January 14, 2019

Crisis: Ocasio-Cortez In The NYT, Striking Iran, The Environment, Green New Deal, On ¨Fascism¨


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 14, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 14, 2019. 

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 three 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 January 14, 2019:
1. Ocasio-Cortez Pushes Democrats to the Left, Whether They Like It or
2. Trump Military Adviser Asked Pentagon for Options to Strike Iran

3. U.S. Shows Flagrant Disregard for Science Once Again

4. Ocasio-Cortez's #GreenNewDeal Is the Most Serious Response to the
     Crisis Yet

5. Five Forces Driving the Rise of Fascism in 2019
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. Ocasio-Cortez Pushes Democrats to the Left, Whether They Like It or Not

This article is by Shane Goldmacher on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
Not so long ago, left-wing activists were dismissed as fringe or even kooky when they pressed for proposals to tax the superrich at 70 percent, to produce all of America’s power through renewable resources or to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Then along came Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — and her social-media megaphone.

In the two months since her election, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has had the uncanny ability for a first-term member of Congress to push the debate inside the Democratic Party sharply to the left, forcing party leaders and 2020 presidential candidates to grapple with issues that some might otherwise prefer to avoid.
I do not know who Shane Goldmacher is, but I do know what he is doing: Trying to write down Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while appearing to be ¨an objective journalist¨. I shall - briefly - try to show this in the present review, but first my own opinion on Ocasio-Cortez:

I like her and her ideas and values, but I do not know whether she can keep it up or - indeed - will want to keep it up. We shall find out in the coming months or years. Also, I do not have many more well-based ideas about her, apart from the two facts that she is rather pretty (especially for a politician), which very probably helps her considerably in the news, and also that she is rather young.

Now to the above text:

The first paragraph seems (to me at least) to position Ocasio-Cortez as ¨
fringe or even kooky¨ while it is propagandistic bullshit: Taxes for the superrich were over 70% during the Republican Eisenhower´s days, and besides high taxes on the very rich at least do something to get a bit more equality (less inequality) than without them. And to have renewable resources and abolish ICE seem to me eminently sensible.

The second paragraph: I do not know what is so peculiar about Ocasio-Cortez´s ¨social-media megaphone¨, but the same or a similar point could have been made with more sympathy, or less antipathy, namely by referring to her appeal to the press.

The third paragraph only supports the idea (for me, at least) that so far she is doing what a representative is supposed to do.

Here is more:
Ms. Warren and Senator Cory Booker, among others, have recently endorsed the idea of a “Green New Deal,” a call to reimagine an environment-first economy that would phase out fossil fuels. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez thrust that issue into the national dialogue after she joined a sit-in protest in the office of then-incoming House speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi, in one of her first, rebellious acts in Washington.

Her rise has stirred a backlash among some congressional Democrats, who are seeking to constrain her anti-establishment streak and fear her more radical ideas could tar the party as socialist.
This seems - again - mostly propagandistic bullshit: Firstly, I do not see why disagreements with Pelosi should be classified as ¨rebellious¨, and secondly, at least the ¨congressional Democrats¨ who say she ¨could tar the party as socialist¨ are simply lying.

Here is more:
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx-born 29-year-old of Puerto Rican descent, is the youngest congresswoman ever, and Washington veterans say they cannot recall a similar congressional debut.

“A bartender from the Bronx has been able to create a litmus test around climate and economic policy for every 2020 Democrat,” said Waleed Shahid, who was one of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s early campaign advisers and is now the communications director for Justice Democrats, a liberal activist group.

Far beyond policy, she has emerged as a potent symbol for a diversifying Democratic Party: a young woman of color who is giving as good as she gets in a political system that has rarely rewarded people who look like her. Her mastery of social media has allowed her to connect with audiences who might otherwise be alienated from Washington.
These paragraphs seem more or less in order, although (being Dutch, and not having been raised in a racist atmosphere by racist parents) I would not say that Puerto Ricans (or Hispanics) are persons ¨of color¨ (which is bullshit for: ¨brown or black, or at least definitely not white¨), but I grant this may be different in the far more racist USA.

Here is more:
Supporters and rivals alike agree that she has upended the traditional rules of engagement on Capitol Hill with a millennial’s intuitive sense of what sells online — all before she has hung anything on her barren office walls or even found a permanent place to live.

In an interview, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez rejected “the general notion of, ‘Oh, you’re here and need to be quiet and keep your head down.’”

“For me, especially as a member who won her seat via a primary election against another Democrat, my constituency was telling me the exact opposite thing,” she said.
I do not understand why a politician would be said to have (especially, and bolding added) a ¨sense of what sells online¨.

