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Nederlog

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Crisis: On Macron, Nuclear War, Internet Capitalism, Trump & GOP, The Wealthiest, 1967



Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from August 12, 2017 

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, August 12, 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 [1] 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 (usually) 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 August 12, 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. Emmanuel Macron's Sudden Collapse: French 'Radical Centrist' Now as Unpopular as Trump

This article is by Conor Lynch on Salon. Two reasons it is here are that I am European who does not like Macron (although I like Le Pen even less). This article starts as follows:

A few months ago Emmanuel Macron was on top of the world. After being elected the youngest president in French history, Macron’s approval rating was above 60 percent and his independent movement, La République en Marche — which branded itself  as“neither right nor left” — won a large majority in the French parliament, giving the 39-year-old free rein to implement his “radical centrist” agenda.

Not surprisingly, Macron’s defeat of the far-right demagogue Marine Le Pen led to a collective sigh of relief in neoliberal circles, and the former investment banker was hailed by center-left commentators as the savior of the European project.
(...)
According to the most recent YouGov poll, Macron’s approval rating has plummeted in just two months and is now about the same as Donald Trump’s, at 36 percent. (Trump’s approval rating started out much lower and has declined far more slowly.) This is the steepest decline for any French president in more than 20 years (...)
As I said, I don't like Macron, and one of my reasons is this bit, that I knew before he was elected:
(...) Macron is a product of the very “establishment” that he railed against. The young president spent his early career making a fortune as an investment banker at the Rothschild firm before eventually becoming the economy minister for Hollande’s government from 2014 to 2016. In that position he pushed for the very same pro-business reforms that contributed to Hollande’s single-digit approval rating.
There is considerably more in the article, that is recommended [2].


2. Don't Let Our 'Hair-Trigger President' Start a Nuclear War

This article is by Amy Goodman on Truthdig (that now looks absolutely awful on a desktop computer after a recent stylistic change). It starts as follows:

President Donald Trump threatened nuclear war this week, just six months into his presidency.

Speaking from his luxury golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump warned: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” He was responding to a question about a news report that North Korea had successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads, which could theoretically strike the U.S. mainland.

After Trump’s threat, North Korea responded, saying it was reviewing plans to launch a nuclear attack on Guam, a United States territory in the South Pacific with major U.S. Air Force and naval bases. The statement went on, “The army of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will turn the U.S. mainland into the theatre of a nuclear war before the inviolable land of the DPRK turns into one.”

Words matter. This is how wars start.

Yes, indeed. There is more in the article, which is recommended, though I should add - as a psychologist - that in my opinion Trump is a madman (a real madman) because he is a megalomaniac, whereas Kim Jong-Un is a madman (a real one, again) because he is the third generation of totalitarian dictatorial megalomaniacs.

And I have been saying for nearly a year now that it is for me 50/50 if mankind survives the Trump presidency without a nuclear war. And the reasons for my 50/50 is not a subtle balancing of various probabilities (that in this case anyway are too vague) but simply the fact that both opponents are typical madmen, who are not at all rational and are each capable of absolutely anything.

This is a recommended article.


3. How the Internet Has Transformed Capitalism

This is by Emma Niles on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
Jonathan Taplin, the founding director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, doesn’t believe in the “internet revolution.” In this week’s episode of KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence,” Taplin sits down with host and Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer to explain how the internet is a “winner-take-all” system that has culminated in uncontrollable and irresponsible monopolies.
(..)
“Today, the largest companies in the world are Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. [There has] been an astonishingly fast transformation of the whole nature of capitalism,” Taplin says.

Taplin’s latest book, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy,” delves into the unrestrained power of technology companies. He also discussed the subject on “Live at Truthdig” earlier this year.

I think Taplin may be right (he also mentions the purely monopolistic fact that Facebook and Google have 90% of all internet advertising, which is correct), but I have to admit this is the start of three hours audio, that I did not listen to.

Here are a few additional remarks:

That the internet - and indeed capitalism - has been transformed since 1980 in what Chuck Spinney called a
“winner-take-all” system, and that I call neoliberal neofascism, is well explained here: Deconstructing America's 'Deep State' and in  more detail here It's the deregulation, stupid! and - especially - here: Hypotheses about the causes of the crisis.

Finally, these two items are also well worth reading: On some difficulties with writing about the crisis - 1 and  On some difficulties with writing about the crisis - 2.

And I did write over 1650 articles on the crisis: See the
crisis index.


4. Trump Will Be the End of the GOP, and It Will Happen Sooner Than You Think

This article is by Michael Winship on AlterNet and originally on BillMoyers.com. This starts as follows:

You’ve probably heard the story. It’s said that in ancient Rome, the emperor had a member of the Praetorian Guard who, amid all the pomp and all the accolades, would stand behind him and murmur: “Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.”

Sadly, the Little Caesar who currently rules the United States from the nearest Trump golf course is instead surrounded by guards who murmur enthusiastically, “Anything you say, boss. You’re a genius!”

The new chief of staff, Marine vet John Kelly, allegedly was supposed to rein this kind of stuff in, but while the meetings now may run more smoothly, his boss continues tweeting any nonsense he hears from Fox & Friends, declares himself pretty much the greatest president ever and casually threatens to start lobbing missiles at North Korea because he seems to think it would be cool to see what a thermonuclear fireball looks like. Locked and loaded indeed.

