September 25, 2018

Crisis: American Anomie, American Oligarchy, Kavanaugh, The "Left", Gabriel Interviewed


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 25, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, September 25, 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 September 25, 2018:
1. American Anomie
2. The Surest Sign Yet Billionaires Are Building an Oligarchy
3. Senate Aides Knew of Second Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Claim & Tried
     to Rush His Confirmation

4. The Establishment’s ‘Fear’ is Different From Yours
5. 'The World Is Changing Dramatically'
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. American Anomie

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The French sociologist Emile Durkheim in his classic book “On Suicide” examined the disintegration of social bonds that drive individuals and societies to personal and collective acts of self-destruction. He found that when social bonds are strong, individuals achieve a healthy balance between individual initiative and communal solidarity, which he called a “life-sustaining equilibrium.” These individuals and communities have the lowest rates of suicide. The individuals and societies most susceptible to self-destruction, he wrote, are those for whom these bonds, this equilibrium, have been shattered.

Societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self. This collective expresses itself through rituals, such as elections and democratic participation or an appeal to patriotism, and shared national beliefs. The bonds provide meaning, a sense of purpose, status and dignity. They offer psychological protection from impending mortality and the meaninglessness that comes with being isolated and alone. The shattering of these bonds plunges individuals into deep psychological distress that leads ultimately to acts of self-annihilation. Durkheim called this state of hopelessness and despair anomie, which he defined as “ruleless-ness.”
But the capture of political and economic power by the corporate elites, along with the redirecting of all institutions toward the further consolidation of their power and wealth, has broken the social bonds that held the American society together. This rupture has unleashed a widespread malaise Durkheim would have recognized.

Well... I think the first two quoted paragraphs above give a fairly objective short summary of some of the ideas in Durkheim's "On Suicide" and of his ideas on anomie (which I would translate as "lawlessness" rather than "ruleless-ness", incidentally), but I should remark that "On Suicide" was first published in 1897 and also that Durkheim was most concerned with articulating a difference between Protestants and Catholics (that probably was a bit different from what he thought it was).

Besides, there are more difficulties, which I think are too difficult to discuss in this brief review, but which may be summarized as follows:

The concept of anomie (of Durkheim) is related to the concept of alienation (of Marx), and while I think both theories relating to these concepts are interesting, I also found, when reading up on them, that both are considerably more vague than quite a few sociologists or Marxists tend to acknowledge.

So in fact I will not discuss either anomie or alienation in this short review, and skip them for more fact-based and more recent investigations, such as this one:

The political process, as the research by professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page underscores, no longer advances the interests of the average citizen. It has turned the consent of the governed into a cruel joke. “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

I think this is mostly correct and it is also quite recent. Here is one other series of facts:

American productivity, as The New York Times pointed out, has increased 77 percent since 1973 but hourly pay has grown only 12 percent. If the federal minimum wage was attached to productivity, the newspaper wrote, it would be more than $20 an hour now, not $7.25. Some 41.7 million workers, a third of the workforce, earn less than $12 an hour, and most of them do not have access to employer-sponsored health insurance. A decade after the 2008 financial meltdown, the Times wrote, the average middle class family’s net worth is more than $40,000 below what it was in 2007. The net worth of black families is down 40 percent, and for Latino families the figure has dropped 46 percent.

Again I think this is mostly correct and recent. And this is a recommended article.

2. The Surest Sign Yet Billionaires Are Building an Oligarchy

This article is by Jim Naureckas on Truthdig and originally on FAIR. It starts as follows:
The announcement that Time magazine would be bought by software CEO Marc Benioff highlighted the growing trend of billionaires buying up media outlets. While media moguls have always been wealthy—with press barons (Rupert MurdochMichael Bloomberg, Donald Newhouse, etc.) still well-represented on Forbes’ running list of the world’s billionaires—what distinguishes this new breed of press magnate is that they bought their media properties with fortunes made in other industries.
Wherever their money comes from, the new moguls’ interest in buying up outlets is generally less the direct profit involved—media profits are typically declining as the old local monopoly model erodes—and more the power that comes with control of the public conversation.
Yes, I think Naureckas' conclusion is quite correct. Here is one more bit (the ending):
Whatever the motivation, billionaires buying up media is another step toward oligarchy, as a handful of super-wealthy individuals assume power over crucial news outlets, both locally and nationally.
I think that is correct, and while this is a short article, it is followed by a list of twelve American billionaires who own media that I thought interesting. This is a recommended article.

