August 27, 2018

Crisis: Becoming Serfs, Trump & The Mob, The Climate, The Democrats, Julian Assange, ME/CFS


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 27, 2018
     B. One Extra Bit

This is a Nederlog of Monday, August 27, 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 27, 2018:
1. Becoming Serfs
2. America Is Married to the Mob
3. Hot Enough for You?
4. Sanders Says Democratic Party Will Now Be 'More Open, Democratic
     and Responsive'

5. Why Democracy Needs Solidarity for Julian Assange's Freedom
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. Becoming Serfs

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
You know the statistics. Income inequality in the United States has not been this pronounced in over a century. The top 10 percent has 50 percent of the country’s income, and the upper 1 percent has 20 percent of the country’s income. A quarter of American workers struggle on wages of less than $10 an hour, putting them below the poverty line, while the income of the average CEO of a major corporation is more than 300 times the pay of his or her average worker, a massive increase given that in the 1950s the average CEO made 20 times what his or her worker made. This income inequality is global. The richest 1 percent of the world’s population controls 40 percent of the world’s wealth. And it is getting worse.
Precisely. And it is because of these facts, that all involve the near coincidence of power and wealth (somebody with power can get wealth; somebody with wealth can get power), while I think that great inequalities in power and wealth cause misery, poverty, and death to many who are not powerful nor wealthy, that made me opt for socialism. See my On Socialism for considerably more on socialism, including George Orwell´s vision of it, that is somewhat contrasted with my vision.

Also, I should add that I was raised as a child of two very brave communists; gave up communism at 20 because I disagreed with Marx´s economics, his historical materialism (to the effect that all historical developments depend on the economy), and his dialectical materialism; and then chose for philosophical anarchism, where my use of ¨philosophical¨ before ¨anarchism¨ indicated that while I preferred libertarian anarchism, I also thought only a fairly small minority had the intelligence, the honesty and the moral courage to live in such a society.

So in fact my choice for socialism is a second-best choice, and in my version of socialism I am mainly insisting on three things: (1) the differences between power and wealth and no power and poverty are far too large under capitalism; (2) they can only made smaller by legal norms; (3) these legal norms are impossible under capitalism.

Back to more Hedges:
We live in a new feudalism. We have been stripped of political power. Workers are trapped in menial jobs, forced into crippling debt and paid stagnant or declining wages. Chronic poverty and exploitative working conditions in many parts of the world, and increasingly in the United States, replicate the hell endured by industrial workers at the end of the 19th century. The complete capture of ruling institutions by corporations and their oligarchic elites, including the two dominant political parties, the courts and the press, means there is no mechanism left by which we can reform the system or protect ourselves from mounting abuse. We will revolt or become 21st-century serfs, forced to live in misery and brutally oppressed by militarized police and the most sophisticated security and surveillance system in human history while the ruling oligarchs continue to wallow in unimagined wealth and opulence.
Again I say: precisely. And I am myself most afraid of ¨the most sophisticated security and surveillance system in human history¨ - which is fundamentally the internet computer (of any kind).

Here is something on Roosevelt´s New Deal and the Keynesian aftermath that was the dominant economical opinion from 1946 till 1979, roughly:
The New Deal programs were paid for by taxing the rich. Even in the 1950s, during the Eisenhower presidency, the top marginal rate was 91 percent.
Yes indeed. In fact - possibly in part because I am 68 now, possibly in part because I have learned that there is hardly any sound understanding of most things that I hold important by people whose IQs are less than 130 - I might not be for socialism if Keynes´ principles to maintain a partially tamed capitalism (by high taxes on the rich) would still be in force.

But I think now that Keynes was an exceptional capitalist, and by far the most capitalists are for anything that improves their profits, and don´t care for the human costs to the non-rich as long as they profit.

Here is more by Hedges:
The rich, enraged, mounted a war to undo these programs and restore the social inequality that makes them wealthy at our expense. We have come full circle. Dissidents, radicals and critics of capitalism are once again branded as agents of foreign powers and purged from universities and the airwaves. The labor movement has been dismantled, including through so-called right-to-work laws that prohibit agreements between unions and employers. The last remaining regulations to thwart corporate pillage and pollution are removed. Although government is the only mechanism we have to protect ourselves from predatory oligarchs and corporations, the rich tell us that government is the problem, not the solution.
Again I say: precisely. (And as a socialist, I am for government for the reasons Hedges gives.)

