.

In a way, conservative/corporatists are just completing the circle back to the founding of this country.

That is, the 17th Century (!!) - and check out the text if you want an explanation. Here is its motivation and source:

This type of labor system has been the dream of conservative/ corporatists, particularly since the “Reagan Revolution” kicked off a major federal war on the right of workers to organize for their own protection from corporate abuse.

Unions represented almost a third of American workers when Reagan came into office (and, since union jobs set local labor standards, for every union job there was typically an identically-compensated non-union job, meaning about two-thirds of America had the benefits and pay associated with union jobs pre-Reagan).

Thanks to Reagan’s war on labor, today unions represent about 6 percent of the non-government workforce.

And thanks to Reagan both the unions and the rights of non-rich workers (those earning less than $200,000 a year) are nearly completely voided.

This is where the USA is now, thanks to Reagan:

If you were a CEO or an engineer for a giant company, knowing all their processes, secrets and future plans, that knowledge had significant and consequential value—company value worth protecting with a contract that said you couldn’t just take that stuff to a competitor without either a massive payment to the left-behind company or a flat-out lawsuit.

But should a guy who digs holes with a shovel or works on a drilling rig
be forced to sign a non-compete? What about a person who flips burgers or waits tables in a restaurant? Or the few factory workers we have left, since neoliberal trade policies have moved the jobs of tens of thousands of companies overseas? Turns out corporations are using non-competes to prevent even these types of employees from moving to newer or better jobs.

America today has the lowest minimum wage in nearly 50 years, adjusted for inflation. As a result, people are often looking for better jobs. But according to the New York Times, about 1 in 5 American workers is now locked in with a non-compete clause in an employment contract.

Before Reaganomics, employers didn’t keep their employees by threatening them with lawsuits; instead, they offered them benefits like insurance, paid vacations and decent wages.

I agree and this is a recommended article.

3. Why Progressives Shouldn't Celebrate the Death of Trumpcare Just Yet

This is by Heather Digby Parton on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from near the end:

But whether Republicans manage to push through repeal-and-delay or just drop it altogether, liberals and progressives need to reckon with the fact that this is not the end. There will never be an end.

Republicans have been trying to destroy the American safety net for decades. They’ve been hostile to Medicare and Medicaid since the day they were passed. They’ve been running against Social Security for 82 years. (They just tried to privatize it in 2005!) They will never stop attacking the ACA either.

This isn’t just about profits or ” free markets.” Consider that this Senate bill was opposed by all the so-called stakeholders: the insurance companies, the hospitals, doctors and even big business. It still has 48 out of 52 votes in the Senate. Conservatives simply do not believe that people have a right to health care. They see it as a commodity like any other, something which you should not have if you cannot pay for it.

Yes indeed, and that seems to be their general point of view: There are supermen (German: "Ubermensche") who make billions; there are men (German: "Mensche"), who make at least 200,000 a year; and there are subhumams (German: "Untermensche") who are only fit to be exploited by the rest.

And I don't say this is the opinion of most American persons or most persons; I do say this seems to be the spirit that moves the present Republicans: If you don't belong to the richest 5%, you may just as well not be there.

4. Sessions Plans to Seize More Property From Suspects

This is by is Pema Levy on Mother Jones. It starts as follows:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Monday that the Justice Department will increase the use of asset forfeiture, a controversial tool that allows law enforcement to permanently seize cash and property, even from people who have not been charged with a crime.
This is legalized theft plain and simple: All takings of any property without being convicted as a criminal are plain thefts.

“We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture— especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said in a speech to a gathering of district attorneys in Minneapolis, according to his prepared remarks. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate, as is sharing with our partners.”

Since 2007, the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture program has collected $28 billion, including $3.2 billion in cash that the Drug Enforcement Administration has confiscated from individuals who were never charged with a crime, the Justice Department’s inspector general found earlier this year.

The "drug traffickers" are just propaganda, just as the mentioning of "terrorists":
The American government is far more terroristic than any other group, in terms of acts, in terms of wealth, and in terms power. And this a way it can collect billions
without any legal conviction, merely on suspicion.

5.  Music Industry Veteran Danny Goldberg on Channeling the Idealism of the Summer of Love (Audio)

I found yesterday that Truthdig had the excellent idea of providing - some of - the text to the audio of the above title and said that I may review that tomorrow. This is it.

For background see yesterday, and mind that this is a choice (by me) from a choice (by the makers of the text), while I review this because I was born in 1950 and I recall the Sixties quite well indeed, and also because I think Goldberg did a quite reasonable job describing (especially) 1967, although I don't agree with everything he said.