Also as to the other two paragraphs: All I can see her doing is what proper elected representatives of the people are supposed to do.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Perhaps Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s most talked-about idea, raised on “60 Minutes,” has been that people she called “the tippy tops” — those earning above $10 million — should pay a 70 percent rate on income above that threshold. The remark set off days of debate among economists and pundits, on the right and the left, about tax rates unseen in America in decades but common during the post-World War II era.
The main point here should be that in the 1950ies - when the USA was quite capitalistic - and in the days of Republican governments, tax rates of 70 percent or more were both quite common and totally unproblematic for ¨economists and pundits¨.

Anyway... I have reviewed this article, but I guess I will stop reading the subtle propagandist Goldmacher. There is some more on Ocasio-Cortez in item 4.

2. Trump Military Adviser Asked Pentagon for Options to Strike Iran

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Reminding the world that he is, as one critic put it, “a reckless advocate of military force,” the Wall Street Journal revealed on Sunday that President Donald Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton “asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with military options to strike Iran last year, generating concern at the Pentagon and State Department.”

“It definitely rattled people,” a former U.S. official said of the request, which Bolton supposedly made after militants aligned with Iran fired mortars into the diplomatic quarter of Baghdad, Iraq, that contains the U.S. Embassy in early September. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

“The Pentagon complied with the National Security Council’s request to develop options for striking Iran,” the Journal reported, citing unnamed officials. “But it isn’t clear if the proposals were provided to the White House, whether Mr. Trump knew of the request, or whether serious plans for a U.S. strike against Iran took shape at that time.”

I say, for I did not know this while it appears to me fairly dangerous. It does seem dangerous simply because it appears from the above that now the USA (or at least some of its leaders) is preparing an attack on Iran, which has 82 million inhabitants.

Here is some more:

The Journal‘s report, which comes just days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered an “arrogant tirade” of a speech vilifying Iran, sparked immediate alarm among critics of the Trump administration’s biggest warmongers—who, over the past several months, have been accused of fomenting unrest in Iran and laying the groundwork for war.

Daniel W. Drezner, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, called the news “a reminder that when it comes to Iran, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are batshit insane.”

This seems mostly correct (although I doubt calling Bolton and Pompeo ¨batshit insane¨ is much of a help).

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

In a series of moves that have elicited concern from members of Congress, political experts, other world leaders, and peace activists, since May the Trump administration has ditched the Iran nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—and reimposed economic sanctions.

NIAC, in November, urged the new Congress that convened at the beginning of the year to challenge the administration’s hawkish moves and restore U.S. standing on the world stage by passing measures to block the sanctions re-imposed in August and November, and reverse Trump’s decision to breach the deal—which European and Iranian diplomats have been trying to salvage.

Iran continues to comply with the terms of JCPOA, according to the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

This seems all to be simply true and this is a recommended article.

3. U.S. Shows Flagrant Disregard for Science Once Again

This article is by Abrahm Lustgarten on Truthdig and originally on ProPublica. It starts as follows:

The signals are blaring: Dramatic changes to our climate are well upon us. These changes — we know thanks to a steady drumbeat of alarming official reports over the past 12 months — could cripple the U.S. economy, threaten to make vast stretches of our coastlines uninhabitable, make basic food supplies scarce and push millions of the planet’s poorest people into cities and across borders as they flee environmental perils.

All is not yet lost, we are told, but the demands of the moment are great. The resounding consensus of scientists, economists and analysts tells us that the solution lies in an unprecedented global effort to immediately and drastically drop carbon emissions levels. That drop is possible, but it will need to happen so fast that it will demand extraordinary commitment, resolve, innovation and, yes, sacrifice. The time we’ve got to work with, according to the United Nations, is a tad more than 10 years.

This seems mostly correct. Then again, in fact mostly because I have been following the environment (as I shall say) since 1972, I do have two position on the Green New Deal:

(1) I think the Green New Deal is about the first kind of proposal I have heard since 1972
     that makes sense, but
(2) mostly because I have seen hardly anything truly effective to the environment since 1972
     I must assume that
the Green New Deal will not be realized.

In case you protest against (2): You are welcome and I dislike my conclusion as well, but then
it does seem the most probable to me.

Here is more from the article:

And so it stings particularly badly to learn from a new report released this week by the Rhodium Group, a private research company, that U.S. emissions — which amount to one-sixth of the planet’s — didn’t drop in 2018 but instead skyrocketed. The 3.4 percent jump in CO2 for 2018, projected by the Rhodium Group, would be second-largest surge in greenhouse gas emissions from the United States since 1996, when Bill Clinton was president.