Here is more by Hedges:
“The quality of the jobs, the security, the benefits and the impact on physical and mental health have been cascading downward as the wages remain stagnant,” he went on. “We’re not in a recovery. We’re in an ongoing decline, which, by the way, is why Mr. Trump got elected. This is happening to capitalism in Western Europe, Japan and the United States. This is why an angry working class is looking for ways to express and change its circumstances.”
I mostly agree, although I do not believe in the ¨working class¨, mostly for two reasons:

First, the Marxist conception of class is mistaken, indeed fundamentally because of Marx´s false historical materialism: People´s choices, values, ideas and ideals are not merely and just determined by the economy and their economical status. And second, because in practice the notions behind the class concept failed again and again, and notably in wars, were the poor faught and died for rich men´s interests because the poor were nationalists.

Here is the last bit of Hedges that I quote:
There is no discussion in the corporate-controlled media of the effects of our out-of-control corporate capitalism. Workers struggling under massive debts, unable to pay for ever rising health care and other basic costs, trapped in low-wage jobs that make life one long emergency, are rendered invisible by a media that entertains us with court gossip from porn actresses and reality television stars and focuses on celebrity culture. We ignore reality at our peril.
Yes. There is considerably more in this article, notably on the American professor and Marxist Richard Wolff, which I have skipped because I do not like Wolff, mainly because he sounds too much like the Dutch ¨Marxist¨ professors I have met and read. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. America Is Married to the Mob

This article is by Andrew O´Hehir on Alternet and originally on Salon. It starts as follows:

All sorts of melodramatic language has been deployed to describe Donald Trump’s presidency over the last couple of years: It’s a treasonous conspiracy to undermine American democracy and install a puppet regime controlled by our enemies; it’s a slow-motion fascist coup, seeking to undo civil rights and cultural diversity and institute a white-supremacist theocracy.

What if it was never anything quite so grandiose? Now that the Trump regime is beginning to crack and crumble — one piece at a time, and without the satisfying, cathartic crash so many people have longed for since the fall of 2016 — it looks a lot like something more familiar: a second-rate mob drama.

Well... yes and no, and my main difference is: Why not ¨and¨ and ¨and¨? (This is not argued but merely asserted by O´Hehir.)

Here is more:

There’s nothing original about this metaphor, which quite likely isn’t even a metaphor. It’s been there all along: Pulitzer-winning reporter David Cay Johnston, who has followed Donald Trump’s career for four decades, has written extensively about Trump’s longtime connections to organized crime, as have numerous other journalists, including Salon's Heather Digby Parton. Those connections clearly go back to Trump’s early days of doing shifty deals in the bottomed-out market of 1970s Manhattan real estate (..)

Yes, I agree with this, and indeed have repeatedly reviewed articles by Johnston and Parton.
Also, especially
David Cay Johnston is an interesting man who is very well informed about Trump and his associates.

Here is more:

Of course the mob-boss analogy exploded back into the headlines this week, after Paul Manafort’s conviction on eight charges of financial fraud (entirely unrelated to his work for Trump, in fairness) and Michael Cohen’s plea-bargain admission that he had orchestrated payments to the president’s alleged former lovers (or two of them, anyway), in a blatant end-around of campaign finance laws. As the New York Times observed in a front-page article — as usual, after everyone else had said the same thing — Trump’s embittered responses about who had been a “rat” and who hadn’t, and whether “flipping” to cooperate with prosecutors ought to be illegal, seemed straight out of the mobbed-up New York of 1980s Hollywood movies.

Yes indeed. Here is more:

The simpler way to say this is that Donald Trump is a mobster, and he’s been a mobster all his life. He’s sitting inside a vast palace of corruption, looking down at the peasants gathered at the gates. How should he know what non-mobsters think or believe? Why should he even be interested?

This isn’t an idle observation. It might be a key to understanding this strange moment in American history. I’ve devoted a lot of mental effort over the last couple of years to making sense of the “Donald Trump era,” suggesting that it inaugurated a new age of revolutionary chaos, or marked the next stage of what Jean Baudrillard called World War IV, the post-9/11 internal conflict within the Western world. I still believe those big-think questions have some salience, but in terms of the current specific situation in American politics, it might be a lot simpler than that. Maybe Trump is just a big old crook, and the lawmen are now hunting him in classic fashion, by following the money.

I mostly agree, that is: I think it is fair to describe Donald Trump as a mobster (and see especially David Cay Johnston in this respect) but I also definitely think more is involved.
Thus, for one example, I think Donald Trump is (also, next to a mobster) a neofascist, for the simple reason that he satisfies all of the ten criterions I define ¨neofascism¨ by (which was thus defined by me before I knew of Trump).

