August 3, 2018

Crisis: Climate Change *2, ¨Neoliberal Fascism¨, Trump´s Lies, More on Trump


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 3, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, August 3, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from August 3, 2018:
1. Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change
2. Why Isn’t the Media Talking About Climate Change?
3. Neoliberal Fascism and the Echoes of History
4. Trump’s Two Kinds of Lies – and Why They’re Undermining American

5. C’mon, Just Say It!
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. Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change

This article is by Nathaniel Rich on The New York Times. It starts as follows and it is too large to properly excerpt. Besides, I did not like this article much: it is reproduced here because there are journalists talking about it: see item 2.
The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum.
I say, although I knew most of these things, and - living in Amsterdam, that is 2 meters below sea level - this will probably finish Amsterdam and the West of the Netherlands. And that seems the mild prediction, based on what is probably a too low estimate of increasing temperatures.

Here is some more:

Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?

Because in the decade that ran from 1979 to 1989, we had an excellent opportunity to solve the climate crisis. The world’s major powers came within several signatures of endorsing a binding, global framework to reduce carbon emissions — far closer than we’ve come since. During those years, the conditions for success could not have been more favorable. The obstacles we blame for our current inaction had yet to emerge. Almost nothing stood in our way — nothing except ourselves.

Clearly - I would say - the first quoted paragraph is nonsense (unless you grow orgiastic at the thought of a flooded New York, San Francisco and Amsterdam, to name a few risky places).

As to the second paragraph: I am sorry, but I think this is more an effect of Rich´s concentrating on ten years than it is actual fact. Besides, who is ¨ourselves¨? (I don´t like to be accused of things I did not do.)

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

Why didn’t we act? A common boogeyman today is the fossil-fuel industry, which in recent decades has committed to playing the role of villain with comic-book bravado. An entire subfield of climate literature has chronicled the machinations of industry lobbyists, the corruption of scientists and the propaganda campaigns that even now continue to debase the political debate, long after the largest oil-and-gas companies have abandoned the dumb show of denialism. But the coordinated efforts to bewilder the public did not begin in earnest until the end of 1989. During the preceding decade, some of the largest oil companies, including Exxon and Shell, made good-faith efforts to understand the scope of the crisis and grapple with possible solutions.

Nor can the Republican Party be blamed. Today, only 42 percent of Republicans know that “most scientists believe global warming is occurring,” and that percentage is falling. But during the 1980s, many prominent Republicans joined Democrats in judging the climate problem to be a rare political winner: nonpartisan and of the highest possible stakes.
O, come on! The fossil fuel industry knew what was happening - but did not or hardly inform the public. As to the Republican Party: The 1980s were the decade of Reagan (and Thatcher).

Also, Aldous Huxley´s ¨The Human Situation¨ is of 1959, and already contains accurate predictions what would happen to ecology (and was then and is now happening in ecology);
Rachel Carson´s 1962 book ¨Silent Spring¨ articulated the dangers in biological terms; by
1968 Paul Ehrlich published ¨The Population Bomb¨; and by 1972 ¨The Limits to Growth¨ had appeared.

All of these are fairly well-known, and while all made mistakes, the theory about the dangers of ecology were well known by the early 1970ies - and then I haven´t mentioned Rexroth, who was well-known as a writer of columns, and who had been addressing ecological themes since before 1960.

in fact I did not read most of this article, because I did not like its style, and because I know most of the important points about ecology, indeed since the late 1960ies. Also - as I indicated - I don´t quite agree with Rich, and I do know a fair amount about ecology.

As an aside: The next article I review is also, in part at least, about Nathaniel Rich (and it happens to be quite warm in Amsterdam at present).