3. Senate Aides Knew of Second Kavanaugh Sexual Assault Claim & Tried to Rush His Confirmation

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
Senator Dianne Feinstein is calling for the immediate postponement of the nomination proceedings of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after a second woman has come forward alleging sexual misconduct by the judge. Deborah Ramirez, a former classmate of Kavanaugh’s at Yale University, has accused him of exposing himself and thrusting his penis into her face during a college party in a dorm room. Ramirez spoke on the record to The New Yorker and is now calling on the FBI to investigate her allegations. The New Yorker revealed Republican Senate aides learned of Ramirez’s allegations last week and responded by trying to quickly move Kavanaugh’s nomination ahead before the allegations became public. This comes as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday about her allegations that Kavanaugh attempted to rape her when she was 15 years old and he was 17 years old. Kavanaugh has denied both accusations. We speak with Jodi Jacobson, president and editor-in-chief of Rewire.
Yes, quite so - and in fact the most recent news provides a third woman who alleged misconduct by the judge (in his late teens).

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: So, I mean, these revelations, these exposÚs, these allegations are coming out one after another. There’s even a third. We’ll talk about that in a moment. But talk about the latest New Yorker piece about the second woman who has come out, after Dr. Blasey Ford accused Judge Kavanaugh of attempting to rape her.

JODI JACOBSON: So, as you mentioned earlier, Deborah Ramirez talked to both Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker to tell them her story of having been at a party where there was a lot of drinking and where, during that party, she remembers having someone take down their pants, put their penis in her face and force her to touch it. And she could not remember exactly—she had taken some time to talk with other people before she came forward to make sure that her memories coordinated—or not coordinated, but corroborated with theirs. And when she did come forward, she said that she remembered—one flash of memory was that Brett Kavanaugh was pulling his pants up, as he was laughing at her after having thrust his penis in her face.

So, you know, here’s another person who is coming forward into really a maelstrom of political debate around a man who has credible allegations from Dr. Blasey Ford, and the Senate GOP Judiciary Committee refuses to investigate either of these at this point. And I think it warrants an FBI investigation, because if you really want to know the truth—and I don’t think the GOP does—then you would do an investigation before you seated a man on the highest court.
I agree with Jodi Jacobson, that is, I agree this "warrants an FBI investigation". There is more in the article, that is recommended.

4. The Establishment’s ‘Fear’ is Different From Yours

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The instantly famous Anonymous New York Times Op Ed (ATOE), published Sept. 5, in which a senior Trump administration official complained about the brutish awfulness and incompetence of Donald Trump and claimed to be working with other White House officials to check Trump’s worst impulses, has evoked a range of responses on so-called social media.
Well... I have read and reviewed the anonymous New York Times Op Ed, which I did not like, but I also will skip a lot from the present article, simply because I both strongly dislike and rarely read the a-social media (as I think Facebook - for one example - is).

Then there is (having skipped quite a lot) there is this:

The ATOE reflects a standard neoliberal, establishment Republican perspective, one that seeks to align itself with traditionally Republican victories attained under Trump while distancing itself from the malevolent stink of associating with him.

The AA writes that “We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.” He praises Trump’s presidency for “effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.”

I think this is correct, and should inform you that "AA" = "anonymous author". Here is more:

The second problem—state-capitalist ecocide—is being advanced with noteworthy efficiency by the Trump administration. “While the Trump administration swirls around in a vortex of Tweets, lies and Russiagate,” Joshua Frank noted on Counterpunch last weekend, “one thing is for certain, while we are all distracted and perplexed by the daily mayhem, Trump and his fossil fuel buddies are getting away with environmental plunder.” The administration’s infamous incompetence and dysfunctionality (much bemoaned by the AA) does not extend to the ecocide project, curiously enough—a topic that fails to receive significant media attention despite its status as the biggest issue of our or any time.

Well... "we" are not "all distracted and perplexed" (and what is the value of quoting just one author's opinions?).

