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Nederlog

Monday, September 25, 2017

Crisis: On History, Merkel Won, On U.S. Elections, U.S. Incomes, Trump´s White House


Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 25, 2017 

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, September 25, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

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

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from September 25, 2017

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:

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

Historians, like journalists, are in the business of manipulating facts. Some use facts to tell truths, however unpleasant. But many more omit, highlight and at times distort them in ways that sustain national myths and buttress dominant narratives. The failure by most of the United States’ popular historians and the press to tell stories of oppression and the struggles against it, especially by women, people of color, the working class and the poor, has contributed to the sickening triumphalism and chauvinism that are poisoning our society.
(..)
The historian Carl Becker wrote, “History is what the present chooses to remember about the past.” And as a nation founded on the pillars of genocide, slavery, patriarchy, violent repression of popular movements, savage war crimes committed to expand the empire, and capitalist exploitation, we choose to remember very little. This historical amnesia, as James Baldwin never tired of pointing out, is very dangerous. It feeds self-delusion. It severs us from recognition of our propensity for violence. It sees us project on others—almost always the vulnerable—the unacknowledged evil that lies in our past and our hearts. It shuts down the voices of the oppressed, those who can tell us who we are and enable us through self-reflection and self-criticism to become a better people. “History does not merely refer to the past … history is literally present in all we do,” Baldwin wrote.

Actually, I don´t know whether Hedges is quite correct about ¨Historians¨. Here are some of my reasons:

Clearly, Hedges is correct about some of the historians, that indeed mostly are the popular historians, and he is also correct that almost all historians - somehow, decently or not - are ¨manipulating facts¨ if only because usually there are far more known facts than can fit in their books (besides other more political, ethical or personal reasons to acknowledge some facts and not others).

But there are very many historians (and also ¨historians¨) and no one is capable of reading all or most of them (in nearly any case). Besides, I have read a fair amount of history, but I do not often read contemporary historians, for I rather read those historians that have been sifted from the mass of historians as - somehow, also by my own political and ethical criterions - are (a bit) reasonable.

Also, the quote by Carl Becker is false. His statement “History is what the present X chooses to remember about the past” should have been qualified by filling out which X one has in mind (which Becker completely left out): the present historian? the present politicians? the present politicians with a certain conviction? people who read papers? academics who read both history and papers? Etc. etc.

And finally, there is a development - e.g. in Holland, already since the early 1970ies, and not only there - that I consider to be at least as dangerous as the danger of ¨historians¨ Hedges warns against:

Since the early 1970ies, history has become a subject that children between 12 and 18 are free to choose or avoid, and which they are not obliged to take anymore - which means that quite a few do hardly know any history at all (and these will also probably not read any historian).

In fact, the same happened in Holland to something like 60% of the subjects that were prescribed in the schools that educated for entrance into the Dutch universitiessince 1865: Until 1965, everybody had to take mostly written examinations in 14 to 16 subjects; but since 1970 everybody - in ¨the same¨ schools - only had to take 6 subjects, most of which they could choose.

And this did not just destroy history as a subject for most 12 to 18 year olds, but most other subjects that in the previous 100 years had been imposed on everyone who wanted to enter a university as well. (Geography, biology, French, German, and much of mathematics, physics and chemistry are evident examples. Then again, the vast Dutch majority embraced this radical stupification of all education: They needed to learn and to know a whole lot less than before, but they still got diplomas and degrees.)

Here is more on ¨Historians¨ by Chris Hedges:

Historians are rewarded for buttressing the ruling social structure, producing heavy tomes on the ruling elites—usually powerful white men such as John D. Rockefeller or Theodore Roosevelt—and ignoring the underlying social movements and radicals that have been the true engines of cultural and political change in the United States. Or they retreat into arcane and irrelevant subjects of minor significance, becoming self-appointed specialists of the banal or the trivial. They ignore or minimize inconvenient facts and actions that tarnish the myth, including lethal suppression of groups, classes and civilizations and the plethora of lies told by the ruling elites, the mass media and powerful institutions to justify their grip on power. They eschew transcendental and moral issues, including class conflict, in the name of neutrality and objectivity.

Well, yes... mostly and for the most part, but not all historians.

Besides, as Theodore Sturgeon reminded some:

¨Ninety percent of everything is crud¨ (or: crap),

and indeed that accords quite well with my readings - since more than 50 years now - in fourteen different subjects, one of which is history: Most that I read - even when selecting fairly carefully - is not good, and rather a lot is rather bad. Then again, in every subject I did read quite a lot in - philosophy, logic, mathematics, psychology, sociology, economics, history, religion, mysticism, linguistics, physics, literature, medicine and computers - there also were at least some authors who were first class, though indeed not many.

But Hedges is quite correct when he maps the ordinary course that most academic historians do take (for they are not academics, in the first place, but nearly always people looking for good incomes and considerable status amongs their peers):

Historians who apologize for the power elites, who in essence shun complexity and minimize inconvenient truths, are rewarded and promoted. They receive tenure, large book contracts, generous research grants, lucrative speaking engagements and prizes. Truth tellers, such as Zinn, are marginalized.