2. Why Isn’t the Media Talking About Climate Change?

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! See the previous item for a long article by one of the participants in the discussion that follows. It starts with this introduction:
Major corporate broadcast networks reported on July’s 2-week global heat wave at least 127 times, but mentioned climate change only once. That’s according to a report by Media Matters, which tracked coverage of the extreme weather by ABC, CBS and NBC. We host a panel discussion on the media’s role in the climate change crisis, the fossil fuel industry and global warming-fueled extreme weather across the globe. We speak with Nathaniel Rich, writer-at-large for The New York Times Magazine. His piece “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change” was published August 1 in a special edition of The New York Times Magazine dedicated to climate change. We also speak with Rob Nixon, author of “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor,” and Brenda Ekwurzel, senior climate scientist and director of climate science for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Yes, and I like to make the points that (i) if the major corporate networks do report July´s ¨global heat wave at least 127 times, but mentioned climate change only once¨ it is because they are midleading the public, quite consciously as well, and also that (ii) I do think the major corporate networks are systematically misleading rather than systematically informing ¨the public¨ about many things (and this will continue).

But this was an aside. Here is Amy Goodman:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we talk about this mass crisis in the world today, the crisis of climate change. Fire tornadoes in California. The monsoon season so strong right now in India, just in the last week some well over 500 people killed. We are making a link between the issue that meteorologists talk about all over, this extreme weather, but to climate change, which they rarely mention in the U.S. corporate media. Studies have repeatedly, like Media Matters, been done to show no matter how many times they reference the firestorms in California, only once on NBC, ABC and CBS in the last few weeks did CBS mention the link to climate change.

Brenda Ekwurzel, you’re senior climate scientist, director of climate science for Climate and Energy Program at Union of Concerned Scientists. Rob Nixon with us, author of Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. And Nathaniel Rich, who’s got the whole New York Times Magazine under his name this week with his piece “Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change.”

Brenda, if you could respond to The New York Times piece? And also talk about what we were just talking about with Nathaniel. Talk about the issue of the power of the corporations, specifically 90 corporations having been responsible for two-thirds of humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions, an issue that Nathaniel highlights in his piece.

Incidentally, as to the first paragraph of the above quotation: I don´t like to be lied to, nor propagandized, nor be forced to see endless advertisements so I do not have a TV since 1970.
So I saw nothing of the above, but then tens of millions or possibly several hundreds of millions were - systematically, intentionally - lied to by NBC, ABC and CBS.

And as I said, the major corporate networks are systematically misleading rather than systematically informing ¨the public¨ about many things (and this will continue).

Here is one brief bit by Ekwurzel:

BRENDA EKWURZEL: So what’s different today is that the predictions that the scientists knew in the '50s ’60s and ’70s, and the scientists working within the fossil fuel industry knew, unfortunately, we're seeing them play out today.

Yes indeed: As I pointed out in the previous section, these facts and predictions were already rather well-known in the '50s ’60s and ’70s. (And I was there.)

Here is some by Nixon:

ROB NIXON: Yes, I think one of the successes of the right’s dissemination of anti-science has been that climate change and global warming are perceived in the U.S., to a far greater extent than they are in most of the world, as politicized terms. And as a result, the corporate media, in particular, often steers clear of them. And that has something to do the ownership of the media. It has something to do with the advertising base and so forth. But, you know, I think one cannot overestimate the degree to which the funding of anti-science in the U.S. has been far, far greater—you know, more than a hundred times greater—than in any other country in the world. And this has permeated public perceptions and created a kind of a skittishness around using that language, which is now perceived as polarizing, in a way, say, that scientific language about gravity is not. And that is the result of a very concerted campaign.

This is rather vague, and in any case I do not see why intelligent people (which I admit are everywhere in a minority) should feel like the more stupid and the more ignorant folks feel.

And here is Rich:

NATHANIEL RICH: Yeah, I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that what the Republican Party is doing now and what industry has propagated for the last couple decades will be considered in the future, and probably the very near future, as crimes against humanity.

And I think that, you know, the conversation that we’re having today, one of the things that was most striking to me about reading some of these conversations that were being held in the '80s, it's identical. There’s nothing we’re saying today that wasn’t said in 1980, including the North-South issues and developing country issues. And it makes me wonder if we have come about this in the right way. I mean, my sense in having these conversations is that we’ve failed, as a society, to articulate an adequate moral vision of this problem—and which is not to—putting aside the moral vision of industry, which is obviously sociopathic.