VICE News reported on Tuesday, “Twice a day since the beginning of the Trump administration, a special folder is prepared for the president…

These sensitive papers, described to VICE News by three current and former White House officials, don’t contain top-secret intelligence or updates on legislative initiatives. Instead, the folders are filled with screenshots of positive cable news chyrons (those lower-third headlines and crawls), admiring tweets, transcripts of fawning TV interviews, praise-filled news stories, and sometimes just pictures of Trump on TV looking powerful.

You can’t make this stuff up. One glimmer of hope in all this pandemonium is that more and more, some Republican members of Congress finally seem willing to challenge their misbegotten king.

There is considerably more in the article, but I do not know whether it is correct (its title).


5. This Country Is Rigged in 1,000 Directions to Protect the Wealthiest —  Including the Idea That Most People 'Earned' Their Way to the Top

This article is by Donald Jeffries on AlterNet, and is quoted from his book. The article starts as follows:
The following is an excerpt from the new book Survival of the Richest: How the Corruption of the Marketplace and the Disparity of Wealth Created the Greatest Conspiracy of All by Donald Jeffries (Skyhorse Publishing, July 2017), available on Amazon, Indiebound and Skyhorse. [3]

"The few own the many because they possess the means of livelihood of all. ... The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor." —Helen Keller

Most people shy away from the simple question; do those who are paid the most in our society deserve to be compensated like that? If a particular individual was the driving force behind a cure for all cancer, or instrumental in significantly increasing the human life span, I think most everyone would agree that their value to society would be such that they’d be entitled to millions, even billions of dollars. But the world’s wealthiest individuals do not, in fact, seem to have contributed in such a way that they have earned a distinction placing them above the masses, garnering more money in less than a year than what virtually everyone else earns in a lifetime.

I especially like the quoted explanation by Helen Keller (<-Wikipedia), which also happens to coincide more or less with that my - communist and very courageous - parents told me about capitalism, which I also still agree with - I think capitalism is a horrible system for most of the large majority of the non-rich, indeed precisely because it is a system that is designed for the few rich - although I rejected most Marxist explanations since I was 20 (in 1970).

And I also agree - and have said so many times - that real scientists are FAR more important than almost any rich capitalist simply because they made most of the discoveries and inventions that benefit all (and I like to add that Albert Einstein earned around 1950 10,000 dollars a year, which was supposed to be a lot of money for a scientist, even though the bankers etc. earned 10, a 100 or even more times more).

There is also this:
The wealthiest people in our society don’t appear to be improving any lives but their own, and they don’t seem to have special qualities or skills that explain why they’re being compensated so much more extravagantly than the rest of us.
I agree: The rich got rich in general (and originally) by some egoistic and greedy crime, and normally NOT by having any special intellectual talents.

Here is some more on how extremely unequally riches are divided these days in the USA:
By the end of 2013, the distribution of wealth in America had become so unequal that we no longer could be classed among the First World, developed nations in this category. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, 75.4 percent of all wealth in the United States belongs to the richest 10 percent of the people. Comparable nations (none of them as bad as the United States) in terms of wealth disparity include Chile, Indonesia, and South Africa. The bottom 90 percent of American citizens own only 24.6 percent of the aggregate wealth, while the norm for developed countries is around 40 percent. Meanwhile, under Obama, who was often accused of being a socialist, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans received 95 percent of the income gains during the alleged economic “recovery.”
And there is this on the thoroughly insane payments to CEOs:
CEOs are not only given wildly excessive salaries and “performance” bonuses; they are often given parting “gifts” that boggle the mind. ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva, for example, was gifted an unbelievable $260 million from the company when he left them in June 2012. Evidently the $141 million total compensation package he’d accrued in 2011 wasn’t enough. Mulva’s package paled in comparison to the more than $417 million doled out to John Welch, in honor of his twenty-year tenure at General Electric.
There is a considerable amount more, and the article ends as follows:
As Ambrose Bierce once defined it, a corporation is an ingenious device whereby individual profit is obtained without individual responsibility. Those who suggest that top executives are indispensible and crucial to the success of the company should try a simple experiment; allow a week to go by without any executives reporting to work (or even telecommuting, one of their countless perks). Then go a week without the janitorial staff. It will be crystal clear to everyone just who is doing the important work.
Precisely - and Bierce was quite serious and saw correctly: Corporations are assemblies of pirates who get together to compile their riches for their own advancements, while denying all individual responsibility.

And I think Jeffries is quite right on the relative importance of the management and the janitorial staff. This is a recommended article.


I have an extra file on the 1967 Summer of Love and the Diggers (and I wrote about the Diggers here and here):
This is - again - an interview with Daniel Goldberg, who was both interviewed and reviewed earlier (see here and here).

And this is also - again - a decent interview that I don't all agree with, but that I will leave to your interests.

------------
Notes

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 1 1/2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better.

[2] I remind you (again) that when I say "an article is recommended" I mean that I recommend you to read it all (which you can do by clicking its title).

[3] I am sorry but I have removed all links to Amazon and other big book sellers. Get your books from a REAL bookshop, for I definitely will not support Amazon.


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