The report notes that Americans consumed significantly more electricity in 2018 than in years past, and that demand for trucking (think shipping) and jet fuel (lots more people flew) also grew substantially.

In fact, none of the above is amazing to me: As I said, I have not been reading much that could be effective (politically) to help the environment since 1972, and the above only supports that.

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

This week’s emissions forecast is a reminder that, as John McArthur, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution recently wrote, “Every new unit of economic gain is still cranking out a corresponding unit of environmental pain.” That may be unlikely to change soon, and the “urgent” challenge for 2019, he writes, is to find palatable approaches to drastic emissions reductions that still allow for the kind of sustained economic growth the nation has been enjoying. Until or unless the economy can be decoupled from the emissions associated with driving it, the fastest way to curb CO2 is to produce — and buy and consume — less.

I agree - but to buy and consume less is - still - far from popular in the West, and this is a recommended article.

4. Ocasio-Cortez's #GreenNewDeal Is the Most Serious Response to the Crisis Yet

This article is by Bill McKibben on Common Dreams and originally on the New York Daily News.
It starts as follows:

Ruing the day that they mocked her clothing or dancing, some critics have decided to train their fire on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s brain instead. She didn’t know the three branches of government; she overstated how much the Pentagon had wasted. If, a writer in the Washington Post suggested, this kind of imprecision persists, “responsible self-government becomes impossible.”

This line of attack, I would guess, is going to fall flat too, because as the last few weeks have shown, Ocasio-Cortez is in fact more right on the biggest questions than anyone else in the House of Representatives. Call her Ocasio-Cortex; where it matters, she seems to understand issues at a deeper level than most pols.

The best example is climate change, the issue of our time, where her Green New Deal plan has provided a badly needed new opening. Early this week, a research group published new data on U.S. carbon emissions, showing they’d risen sharply over the past year.

Even scarier: We’re basically producing the same amount of carbon as we did in 1990, when we first learned of the climate crisis.

Well... as I said in the previous review, my own position on the Green New Deal is this:

(1) I think the Green New Deal is about the first kind of proposal I have heard since 1972
     that makes sense, but
(2) mostly because I have seen hardly anything truly effective to the environment since 1972
     I must assume that
the Green New Deal will not be realized.

As I also said, I hope I am mistaken in my second point, but then I am only applying there what I have learned since 1972.

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

Which brings us back to Ocasio-Cortez. Her plan for a Green New Deal—endorsed “in concept” in recent days by one presidential aspirant after another—is among the first Washington efforts to approach climate change at the right scale.

The call to get off fossil fuel by the 2030s is hard but technically achievable; the guarantee of a job in the renewable industry to anyone who wants one would actually provide the labor required to make a transition of this magnitude.

Yes, this is more or less correct. Then again, I do have some comments on a photograph that accompanies this article on Common Dreams. I have not reproduced it here, but you can see it for yourself:

The only person standing is Ocasio-Cortez. There are at least 22 more persons in the picture, but all are sitting, and all but one seem quite young; everybody except Ocasio-Cortez seems to be dresssed in the same black t-shirt that has ¨Good Jobs¨ on its front; and there seem to be at least six black texts on a yellow background, at least three of which say ¨Green Jobs For All¨ and one that says ¨Step Up Or Step Aside¨.

Well... I do not know the reasons for the above picture but it does remind me a bit too much of my communist youth, in which mere followers were supposed to applaud The Outstanding Leader (who always appeared as special in a picture).

And I do not like this style, although I may be mistaken about the present photograph.

5. Five Forces Driving the Rise of Fascism in 2019

This article is by Michael I. Niman on Truthout. It starts as follows:

The New Year’s Day inauguration of avowed authoritarian strongman Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil signaled an ominous start to 2019. Brazil, as the fifth-largest country by landmass (larger than the Australian continent), the sixth-largest by population (larger than Russia) and the ninth-largest economy (larger than Canada), represents global fascism’s biggest gain in recent history. The rise of Bolsonaro follows the recent consolidation of power by reactionary nationalists Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Viktor Orbán in Hungry and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines.

We start out 2019 with neo-fascists and assorted other “populists” and ethnonationalists holding office in 11 European nations and scoring recent double-digit vote tallies in Finland, Sweden, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands. Marine Le Pen’s French ethnonationalist National Front garnered one-third of that country’s 2017 vote for president. Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of Poland’s governing PiS Party, described migrants arriving in Europe as being physically different than Poles, with an ability to carry “various parasites and protozoa, which don’t affect their organisms, but which could be dangerous here.”
Well... mostly yes, but I must also say that by now I am getting quite irritated with yet another journalist who speaks of ¨fascism¨ and ¨neo-fascism¨,  but does not define at all what he means by these terms (while ¨fascism¨ has at least 22 different definitions - and you will find them listed here: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions)

Here is some more:

Trump isn’t leading the party to fascism — he’s the product of a sustained GOP effort to subvert voting rights and democratic norms. By the time this New York City sideshow authoritarian ran for president, the Republican rank-and-file was well groomed to receive him and the fascism he represented.