Well... the murder of 6 million Jews also was a crime against humanity, and that is just one item on a very long list of similar crimes against humanity that occurred in the 20th century. And most of these crimes do not move many, and indeed most are hardly known to many.

Also, I´d say that the ¨conversations that were being held in the '80s¨ were quite similar to what scientists and ecologists and concerned intellectuals had been saying since the 1950ies.

And I am getting quite sick of being accused ¨that we’ve failed, as a society, to articulate an adequate moral vision of this problem¨: I did not fail, nor did many scientists, ecologists and intellectuals since the 1950ies. (And ¨we as society¨ is bullshit anyway.)

What did fail was its being picked up by the mainstream media. But that is not the fault of ¨the people¨ but of the mainstream media. Anyway... this is a recommended article.

3. Neoliberal Fascism and the Echoes of History

This article is by Henry Giroux on Truthdig. I have indicated in at least one previous Nederlog that I don´t like him, because his writing style is that of my Amsterdam professors, and also he seems to insist that his portrait of 40 years ago graces some of his articles, as if he is a famous American actor.

I try again, but if this fails it will be the last time I review him in Nederlog.

Since the 1970s, American society has lived with the curse of neoliberalism, or what can be called the latest and most extreme stage of predatory capitalism. As part of a broader comprehensive design, neoliberalism’s overriding goal is to consolidate power in the hands of the financial elite.
Central to its philosophy is the assumption the market drives not just the economy but all of social life. It construes profit-making as the essence of democracy and consuming as the only operable form of agency. It redefines identities, desires and values through a market logic that favors self-interest, a survival-of-the-fittest ethos and unchecked individualism. Under neoliberalism, life-draining and unending competition is a central concept for defining human freedom.
To illustrate what I mean when I complain of Giroux´s style: I have made the connection between neoliberalism and fascism long ago, but then I also considered 21 different definitions of fascism and settled for my own (under the last link but one), but I do not know any journalist whatsoever who either defined ¨fascism¨ or seems aware that it is a quite ambiguous term.

And here are some logical/linguistic difficulties I have with the first paragraph (many of which arise because Giroux can hardly write a noun without attaching an adjective, or two adjectives, or three adjectives plus a divagation or two):

¨can be called¨: By whom? For what reasons? ¨the latest and most extreme¨: Why not merely the latter term? ¨predatory capitalism¨: I don´t say no, but why the ¨predatory¨ here? ¨A broader comprehensive¨: Isn´t ¨comprehensive¨ sufficient? ¨overriding goal¨: Why ¨overriding¨? Isn´t ¨goal¨ sufficient? ¨consolidate¨: Why not ¨give¨? And why ¨financial elite¨?

What if the beginning paraph had been:
  • Since the 1970s, American society lived with neoliberalism, that mostly helped the rich and not the non-rich. Neoliberalism´s goal is to give as much power as possible to the rich.
I think that is a lot briefer and a lot clearer. And my problem with somebody who writes texts as Giroux does is that I have such questions about virtually every paragraph.

Here is more:
As an economic policy, it creates an all-encompassing market guided by the principles of privatization, deregulation, commodification and the free flow of capital. Advancing these agendas, it weakens unions, radically downsizes the welfare state and wages an assault on public goods. As the state is hollowed out, big corporations take on the functions of government, imposing severe austerity measures, redistributing wealth upward to the rich and powerful and reinforcing a notion of society as one of winners and losers. Put simply, neoliberalism gives free rein to finance capital and seeks to liberate the market from any restraints imposed by the state. At present, governments exist preeminently to maximize the profits, resources and the power of the wealthy.
Yes, except for the vaguaries and ambiguities (that I won´t list). And while I don´t say ¨No!¨ I wonder how much this paragraph adds to the short version of the first paragraph I presented above.