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

What the media's many students of scandal-ology keep assuming, or hoping, is that some huge and dramatic reveal is coming, the proverbial smoking gun that will definitively prove that Donald Trump conspired with the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, spread lies on the internet and “steal” the election. Trump will be hauled away in chains, every elected Republican in the country will resign in disgrace and Nancy Pelosi will unanimously be elected emperor for life. Or something. I have a prediction to make: Nope. I am fairly well convinced that Robert Mueller has concluded no such evidence exists, and that the 2016 Trump campaign's collaboration with Russian agents — while dubious and sleazy as all get-out — was pretty much a freelance or impromptu sideline endeavor to the much larger criminal project of House Trump.

I mostly agree and this is a recommended article.

3. Hot Enough for You?

This article is by David Suzuki on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

If you follow climate news (and you should), you’ve likely heard of the global warming “hiatus.” In attempts to keep the world hooked on diminishing reserves of polluting fossil fuels, climate science deniers seized on that phenomenon to claim the warming they once argued didn’t exist stopped. Others took up the false claim out of ignorance and fear.

Global warming didn’t stop. Quite the opposite: it accelerated. According to all legitimate scientific agencies that study climate, the past four years have been the warmest on record, and 2017 was the 41st consecutive year with global average temperatures higher than in the 20th century.

This year is also shaping up to be a record-breaker. But as the old saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” That’s because warming didn’t stop. The rate slowed slightly. And that’s over now.

Yes indeed: I completely agree. Here is more:

We’re not alone. High temperatures are breaking records worldwide. Deaths and injuries from heat-related causes have been rising rapidly since 1980, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Now, 30 per cent of the world’s population lives “in climatic conditions that deliver prolonged extreme heatwaves.”

Extreme weather events, including storms, droughts and floods, have compromised agriculture and sparked refugee and health crises.

“We have witnessed extraordinary weather, including temperatures topping 50 degrees Celsius in Asia, record-breaking hurricanes in rapid succession in the Caribbean and Atlantic reaching as far as Ireland, devastating monsoon flooding affecting many millions of people and a relentless drought in East Africa,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said. “Many of these events … bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by increased greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities.”

I completely agree and have been following ¨the climate¨ and/or ¨the environment¨ and/or ¨ecology¨ since the appearance of ¨The Limits to Growth¨ in 1972.

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

With scientists predicting even hotter temperatures and more heat waves over the next few years, we’re about to get a taste of what to expect if we fail to take every measure possible to slow and eventually halt human-caused climate disruption. There’s no shortage of solutions, only political will.

The question is, will we learn from the evidence staring us in the face or will we continue to frack, build pipelines for expanding oilsands, drill the oceans and Arctic and revive the coal industry?

We don’t have much time to decide.

Yes, I agree - and I fear that as long as the rich are in power the rich will ¨continue to frack, build pipelines for expanding oilsands, drill the oceans¨ etc. simply because it is profitable to them (and besides, they have money enough to cool their houses etc.)

And I think so because this was the attitude of most of the rich since 1980. This is a recommended article.

4. Sanders Says Democratic Party Will Now Be 'More Open, Democratic and Responsive'

This article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

While his defeat by Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party's 2016 primary was the driving trigger behind the fight that ensued over the way the party's establishment appeared to exploit the power of superdelegates to tip the scales for leadership's favored candidate (here, here, here), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Saturday congratulated the DNC for approving a measure that will greatly curtail that influence going forward.

In a vote by party delegates at a meeting in Chicago that was described as a victory for progressive reformers and a major advance for party unity ahead of mid-terms and the 2020 presidential election, the Democratic National Committee approved a series of reforms, including new rules that govern superdelegates. In the future, superdelegates will no longer be allowed to vote for their preferred candidate during the first ballot at the party's national convention—a restriction that will greatly, if not fully, reduce their influence on the outcome until all primary voters have had their say.

Yes indeed (and I have read some other articles on this). Here is some more:

As noted by Our Revolution—which backs Bernie-style progressive candidates in federal, state, and local races nationwide—the other reforms passed by the DNC delegates on Saturday included:

  • Electoral reforms and a process for rewarding states that have same-day registration, same-day party change, open primaries, other measures that increase civic participation;
  • The creation of an Ombudsman Committee and strengthening the conflict of interest provision; and
  • Improving financial oversight of the DNC's finances and spending.

Take together, he said, these reforms are "a huge step forward."

Yes, but I should add that I have also read leftist criticism that said these changes are considerably less complete than would be desirable, and that this outcome may well be a compromise between the leaders of the Democrats and the voters for the Democrats.

We shall see, and this is a recommended article.

5. Why Democracy Needs Solidarity for Julian Assange's Freedom

This article is by Nozomi Hayase on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange remains in solitary confinement inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he was granted asylum in 2012 against the threat of extradition to the United States for his publishing activities. In recent months, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno, under pressure from the U.S. began threatening to evict this political refugee.