Here is my first selection from this selection. This relates to the title of Goldberg's book (
In Search of the Lost Chord: Peace, Love and the Hippie Idea in 1967):

RS: I was there, and I do, I think you certainly capture the variety, the scope, the optimism, and the joyfulness of it. There’s no question. So let’s get right to the heart of the book. What’s the last chord? Why were you searching for it? And “1967 and the Hippie Idea,” what is the hippie idea?

DG: Well, I have to say, it’s actually in search of the “lost” chord. And that’s a, it’s—I copped the title from a Moody Blues song, but they were referencing an old 19th century song. And to me, I like the idea of the lost chord, because to me, the sixties were—’67 in particular, there was a combination of forces where the whole was greater than the sum of the parts, for me as a kid, as a teenager. And I feel it got darker as early as ‘68, when Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were killed, and there was the police riots at the Democratic Convention, and heroin and methedrine, you know, went into neighborhoods where previously it was pot and psychedelics. But in ‘67, to me, there was a balance between political protest, black power, the popularization of psychedelics— because it was the first full year when LSD was illegal, which of course made it much easier to get—and an interest in Eastern spirituality, which had previously kind of been the providence of academia and small, bohemian enclaves, was on the mass pop culture screen, primarily because of the Beatles. And a music scene really exploded that year. It was the year that a number of artists made their debut albums, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Sly and the Family Stone, the Velvet Underground, and Pink Floyd. All made their debut albums the same year. And the combination of these things, as well as this tremendous sense of connectivity of young people, before the cynicism and the exploitation came in, created this very idealistic feeling. A lot of people referred to the Greek word, agape, of universal love. There was a feeling that you just could see someone down the street, and feel an immediate brotherhood. And that feeling quickly went away. It didn’t change the world overnight. But it left the residue for a lot of us, and I wanted to try to document what happened. Because most of the histories of the sixties focus so much on protest that it doesn’t include the full kind of menu of things that were happening. So that’s, I coined “the lost chord” as a shorthand for that.

I gave this loung quote because it does bring out what Goldberg meant by "the lost chord" and I think he is more or less right about it, and I recall something similar from Amsterdam, but in 1968 and 1969 (where it hit a little later than in the USA, even though the Amsterdam Provos were from 1965 till 1967).

And here is Robert Scheer, who was in his early thirties in 1967 (and therefore too old, according to the younger hippies of that time [1]):
RS: OK. But it has a notion of, ah, selling out of integrity, of the desirable life. And you sort of picture it as if there was this wonderful moment where sort of the tribes came together. And reading your book, there’s this great deal of detail and description of how it was done, and so forth. And I’ll accept, having read your book, I’ll accept there was that moment, and there certainly was an optimism. Some would say a naivete. But the other theme that ran right through the sixties, and even earlier in San Francisco with the Beats and everything, was the notion that the society will put tremendous pressure on you to sell out. And what you want to do is avoid selling out. You want to stand for something. So you mention Mario Savio over in Berkeley, and the free speech movement. That’s what Mario Savio was all about. A guy with a very good grade average, and obviously a good student, saying: I’m—not I’m going to drop out—I’m not going to accept what the system is requiring. I’m not going to be the IBM card that you can read. I’m going to be an independent human being. And you found that in the music, you found that with all sorts of people, saying: We don’t care—you make a good point in your book, because you go on to be a big music industry executive, that many of these bands didn’t even have representation, they didn’t have contracts, they weren’t even thinking about that. They were thinking about making music. And I know some of these bands that you refer to, they went back way before the Summer of Love, with the San Francisco Mime Troupe and all of the energy in this community, where the politics and the culture were all mixed up. And it seems to me the real issue about that period is how did the idealism get corrupted? How did selling out, if we fast forward 50 years to San Francisco now, it’s the center of the sellout. It’s the center of “money talks.” It’s the center of, you know, be a winner and everything will be forgiven, right?
Yes, indeed.

First, Scheer is right about the background of the American hippies, which were the American beatniks (people like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg) and he is right about the
San Francisco Mime Troupe (and should have mentioned the San Francisco Diggers, for which also see here and here)

Second, he is also right about Mario Savio, who indeed was quite smart and who unfortunately died rather early. (The last link also has a copy of Savio's famous speech, which incidentally was made on December 2, 1964 and, in a way, started the political Sixties).

And Scheer also is definitely right about the fact that there was a great amount of optimism and idealism between 1967 and 1969, and that both quite rapidly got sold out.