Here is some more:

Theoretically, neoliberalism is often associated with the work of Friedrich August von Hayek and the Mont Pelerin Society, Milton Friedman and the Chicago school of economics, and most famously with the politics of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, President Ronald Reagan in the United States and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom. Politically, it is supported by various right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and by billionaires such as the Koch brothers.

Neoliberalism’s hatred of democracy, the common good and the social contract has unleashed generic elements of a fascist past in which white supremacy, ultra-nationalism, rabid misogyny and immigrant fervor come together in a toxic mix of militarism, state violence and the politics of disposability. Modes of fascist expression adopt variously to different political historical contexts assuring racial apartheid-like forms in the postbellum U.S. and overt encampments and extermination in Nazi Germany. Fascism—with its unquestioning belief in obedience to a powerful strongman, violence as a form of political purification, hatred as an act of patriotism, racial and ethnic cleansing, and the superiority of a select ethnic or national group—has resurfaced in the United States. In this mix of economic barbarism, political nihilism, racial purity, economic orthodoxy and ethical somnambulance, a distinctive economic-political formation has been produced that I term neoliberal fascism.

The first paragraph is fairly clear (!!). The second paragraph again is a mess: ¨Neoliberalism¨ is a theory not a person, and theories do not hate; ¨generic elements of a fascist past¨ might sound impressive, unless you realize Giroux doesn´t define ¨fascism¨ at all (which has more than 20 different definitions); ¨the politics of disposability¨: of what, by whom, for what reasons? - and I am just at the beginning. (Also, I don´t like very colorful language that masquerades as science, indeed also not if I agree with it.)

As the ideas, values and institutions crucial to a democracy have withered under a savage neoliberalism that has been 50 years in the making, fascistic notions of racial superiority, social cleansing, apocalyptic populism, hyper-militarism and ultra-nationalism have gained in intensity, moving from the repressed recesses of U.S. history to the centers of state and corporate power.6 Decades of mass inequality, wage slavery, the collapse of the manufacturing sector, tax giveaways to the financial elite and savage austerity policies that drive a frontal attack on the welfare state have further strengthened fascistic discourses.

I merely mention here that ¨fascistic discourses¨ is undefined. Anyway... I have indicated why I dislike the prose of Giroux.

He also quotes some persons, and here is one quote from Shivani which is a lot clearer than Giroux:

Neoliberalism believes that markets are self-sufficient unto themselves, that they do not need regulation, and that they are the best guarantors of human welfare. Everything that promotes the market, i.e., privatization, deregulation, mobility of finance and capital, abandonment of government-provided social welfare, and the reconception of human beings as human capital, needs to be encouraged, while everything that supposedly diminishes the market, i.e., government services, regulation, restrictions on finance and capital, and conceptualization of human beings in transcendent terms, is to be discouraged….One way to sum up neoliberalism is to say that everything—everything—is to be made over in the image of the market, including the state, civil society, and of course human beings. Democracy becomes reinterpreted as the market, and politics succumbs to neoliberal economic theory, so we are speaking of the end of democratic politics as we have known it for two and a half centuries.

I have some objections against this is as well, but comparatively it shines brightly compared wuth Giroux. And no, I will not read Giroux anymore.

4. Trump’s Two Kinds of Lies – and Why They’re Undermining American Democracy

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:
There are two kinds of Donald Trump lies. One is about facts. The other is about those who call him out on his fabrications.
It’s bad enough when a president of the United States tells the public nonstop lies. It’s worse when he impugns those who are pointing out he’s wrong — the second type of Trump lie.

An example of this second category occurred last week when Trump was speaking to a veterans group. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” he said.

In other words, you should only trust me.

Trump is ramping up both kinds of lies — lies about the facts, and lies about those who are reporting the truth.

Both categories of lies are dangerous to a democracy. The first misleads the public. The second undermines the capacity of the public to discover they are being misled.