Here is more, and this time it is about (bolding added) "the mainstream ruling class’ problems with Trump" - and this covers "Rachel Maddow, Bob Woodward, the Clintons, Barack Obama, Tim Kaine, John Kerry and Anderson Cooper on the so-called left":

What are the mainstream ruling class’ problems with Trump? The main wealth and power elite policy complaints are that the “populist,” “isolationist” and “protectionist” president is woefully ignorant about, and even strangely opposed to, the standard institutional structures of U.S. empire and of U.S.-dominated global trade and investment.

Then there’s the explicitness of Trump’s racial bigotry and sexism; the openness of Trump’s authoritarianism and totalitarianism; and the transparent “beyond the pale” malignancy and childishness of his Twitter-addicted narcissism (so extreme that he feels compelled to deny the number of Puerto Ricans who died in the wake of Hurricane Maria last year). There’s also the remarkable extent of Trump’s stubborn idiocy, deepened by his ridiculous (if textbook narcissist) faith in his own superiority; and troubling connections between “the House of Trump,” Russian state-connected oligarchs and the “the House of Putin” going back many years.

I think "the so-called left" is mostly correct on Trump's many failings, although I agree with Street that they treat only part of the problems Trump's presidency poses.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article and this gives Paul Street's opinions:

Trump is a dangerous monster who needs to be removed from the White House and the nation’s political life. On that all decent people can agree. But we can’t stop there. The Fake Resistance and Inauthentic Opposition Party (the Democrats and some traditional Republicans) seek the removal of Trump, to be sold as a great victory for popular democracy while preserving the reign of the nation’s unelected and interrelated juntas of capital, empire, race and militarized police-state repression.

And that’s not good enough, not with the species teetering on the edge of full environmental catastrophe under the soulless command of the profits system. We need a rebellion, indeed a revolution (and not just a political one) that goes much deeper than merely the amputation of the malignant symptom of American cruelty, plutocracy, sexism, racism and stupidity that is Trump.

Well... it may be that I am indecent, but I do wonder whether a removal of Trump, which most probably would make Pence president, would be a real improvement, especially as long as both the Senate and the House are Republican. (And this is in fact a question.)

Then again, I agree mostly with Street's characterization of the Democrats in the first quoted paragraph.

As to the second quoted paragraph: While I more or less agree that something like "a revolution" may be necessary, that may happen after the next economical crisis, I may be less optimistic about the eventual outcome of such a revolution than Street is, among other things because I think that nearly all earlier revolutions, such as the Russian one of 1917 and the Chinese one of 1949, did not - at all - bring what most revolutionaries that enacted them desired. Then again, this is a recommended article.

5. 'The World Is Changing Dramatically'

This article is by Mathieu von Rohr and Britta Sandberg on Spiegel International. It starts as follows - and the person interviewed is Sigmar Gabriel, a former foreign minister of Germany, who also headed the German social democrats for eight years.

It starts as follows:

DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Gabriel, do you wish you were still Germany's foreign minister? In your book, it sounds like you were unable to fulfill many of your plans.

Gabriel: I am a political person and I can't pretend politics don't interest me anymore only because I no longer hold a position. The world is changing dramatically. We Germans are in danger of underestimating the consequences.

DER SPIEGEL: In what sense?

Gabriel: The big questions about Germany's place in the world remain unanswered. And I think that is negligent. I have often asked myself: Will my three daughters have the same opportunities for freedom and self-determination? Will they live in peace? That was more of a motivation for writing the book than the unfulfilled wishes of a former foreign minister.

DER SPIEGEL: You use dramatic words to describe the current global political situation. You compare it to 1989 or even 1945.

Gabriel: Yes, because with this U.S. president, the old West has broken apart. It is a drastic change from the past 70 years, when we could depend on the U.S. as a leading nation.
I think this is more or less correct (and I am a bit amazed), but I did not find most of the rest of this interview interesting, although there is this bit:

DER SPIEGEL: The danger emanating from Germany, you write, isn't military dominance, but the dominance of inaction. Weren't you also partly responsible for that?

Gabriel: As a political actor, one is always partly responsible. We have for decades been used to the fact that the U.S. was responsible for taking care of the unpleasant things in the world. Now Trump is criticizing us for not spending enough money on our military. Part of the truth, however, is that the U.S. wanted exactly that for a very long time. They were worried that too much military power in Germany could provoke the next world war.
I do not know whether Gabriel is correct on this, but he may well be. There is considerably more in the interview, but as I said, I found it mostly uninteresting.


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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