Here is part of an answer to this by Danny Goldberg:
And so I feel maybe there was a collective trip that people took where they at least got a glimpse of what life could be like. But then to come down and to deal with the forces of greed, the forces of hunger, the forces of violence, the forces of, you know, the military-industrial complex and the banks and hundreds of years of philosophy, of materialism—that’s not going to happen in a generation. So I don’t think it should be a big shock that materialism just didn’t go away because people questioned it. I think the shock is that people questioned it at all on a mass scale. That instead of just being people in Greenwich Village or intellectual neighborhoods, that it became part of the pop conversation, at least for a minute, and it left, hopefully, a residue that people can aspire to. And I think some of the contemporary people that are the good guys, you can trace some of their roots to the sixties.
I don't think that is a real answer to Scheer's question (and I do simply not agree with Goldberg on his "good guys", that cover extremely rich freaks like Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey).

My own answers to the - quick - defeat of the idealism and optimism that were genuinely present between 1967 and 1969 (in my experience, and in Amsterdam, Holland) are along these lines:
  • First, nearly everyone involvded was young (under thirty) and poor, and this held both for the more political ones and the more hippie ones [2];
  • second, the larger groups, that produced most of the hippies were mostly quite unpoliticized;
  • third, there were quite a few (Billy Graham, for one example) who straddled both political idealism and personal greed);
  • fourth, most men simply are mostly egoistic and think and act in their own interests, and do so in a short time frame, and
  • fifth, most men are fairly to very ignorant, easily deluded and not idealistic.
This is just a list of points, but I will leave it at that, for the moment. And here is Robert Scheer again:
And the sixties really come at a moment where people looked at this and said, wait a minute, there’s a lot of it we don’t like. We don’t like the television programming of the fifties, you know, the “Ozzie and Harriet.” We don’t like the values, the conformity, the organization men, the mad men of advertising, and so forth, which was early sixties. And we’re going to carve out something different, an alternative society. And that’s really what you capture; that’s the lost chord that you capture, it’s an attempt to redefine life in a sense of tribe, village, a certain simplicity, a certain organic relation to nature and what have you. And the drugs even fit into that, suspending time and finding an alternative universe and so forth. So, I think—and there was a belief that somehow this would succeed. As I recall, this was not, oh, we’re a little fringe movement and we’ll be here on our little island—no. We are going to change the whole culture.
Yes indeed: I think Scheer is right about this. And it didn't last beyond 1969, also not in my experience (and I led a Sleep-In for hippies in Amsterdam in 1970: there still were plenty of hippies, but they also were already then markedly less idealistic, less social, less sharing, more egoistic, and less interested in political and ethical ideals, and much more in "sex, drugs and rock' and roll").

Here is a brief summary by Robert Scheer, that is also adequate from my point of view and in my memory:

RS: And the question is now, can you develop an alternative culture? That seems to me—the reason, it’s even lost language. When I was reading your book, I kept thinking, the wonderful thing about it is, is that most young people that—certainly the ones who came anywhere near San Francisco, which I happened to be—they were leaving their community because they found it was corrupt and they didn’t like the television they watched, and they didn’t like the music they listened to. And they were looking for an alternative, right?

DG: Yeah.

RS: That was the excitement of that summer of love. It was a summer of optimism, of peace, of meaning, of integrity and so forth. And then you saw the vultures descend. And they turned it into elevator music, they turned it into a commodity.

Here is the last bit on the radical change in San Francisco since 1967:

RS: If people want to get out there and say, really, what was that scene like, and what was it like at the epicenter, which was here in San Francisco—yes, this is a great book, “In Search of the Lost Chord.” I also would say it’s a moment of sadness reading your book, because San Francisco is gone.

DG: Yeah.

RS: It’s gone, not just as the center as the summer of love.

And it has been replaced by the egoistic greedies from the big internet companies, who are at the opposite end from where the idealists of roughly their age were in 1967, fifty years ago this year.

There is a lot more in both the interview and in
In Search of the Lost Chord: Peace, Love and the Hippie Idea in 1967. It is all recommended.



[1] For there was a widespread conviction at the time that "you cannot trust anyone over thirty".

[2] One difference between Daniel Goldberg and myself is that he was a hippie and I was not (though I looked like one, with long hair etc.): I was - mostly because both of my parents were very political, very leftist and very courageous - a sort of neomarxist of my own invention between 1965 and 1970, when I gave up Marxism. Also, it makes sense to mention that in 1967 and 1968, the ratio between the political lefties (of quite a few kinds) who were below thirty, and the mostly non-political hippies was something like 1 in 10, but by 1970 this had been diluted to at most 1 in 100 or 250, indeed mostly through the much wider popularity of the hippies and rock and roll.
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