In response to this dire situation, people across the political spectrum began to form solidarity through #Unify4J, an online platform to organize a social media movement in support of Assange. Among those include prominent Trump’s supporters.
I agree with the first paragraph, and did not know about the second paragraph, possibly because I do not Tweet and do not belong to Facebook. In any case, my own responses to ¨those include prominent Trump’s supporters¨ are: (1) So what? And (2) This is a public action, so you cannot exclude those you disagree with. Besides (3) Assange is for free speech, and so am I.

Here is more:
Strife around the same issue arose from the former associate and early proponents of WikiLeaks. Barrett Brown, an award-winning journalist, previously imprisoned for charges relating to a Stratfor hack, has been one of the strong voices in support of the whistleblowing site. He described how he has long stood up for the organization’s mission of transparency at great risk to himself, yet in recent months he became upset about what he perceived to be Assange’s alliance with fascists and radical right supremacist groups.
Well... in fact I rather strongly doubt ¨Assange’s alliance with fascists and radical right supremacist groups¨. What may be true is that some fascists and radical right groups, that may have liked - for example - WikiLeaks´s publishing of Hillary Clinton´s emails may have tried to suggest some alliance with Assange, but I think that is something else than the quoted bit.

Here is more:
The divisiveness that has grown among progressives around the advocacy of WikiLeaks brings extreme alarm. It weakens any kind of efforts to resist government and corporate oppression. Finding a way to overcome this force becomes now important, not only for Assange’s freedom, but also for creating a viable movement for democracy.
I agree (although I think that ¨creating a viable movement for democracy¨ is a far larger project and should have been left out).

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

In the interview conducted by an award winning filmmaker John Pilger, renowned political analyst Noam Chomsky once said, “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” Democracy dies when we deny speech of those whom we oppose and our collective heart suffocates, with each individual not being able to speak freely. The tyranny triumphs the rule of law when we can’t breathe through diverse opinions and perspectives to inspire one another to form a court of public opinion.

WikiLeaks enabled the true function of the First Amendment. As a countenance of democracy, this revolutionary journalism protects people against suppression of speech by allowing all voices including views that are unpopular and marginalized. This can illuminate what liberals consider WikiLeaks’ troubling appearance of associating with Trump Jr. and speaking up for conspiracy theorists like a Infowar radio host Alex Jones, when he got censored by Silicon Valley tech giants.

Yes, precisely. And this is a recommended article, in which there is considerably more than I quoted.

B. One Extra Bit

As often, the extra bit is about ME/CFS, that my ex and I now have for forty years minus four months. This is an article about the recent decision of the Dutch Gezondheidsraad (that also speaks for the Dutch government) that ¨ME/CFS is a serious and chronic disease¨:
The article is by Frank Twisk and is concerned with something else that the Gezondheidsraad is in favor of, that amounts in fact to renaming ME and CFS (and ¨CFS¨ is essentially a nonsensical concept and a very bad term introduced by psychiatrists, who have insisted the last 40 years that ME/CFS is a psychiatric complaint, that has little or nothing to do with a real though unknown disease, which stopped virtually all medical research into ME the last 40 years) to SEID, it seems on the ground that ¨ME c.q. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis¨ is the wrong name for the - unknown - chronic disease that is now admitted by the Gezondheidsraad (since March 2018).

I agree with Twisk because the only sensible research that has been done since 1965 into ME/CFS went by one or both of these names, and changing the name of the disease to SEID will very probably delete most or all of the references to medical researches into

Besides, I like to add that (1) many diseases have mistaken names, when seen from the point of view of medical researchers and (2) I am getting extremely sick of medical researches who mostly did not research ME/CFS now posture on a point of terminology, as if the only thing they are good at is Dutch grammar (which in fact may be true: I have seen very few competent Dutch medical doctors).
Also, after 40 years of ME/CFS I grant that I am sick of most Dutch medical doctors:

My ex and I have spoken to around 30 medical specialists (for the most part) looking for help. Medical people are supposed to be foremost informed by the norm Not To Harm Patients. Twenty-seven of the thirty medical specialist said we were psychosomatizers (as students, studying on study loans), knowing full well this utter medical nonsense would harm us in the eyes of bureaucrats - and indeed I have been forced to survive 32 years of dole in which I was declared not to be ill (which caused many problems for me).

I do not believe anymore that my ex and myself will be helped with ME/CFS by almost any Dutch doctor simply because that is my experience since 40 years. And I have essentially given up on Dutch medicine and Dutch doctors (except for a very few: the others seem more interested in money than in patients, for that has been my experience for 40 years).

[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 (!!).

       home - index - summaries - mail