Thursday, December 14, 2017

Crisis: Brexit & May, On The FCC *2, On Authoritarianism, On Republican Neofascism
Sections                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 14, 2017

This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, December 14, 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 will continue with it.

On the moment and since two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from December 14, 2017
1. Parliament Demands Greater Say Over Brexit, Defying Theresa

2. FCC Set to Roll Back Digital Civil Rights with Thursday’s Vote to
     Repeal Net Neutrality

3. Increasingly a Necessity: A 15-Point Guide to Surviving

4. Republican Leaders Aren't Even Trying to Hide Their Immorality

5. Life or Death for the FCC
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. Parliament Demands Greater Say Over Brexit, Defying Theresa May

This article is by Stephan Castle on the NYT. It starts as follows:
Britain’s Parliament voted narrowly on Wednesday to demand a decisive say over the country’s plans to withdraw from the European Union, dealing an unexpected defeat to Prime Minister Theresa May, who had asked for maximum leeway to negotiate with Brussels on untangling decades of integration with the Continent.

Rebel lawmakers from the governing Conservative Party joined with pro-European members of opposition parties to require that any final deal to withdraw from the European Union be submitted to Parliament — as legislation — before it can be put into effect.

I say, which I do because I had not expected this.

Also, I am taking this from the NYT for two reasons: (i) I can´t copy The Guardian any more without doing more work (and because of this and other things I have completely given up The Guardian, for it seems to me they are best described as Blatcherists only interested in their own incomes), and (ii) what I did read on The Guardian also quickly got lost in speculations about British politicians few non-Brits will recognize.

Anyway... the bit I quoted seems adequate, and indeed the reasons why May was defeated are very good: In a parliamentary democracy, parliament should have the final say.

Here is some more:

Mrs. May had argued that going through such formal approval would add yet another hurdle to the already contentious and protracted negotiation over withdrawal — a process, known as Brexit, that is supposed to be completed by March 2019.

She had promised that lawmakers would get a vote eventually, but the lawmakers effectively refused to take her word for it, insisting by a formal vote — 309 to 305 — on their explicit right to approve any final deal.

Yes indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Mrs. May lost her parliamentary majority in a snap election she called earlier this year, complicating her already formidable task of negotiating Brexit. She also does not have a majority in the House of Lords, the unelected second chamber of Parliament.

The election setback also led to months of speculation about Mrs. May’s prospects of survival, particularly after a disastrous speech at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in which her speech was interrupted by a prankster, and Mrs. May then lost her voice, suffering a persistent cough.

I agree with this and Theresa May does not seem to be a strong leader. And this is a recommended article.

2. FCC Set to Roll Back Digital Civil Rights with Thursday’s Vote to Repeal Net Neutrality

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! This starts with the following introduction:

The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote Thursday on whether to repeal the landmark net neutrality protections passed under President Obama in 2015. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers treat web content equally and do not block or prioritize some content over others in return for payment. The move could allow internet service providers to cut speeds and jack up prices, and drew a record 22 million comments to the FCC, which critics say the agency has not fully reviewed. “We’re talking about the future of media here and who has access and control and whose voices are valued, whose stories are told, whose stories are dehumanized,” says Joseph Torres, senior adviser for government and external affairs for Free Press, the national media reform organization.

Yes indeed, and today it is that Thursday. I admit I am very pessimistic: I think net neutrality will finish, quite in accord with Gore Vidal´s statement of 2008 that he expected it would take ten years, and then the internet would be finished as a tool of free communication. I think he was right, though I would be glad if I am wrong.

Here is some more:
JOSEPH TORRES: Well, the FCC, on Thursday, is going to overturn the 2015 net neutrality rules that so many of us worked so hard to get passed. Those rules prevented ISPs, internet service providers, like Comcast and AT&T, as you mentioned in your intro, from blocking websites, from creating a pay-for-play system where if I want to go online and watch Democracy Now!, and Democracy Now! may have to pay an ISP more in order for their site to be seen at the fastest speeds by the public. These rules were put in place to prevent discrimination by ISPs. And if you’re Comcast and you own NBC, you have every incentive in the world to favor your own content and to block competition.

As a person of color, as people who our voices are often marginalized, we have used the open internet in order to tell our own stories. And what this is going to do is put the gatekeeper—it’s going to make these ISPs the gatekeeper to the internet. These companies provide us access to the internet, and what they are going to do is, you know, basically have a pay-for-play system, and it’s going to harm the voices of everyday people.
Yes indeed. There is more in this article, that is recommended.