And this from near the end of the article:

The political squabbles that dominate public discourse almost never question the sanctity of private property, individualism, capitalism or imperialism. They hold as sacrosanct American “virtues.” They insist that Americans are a “good” people steadily overcoming any prejudices and injustices that may have occurred in the past.

Yes indeed, but then again this is also as most people reason and think, nearly always, and quite regardless from who they are or what they know: The vast majority in almost any society will support most of the values that keep that society going, indeed whether or not these values are popular elsewhere or at later times.

But this is a recommended article in which there is considerably more.


2. Angela Merkel Makes History in German Vote, but So Does Far Right

This article is by Steven Erlanger and Melissa Eddy on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
Angela Merkel won a fourth term as chancellor in elections on Sunday, placing her in the front ranks of Germany’s postwar leaders, even as her victory was dimmed by the entry of a far-right party into parliament for the first time in more than 60 years, according to preliminary results.

The far-right party, Alternative for Germany, or AfD, got some 13 percent of the vote — nearly three times the 4.7 percent it received in 2013 — a significant showing of voter anger over immigration and inequality as support for the two main parties sagged from four years ago.

Ms. Merkel and her center-right Christian Democrats won, the center held, but it was weakened. The results made clear that far-right populism — and anxieties over security and national identity — were far from dead in Europe.

They also showed that Germany’s mainstream parties were not immune to the same troubles that have afflicted mainstream parties across the Continent, from Italy to France to Britain.

“We expected a better result, that is clear,” Ms. Merkel said Sunday night. “The good thing is that we will definitely lead the next government.”

This is here mostly to report on the outcome of the German elections: The three main parties in the German parliament are now Merkel´s CDU with (rounded) 33%, the social democratic SPD with (rounded) 21%, and the rightist AfD with 13%.

Here is a bit more:

Despite her victory, Ms. Merkel and her conservatives cannot rule alone, making it probable that the chancellor’s political life in her fourth term will be substantially more complicated.

The shape and policies of a new governing coalition will involve weeks of painstaking negotiations. Smiling, Ms. Merkel said Sunday night that she hoped to have a new government “by Christmas.”

The center-left Social Democrats, Ms. Merkel’s coalition partners for the last four years, ran a poor second to her center-right grouping, and the Social Democrats announced Sunday evening that the party would go into opposition, hoping to rebuild their political profile.

But the step would also make sure that the AfD, stays on the political sidelines and does not become the country’s official opposition.

I think that will probably be correct, and this is a recommended article (in which there is a great lot more).


3. How to Reform the Corrupted U.S. Electoral System

This article is by Harvey Wasserman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Election theft is now the core reality of American politics.

It has poisoned every corner of the United States government, put the world at the brink of atomic and climate catastrophe and robbed every generation of its inherent right to a sane and prosperous future.

We are under the thumb of a vicious corporatocracy in a nation that desperately desires social democracy. A fascist government—in a nation that, at heart, hates fascism—rules us.

We are being robbed of universal health care, decent public education, renewable energy, environmental protection, accountable policing, basic human rights, nuclear disarmament and much, much more because unelected billionaire corporatists control our government instead of dedicated, accountable public servants.

I mostly agree with the last of the quoted paragraphs, but one problem with ¨election theft¨ - which I agree exists in the USA and (for example) to a considerably larger extent than in Holland, Germany or Western Europe (possibly apart from Great Britain) - is that in the USA, where there are just two parties that may win presidential elections and where the support for either party is around 50/50 (in the part that does vote), not very much is needed to switch an election from the one to the other party.

And while I agree that there is rather a lot of election theft in the USA, I do not know whether it is ¨the core reality of American politics¨ (consider alternatives like: the enormous amount of propaganda that makes up most of the mainstrea media; the
stupidity and ignorance that mark many voters; the fact that the vast majorities of both the Senate and the House are bought by the rich, and other alternatives).

Also, as I said e.g. yesterday (and many previous times): If you do not even define ¨fascism¨, I cannot take your sayings about ¨fascism¨ seriously.

Here are some of the facts (it seems) that move Harvey Wasserman:

Donald Trump is in the White House despite losing the 2016 popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and losing the exit polls in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. George W. Bush buried us in the cancerous destruction of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East despite losing the popular vote by 500,000, because, as reported by Greg Palast and Bev Harris, his brother stripped and flipped the vote count in Florida 2000. As reported at freepress.org, Bush2 got a second term through the electronic theft of Ohio’s electoral votes in 2004.

I tend to mostly agree. And here are some of the results, though indeed - I hasten to add - not only because of election fraud:

Today, our Supreme Court, Congress, state and local governments are packed with reactionary corporatists who owe their power to manipulated elections. Through the Obama years, more than 1,000 federal, state and local offices changed hands in elections rife with fraud. In 2014 and 2016, six U.S. Senate seats went to Republicans who lost in the exit polls. Our entire electoral system is riddled with deceit. What has been done to our government is a mirror image of what our military and intelligence operatives have done to developing nations too many times to count.