Here are five forces that are driving this rise of fascism.

Yes, but ¨fascism¨ (and ¨neo-fascism¨) all remain completely undefined, which is to say: As if everyone knows what is meant, while in fact this is not so.

Here is the first of ¨five forces¨ that Niman has in mind:

1) Surveillance

The reality of fascism is that, historically, it has always sucked for damn near everyone falling under its authoritarian jackboot, including those who supported its rise. How’d things work out in Germany, Italy, Chile, Argentina? Fascism is always embodied by repression of freedoms and kleptocratic corruption. The reality of what fascists do and how it plays out is never good news. Which is why quantifiable reality is fascism’s primary enemy. Propaganda-wise, rising fascists must crush reality. Thanks to data analytics, many platforms are now weaponized to do just that with pinpoint precision.

Personal data is now plentifully available through social media posts, “likes” and internet use patterns. Google and Facebook are primarily in the business of not just harvesting, but analyzing, and thus, monetizing this data to sell micro-targeted advertising, knowing the innermost desires of each consumer.

In fact, while I very strongly dislike Google and Facebook, and indeed do not use them at all (apart from YouTube) I think the main danger of surveillance is that - to the best of my knowledge, which is extensive but far from complete - it seems that the secret services of
almost every country now have had eighteen years to gather all the information about anyone on the internet

This means that by now extremely small groups of wholly anonymous persons can rule all, either by misinforming or by arresting them.

extremely small groups of wholly anonymous persons have 10,000 or 100,000 or even more power than the KGB or the Gestapo had, simply by knowing most of the things there are to know (in principle) about virtually everyone.

Here is some more:

Moreover, surveillance extends far beyond the internet for people of color and other targeted groups. Between predictive policing algorithms, the proliferation of cameras and other police surveillance technologies, and the rise of electronic monitoring, the current criminal legal system provides many tools that are a perfect match for fascist tactics, and are already being deployed against marginalized communities.

The techno-dystopian fascist potentials here are boundless.

Well... yes, but this would be a whole lot clearer if only I had any idea about which of the - at least - 22 different definitions of ¨fascism¨ that Niman presupposes, if indeed any.

Here is the second force (all in part, for there is considerably more text in the original):

2) Mega-Monopolies

Corporate monopolies have been rebounding since Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department relaxed antitrust enforcement. The current consolidation of tech giants heralds a previously unimaginable rise of monopoly power, with Amazon, Google and Facebook gobbling up and assimilating competitors, growing to control the very platforms upon which commerce and communication, including free speech, exist.

Free speech is the life force of democracy. Monopolies that have the power to pull the plug on free speech, by their very existence, stand as an existential threat.

I mostly agree with this. Here is the third force:

3) Migration Xenophobia

Global warming promises to send more climate change refugees fleeing famine, flood, persistent wildfires, deadly heat waves and rising oceans, while persistent poverty, the rise of fascist regimes and the political collapse of civil societies are causing millions to join the migrations. The linguistic, cultural and religious differences that migrants represent has become weaponized in the arsenal of fascists who work to sow fear of the unknown (xenophobia) in populations they wish to control.

Again my main problem is: What does Niman understand by ¨fascism¨? (I understand the following by fascism, but this is almost certainly not or not quite what Niman means by the same term.)

And besides, it are not only fascists who manifest xenophobia. Here is the fourth force:

4) Attacks on Education

The best defense against fascism is an educated population with the ability to think critically.

Yes, I quite agree with this, indeed independent of your idea about what ¨fascism¨ means, although I probably would have preferred thinking rationally over thinking critically.

Here is the fifth force:

5) False Equivalencies

As of December 30, The Washington Post’s fact-checkers have documented 7,645 false or misleading statements (a.k.a. lies) made by President Trump since taking office. For Trump and many of his enablers, lying comes as naturally as breathing. This creates a problem for journalists. Call out liars for lying, which is the job of journalism, and it looks like bias to the untrained eye.
This causes a false equivalency — a “he said / she said” narrative with everyone fibbing — which has no bearing on the reality that one group is doing almost all of the lying.

I more or less agree on one level, but I do not know quite what this has to do with ¨fascism¨.

Anyway... this is not a bad article, but a great amount of clarity would have been gained if only Niman had given a tolerably clear definition of what he means by the term ¨fascism¨.

[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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