3. Increasingly a Necessity: A 15-Point Guide to Surviving Authoritarianism

This article is by Kali Holloway and Martin Mycielski on AlterNet.

Nearly a year ago, intuitively recognizing the Trump administration’s authoritarian aspirations, Polish journalist and activist Martin Mycielski wrote "Year 1 Under Authoritarianism." In those early, nerve-racking days following Trump’s inauguration, the piece was shared across social media, an ominous portent of what was to come. The document—helpfully subtitled, “What To Expect?”—offered a list of predictions and warnings about Trump’s first year in office, and exhortations to fight back at every turn.
The piece should be read as an instructive manual of sorts, culled from firsthand observation of the “populists, authoritarians and tinpot dictators” leading right-wing movements across Europe.

“With each passing day, the [Polish] government is moving the country further away from the liberal West and towards the authoritarian models of the East,” Mycielski wrote. “Hundreds of thousands have protested against every illiberal, unlawful step. Every time we believed it couldn’t get any worse. We were wrong. This is why we want you, our American friends, to be spared the shock, the awe, the disbelief of this happening to you. Let’s hope history proves us wrong and the US wakes up in time…[H]ope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

I say, for I did not see this at all when this first appeared, nearly a year ago. And this seems to have been a pity, for Mycielski´s guide is quite good.

Here is a bit more from Kali Holloway´s introduction to Mycielski:

Mycielski’s “survival guide" has only become more disturbingly relevant with time, its predictions proved frighteningly accurate. Like Umberto Eco’s guide to fascism, it presciently notes the actions and attitudes that now unquestionably define this presidency; the lies and obfuscation of truth, racist fear-mongering, historical revisionism, purposeful chaos and anti-First Amendment agenda. Manipulation and malice are the Trump regime’s forte.
But if there’s any hope, it will only come from recognizing the reality of what’s happening here, how much damage is being done, how much earth already scorched.

Yes, I agree. Mycielski´s article now has the following title: ¨Year 1 Under an Authoritarian Regime¨ and it starts as follows, with deletions indicated by (...):

1. They will come to power with a campaign based on fear, scaremongering and distorting the truth. Nevertheless, their victory will be achieved through a democratic electoral process.
2. They will divide and rule. Their strength lies in unity, in one voice and one ideology, and so should yours. They will call their supporters Patriots, the only “true Americans.” You will be labelled as traitors, enemies of the state, unpatriotic, the corrupt elite, the old regime trying to regain power.
3. Through convoluted laws and threats they will try to control mainstream media and limit press freedom. They will ban critical press from their briefings, calling them “liars,” “fake news.”
4. They will create chaos, maintain a constant sense of conflict and danger. It will be their argument to enact new authoritarian laws, each one further limiting your freedoms and civil liberties.
5. They will distort the truth, deny facts and blatantly lie. They will try to make you forget what facts are, sedate your need to find the truth. They will feed “post-truths” and “alternative facts,” replace knowledge and logic with emotions and fiction.

Yes indeed, this is nearly all correct, and indeed it also was an adequate prediction about Trump´s neofascism (for that is what it is: check out the link).

There are in fact 10 more points, and they are all in the article. I´ll skip them and leave them to your interest, but I mostly quite agree.

The artice ends as follows, on a note of optimism:

EVERY authoritarian, totalitarian and fascist regime in history eventually failed, thanks to the PEOPLE.

Perhaps. But I must say that this optimism isn´t quite true, or indeed, to the extent that it is, may take four or more generations. Then again, the 15 points are all quite good, and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Republican Leaders Aren't Even Trying to Hide Their Immorality Lately

This article is by Nancy Altman and Linda Benesch on AlterNet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

Republican leaders claim that they are the party of family values. They are not. They also claim that they understand and respect hardworking Americans. They do not.

The Republican elite’s immorality goes well beyond Donald Trump, who has bragged about sexual assault, and has indeed been accused of it by over a dozen women. It goes well beyond Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was banned from a shopping mall to prevent him from preying on minors, and who has been credibly accused of the behavior for which he was banned.

The immorality and disdain of today’s Republican elites shine through in the policies that they embrace. They are embodied in the Republican budget, in their tax legislation, and in their relentless attacks on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Those Republican policies benefit the ones they truly value – their super-wealthy donors.