I agree with the last statement, and would have liked to know more about the rest of the quoted paragraph.

Here are Wasserman´s ideas for a cure for election fraud:

To get an electoral system that actually works for the public good, here’s what we need:

● Universal automatic voter registration, with registration rolls that can be easily monitored, so individual citizens can confirm their status as they come to the polls.

● A four-day weekend for voting, with ample polling stations providing convenient access for all.

● Universal hand-counted paper ballots that are kept in translucent, video-monitored containers that do not move.

● An end to gerrymandering.

● Abolition of the Electoral College.

● A ban on the corporate purchase of our campaigns.

In the long run, the only thing that can save this planet from utter destruction is the will of the people, legitimately empowered. Donald Trump’s uniquely crazed genocidal/suicidal corporatocracy is the most obvious indicator it is being denied, and the consequences are lethal.

I agree with all the points, though I stress again that the reasons for the very many problems that the USA faces these days are not only election fraud, but are far wider.
But I agree election fraud is a serious problem in the USA, and this is a recommended article.


4. Workers Have Finally Caught Up to 1974

This article is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones. It starts as follows:

Here’s a paragraph from the Wall Street Journal today:

Real wages for nonsupervisors, which take inflation into account, topped $22 an hour this year, the best inflation-adjusted reading since January 1973, according to Labor Department data. The nonsupervisory figure covers about 70% of the workforce and excludes managers who are more likely to receive bonuses, stock options and other forms of nonwage compensation.

Translation: wage growth for ordinary workers has been so bad that it’s taken 44 years to finally catch up to the levels of 1973.

I say. I also stress this concerns ¨ordinary workers¨, which covers ¨70% of the workforce¨, but this is a somewhat astounding figure.

Here is more, that includes a graphic:

The article goes on to talk about wage growth during this recovery compared to past recoveries, but you really need to see the whole picture in one place to understand what’s going on. Here it is:

      

Roughly speaking, the years from 1978 to 1995 were a horror show. During that 17-year period, wages dropped by 15 percent, or 0.9 percent per year.

And note it took a full 30 years (between 1980 and 2010) in which the wages mostly fell (until 1996) to rise again to were they were in 1980.

I say. And this is a recommended article.


5. The White House as Donald Trump’s New Casino

This article is by Nomi Prins (with an introduction by Tom Engelhardt). It starts as follows:

During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly emphasized that our country was run terribly and needed a businessman at its helm. Upon winning the White House, he insisted that the problem had been solved, adding, “In theory, I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There's never been a case like this.”

Sure enough, while Hillary Clinton spent her time excoriating her opponent for not releasing his tax returns, Americans ultimately embraced the candidate who had proudly and openly dodged their exposure. And why not? It’s in the American ethos to disdain “the man” -- especially the taxman. In an election turned reality TV show, who could resist watching a larger-than-life conman who had taken money from the government?

Now, give him credit. As president, The Donald has done just what he promised the American people he would do: run the country like he ran his businesses. At one point, he even displayed confusion about distinguishing between them when he said of the United States: “We’re a very powerful company -- country.”

I certainly ¨could resist watching [the] larger-than-life conman¨ that won the elections, indeed after verifying (as a psychologist) in March of 2016 that I agreed with other psychologists that he was mad. (By now over 53,000 psychologists - worldwide - seem to agree, which is considerable.)

But I agree Trump is also running the USA ¨like he ran his businesses¨. Here is some more on that subject:

To complete the analogy Trump made during the election campaign, he’s running the country on the very same instincts he used with those businesses and undoubtedly with just the same sense of self-protectiveness. Take the corporate tax policy he advocates that’s being promoted by his bank-raider turned Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin. It’s focused on lowering the tax rate for multinational corporations from 35% to 15%, further aiding the profitability of companies that already routinely squirrel away profits and hide losses in the crevices of tax havens far removed from public disclosure.

We, as citizens, already bear the brunt of 89% of U.S. tax revenues today. If adopted, the new tax structure would simply throw yet more of the government’s bill in our laps.
Quite so. And here is how Trump defrauded those who elected him as president:
Or put another way, Trump’s West Wing is now advocating the very policy he railed against in the election campaign when he was still championing the everyday man. By promoting tax reform for mega-corporations and the moguls who run them, he’s neglecting the “forgotten” white working class that sent him to the Oval Office to “drain the swamp.”
Again quite so. And this is from near the end of the article:
In 2011, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision rendered corporations people. It erased crucial campaign finance and lobbying restrictions, and elevated billionaires to the top ranks of the American political game. It was a stunning moment -- until now. Donald Trump’s presidency is doing something even more remarkable. The billionaire who became our president has already left Citizens United in a ditch.  He’s created not just a political campaign but a White House in which it’s no longer possible to imagine barriers between lobbying efforts, government decisions, and personal interest, or for that matter profits and policy.

I agree and this is a recommended article, in which there is a lot more.

------------------------------
  Notes

[1]I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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 1 1/2 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 (!!).

[2] .
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