In the words of George Orwell, “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

Yes indeed - I quite agree. Here is more:

Meanwhile, Trump’s increasing attacks on the media are causing journalists to worry about their safety. New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger warned that the attacks were “contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

Democracy is imperiled when a president of the United States tells bald-faced lies. It is doubly imperiled when a president convinces a portion of the public not to trust anyone who contradicts him.

As statesman and poet Vaclav Havel put it, “If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living the truth.”

Yes again. And here is an important point of the last 40 years:

Despite low unemployment, the median wage in the United States (adjusted for inflation) is barely higher than it was in the late 1970s, and economic insecurity is widespread.

So everybody who is not rich has been stolen from, for 40 years in succession, for what the many non-rich did not get, the rich did get.

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

The logical endpoint to both kinds of lies is fascism.

Few living today remember the birth of fascism in Europe and Soviet Russia in the 1930s. Maybe that explains why the free world seems relatively passive in the face of these current attacks on democracy and truth.

This is no time for passivity. The truth is still getting through to most people. But in sharp contrast to the 1930s, an American president is now helping lead the charge against it.

I wish Reich would define ¨fascism¨. Apart from that, this is mostly correct, and this is a recommended article.

5. C’mon, Just Say It!

This article is by Mike Lofgren on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
According to an Annenberg survey, only a quarter of Americans can correctly name the three branches of the federal government. Is that sad fact, like the weather, something that just happens, beyond anyone’s control? Or does something make Americans resistant to the most elementary information? Could the manner in which that information is conveyed to them be so needlessly complex and hedged that people just give up and prefer blissful ignorance?
Well... I think both the education most Americans get is bad (as I know is the case in Holland) and besides the majority of mankind is neither intelligent nor scientifically knowledgeable, and indeed seems stupid and ignorant in the USA if only 1 in 4 can correctly name the three branches of government.

Here is more:

It is not as if Trump’s antics, no matter how blatant, will cause the scales to fall from the eyes of the Republican faithful. Were he to roast and eat their first-born in front of their eyes, they’d say, “Oh, that Donald! He’s just bein’ politically incorrect! Take that, librulls!”

For Republican pols, Trump is merely the cost of doing business.
I´d like to see Trump ¨roast and eat [the] first-born [of Trump supporters] in front of their eyes¨ but did not, so far.

Here is more:

Another member of the commentariat, Andrew Sullivan, also has a theory of Trump. Why does he lick the polish off Putin’s shoes while insulting our allies and calling them foes? Why does he initiate a trade policy that is one of the wonders of the world for sheer, self-defeating stupidity? Why does he attack the very government he commands? “This is not treason as such,” explains Sullivan (warning: “as such” is a weasel phrase prompting the reader to be on guard).

What is it, then? Trump simply has a “vision” of a different America, a militarized hermit kingdom that bullies democracies and sucks up to dictatorships. This America maintains only the superficial forms of a democracy, but in reality it practices one-man rule. And that, in Sullivan’s telling, exonerates him of the graver charge of active betrayal.

Here is the ¨definition¨ of ¨treason¨ in the current Wikipedia (minus a note number):

In law, treason is the crime that covers some of the more extreme acts against one's nation or sovereign. Historically, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife or that of a master by his servant. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a lesser superior was petty treason. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor.

This hardly clarifies its meaning, and therefore I do not know whether Trump´s behavior or words constitute treason in a legal sense (and I am not much interested, in fact, although I think the sooner he is removed, the better it is).

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

Most of Western philosophy since Plato (a figure much admired by Sullivan) is the product of minds at once idle and restless. The life that passes before our eyes cannot be what it looks like; there is always a deeper truth, hidden from the rabble, which only the Elect can see. Hence Plato’s perfect, invisible essences, religion’s gnostic truths, Jacques Derrida’s abstruse gibberish. It is the intellectuals’ equivalent of woolgathering.

But I suspect the truth about Trump is as Morgan Freeman memorably said in an otherwise forgettable movie: “sometimes things are exactly as they appear.”

Well... I dislike Plato and religion, and despise Derrida, but I agree with Lofgren that Trump does not make it difficult to understand him.


[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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