Yes, I quite agree: The Republicans are of the rich few, for the rich few, and by the rich  few, and that may the best short indication what they are, and indeed also what they were since Ronald Reagan.

Here is how neofascist manipulation works in practice:

Republicans in both chambers of Congress have now passed tax bills, which, when the smoke clears, involve the upward redistribution of income and wealth. As if today’s obscene level of income and wealth inequality weren’t bad enough, Republican elites want to increase it.

Both the Senate and House versions require millions of middle-class Americans to pay more, while requiring the richest of the rich to pay less. In 2027, taxpayers with incomes between $40,000 and $50,000 will, as a group, pay $5.3 billion more in taxes, while those with annual incomes of $1 million or more will pay $5.8 billion less!

In other words: The many relatively poor are explicitly and on purpose taxed by the very few very rich to help pay the $5.8 billions less in taxes.

Here is some more:

That opposition comes from the fundamental immorality at the heart of the Republican Party. It is a political party united around the principle that only the wealthy have any value. It is a party that has disdain for everyone else. A party that believes hardworking Americans doing backbreaking work at less than subsistence wages are lazy freeloaders.

I agree, and to me it seems as if the neofascist rich have decided that (i) there are too many persons alive for the present economical system that the neofascist rich profit so enormously from, and therefore (ii) they have decided to drive to suicide as many of the non-rich they can.

You disbelieve this? I would have, before seeing the neofascist Trump in action. But consider this neofascist Republican creep who insists he wants to remove 155 million persons (?!?!) form any help whatsoever:

More crudely and succinctly, former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) asserted that Social Security is “a milk cow with 310 million tits [sic]!”

These comments reveal the utter contempt Republican politicians have for hardworking Americans. It is ironic that the Republicans who are pushing to eliminate the estate tax apparently do not consider the heirs of billionaires to be “takers” but save that pejorative label for hardworking Americans who have the audacity to claim the Social Security and Medicare benefits they have earned.

Well, the (Republican) rich are neofascist creeps willing to commit any crime whatsoever to keep and extend the riches of the very few. And this is a recommended article.

5. Life or Death for the FCC

This article is by Laura Flanders on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

It’s life or death for the Federal Communications Commission and death may be the honest option.

Let’s face it, the FCC’s mission ​, to regulate communications media in the public interest,​ ​ has been beaten to a pulp by politicians of both parties over the last t wo​ decades. Now Trump’s FCC chair, Ajit Pai wants to kill the wounded agency off, and he may do it, to all intents and purposes, at the Commission’s meeting this December 14th.

Yes indeed.

Also, having written many times about net neutrality in the past 4 1/2 years, my own expectation is pessimistic: Pai - who insists his name is pronounced ¨Pay¨ - probably will reach his goal and will be paid a lot of money in thanks by the rich.

And the internet - that in my firm opinion anyway was designed on purpose by DARPA and the American military to spy on absolutely everyone and find out everything about them - will go over into the hands of the very rich very few, who will make a kind of TV out of it, to propagandize their own products and to repress anyone with any criticism of the present American way of life.

Here is some more from the article:

Reverse net neutrality? Open the floodgates to more media monopoly? Chairman Pai, a former staffer to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has ​ in mind to accomplish all that and more. The FCC will probably vote on both things on Thursday. Pai​ leads the commission’s Republican Majority in lockstep and they’ve already done-in LifeLine, the meager subsidy that helped low income people connect to doctors and nurses and public assistance. They wiped out the Durr-era rule that required broadcasters to maintain local-stations too. Social responsibility? Corporations aren’t ignoring the human cost of communications break-downs. Far from it, they're just figuring out how to profit off getting cell service back up and running in Puerto Rico.

Yes indeed. This ends as follows:

​If we don’t start learning from our history and perhaps repeating some of it, we might was well start burning books. Anything with Democracy in the title.

Well... democracy is dead in the USA, already since 2001 or 1980, when the neofascists started to build up their enormous powers, and could succeed, virtually unhindered also, until today, basically by a combination of deregulations that allowed the rich to transport the USA´s industries to countries were the pay was much less than in the USA and by the buying up of almost every Senator and every House member.

And this is one of the outcomes, I expect: The removal of net neutrality, and the change of the tool that was designed to spy on everyone also to be owned by the very rich. I am very sorry, but that is my expectation.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that 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 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 (!!).

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