Solutions For An Unfair World ~ A President With Messy Moral Standards

We live in astonishing times. Donald Trump’s government exists of mostly elderly white men – we did not expect otherwise – who together have at least $35 billion, although I’m afraid I’ve lost count and it could even be more. It is astonishing that the people who voted for the new president of the United States see absolutely no problem in this accumulation of capital, even if most of them experience very little perspective in life themselves.

It is also astonishing that someone who has to bind together the population of a country and give the world confidence, is unable to feel compassion and to exert self-control, does not have a sense of balance, spits out hate, acts out of revenge, is surrounded by people with a limited look at the world, denies opponents the right to speak and excludes them, flirts with racism, xenophobia, sexism and narcissism, makes people anxious and demonises other people, calls journalists liars, is hardly able to distinguish his business interests from his public duties, does not wish to acknowledge the separation of powers that the Constitution dictates, calls elections fraudulent that do not seem to benefit him, gives religion a prominent place except Islam, dismantles social structures and undermines the power of the democratic system. America First is his motto… but what are the United States these days? I would say: an ordinary country, just like any other country with its problems and possibilities, only with the bygone illusion that it is the most powerful country in the world, and a nation chosen by God.

Make America Great Again. That’s not what Dwight D. Eisenhower meant in his farewell speech as president in 1961. ‘Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

What has President Trump to offer his own people? Neoliberalism, usury-capitalism, the smoothing-over of tax evasion, the removal of rules for the banking sector; likely the planning of infrastructure projects that will result in the privatisation of the commons; and the creation of the illusion that there will be massive new employment – did he ever hear of robots?

[A little in-between: In the modern factory you only need two staff members: a man and a dog. The man must give food to the dog, and the dog must make sure the man does not touch the robots.]

What else has Trump to offer his compatriots? Abortion will become considerably more difficult. As ambassador to the United Nations he appointed Nikki R. Haley, who was the governor of South Carolina, where she supported abortion-hostile legislation. She and her boss the president will do their utmost to prevent the un from incorporating family planning into its aid programs for poor countries. In the Supreme Court Trump wants to appoint judges who want to undo existing abortion opportunities. An important achievement in recent years was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which must protect citizens against the risks of financial products and services; that is also going to fall. The EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, has been downsized. In the Federal Trade Commission people have been appointed who defend the free and unhindered market without any restriction, assuming that the economy and business life flourish better if they are released from the federal government’s long arm. The Trump program does not indicate in any way that the commercialized prison system will be humanised: an excessive proportion of the black population will remain locked behind bars, in order to provide cheap labour and at the same time lose its voting rights. Read more

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Solutions For An Unfair World ~ Bitter Tears, Bon Courage

There is more on the horizon than only Trump, and it is all the more dangerous. Almost every morning we wake up with what he has said or tweeted the night before, and we go to bed with what he has said or tweeted during the day. Much of what he is doing creates a lot of uncertainty. It is no coincidence that since his arrival the word ‘war’ does not sound as something from a distant past anymore.

Still we should not let ourselves be blinded by his innermost feelings. The world is ravaged by phenomena which are at least as dangerous as Trump. In the first place we should mention Rupert Murdoch, the kingmaker. His media-empire, with television channel Fox at the front, is influencing the way people think and the choices many politicians make. The many hours that Trump spends watching Fox News has deep consequences for his political posturing.

In this context it is a big problem that competition law and the American anti-trust policy have been almost completely put to sleep by neoliberalism. In the second chapter I mentioned that these instruments should be used much more actively. It turns out that the domain of the media is where the (re-) activation of competition law and the anti-trust policy is most necessary.

It is a big threat for democracy if one media-conglomerate disproportionately influences the political, social, economic and cultural debate, as well as the whole of public opinion about essential issues. We have to give a high priority to the breaking up of dominant media-conglomerates in our own country and in Europe as a whole. But we should not hesitate to call the ambassador of the United States to account and tell him or her that we in Europe are bothered by the fact that there is just one media-conglomerate in the US that has all the political strings in its hands and puts our lives in danger. As ‘good’ allies we are entitled to say so, aren’t we? Isn’t Trump himself continuous ‘knocking sense’ into us? What keeps us from letting loose our accumulated wisdom upon him?

What is at least as dangerous as Trump is the inability of Europe to conduct its own policy on issues that touch upon peace and security. Isn’t it too ridiculous for words that our relations with Russia are being determined by Trump and Tillerson, and that we have to wait for the outcome of their beating around the bush, while we are heading for war? The same goes for Syria and for the relations with Iran. One day NATO is nonsense, and then suddenly the next day it is Trump’s mainstay. This keeps us from thinking for ourselves about the kind of defence policy we need and about organising disarmament-conferences. If the taxes on corporations are considerably lowered in the US, this will lead to a trade war which eventually will end in a race to the bottom. If bank regulation will be rendered a farce in the US, this will endanger financial stability in the whole world.

It is clear: a bigger danger than Trump himself is a Europe which will be waiting like a lapdog for the whims of its boss. Indeed, there is more on the horizon than only Trump, and it is all the more dangerous: it’s Europe’s lethargy.

Europe, oh Europe, what a nice part of the world have you become after the two terrible world wars of the 20th century. How can this soft power survive in a world in which hard power seems to be all that really counts? This Europe is stricken by a crisis. The only ones that can rescue us from this fate are we ourselves. If we don’t do this, Trump will dictate our policy, which is not a very beckoning perspective.

We have shed bitter tears, because the US have chosen a president who considers the world as one of his casinos. But the humanistic values we have cherished over the decades should keep us on track and give us bon courage.

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Solutions For An Unfair World ~ About The Author & Acknowledgement & Literature

Joost Smiers is emeritus professor of political science at the Utrecht University of the Arts. With John Huige and Pieter Pekelharing he is the author of Power of the big corporations. Towards a fair international economy (Van Gennep 2016). He is preparing a publication about Zwerflawaai (Roaming noise) and other unwanted sounds.

Thanks

It was in the early morning of November 9, 2016 that the inevitable occurred to me: the us had a new president, who would not be a boon to the world. But what would be the consequences? This question prompted me to try to make some sense of the dash of impressions, and not to throw the towel. An essay is the appropriate form for this.>

Thanks to Jaap Klazema, Aafke Steenhuis, Jan Joost Teunissen and Jan van der Putten, who have looked at the various drafts with a critical and supporting mind. Publisher Menno Grootveld immediately said: we’re going to do this. Thank you Menno. Geert Lovink, Jan van Boeckel, Ineke Jungschleger, Tineke van den Klinkenberg, Martin Willems, Anne van Delft and Mariska Mourik have shared their observations and analyses with me. A special thanks goes to John Huige and Pieter Pekelharing, my co-authors of Power of the big corporations. Towards a fair international economy. Owing to the years of discussions with them, I could make a flying start with writing this essay.

Even in hard times, as we now experience them, Kiki Amsberg, my girlfriend, and I keep our courage up. Together we cook the best meals in the world! Thanks Kiki. Our lives and our appetite will not be spoiled by anyone, and certainly not by the president of our (former?) Atlantic ally.

Literature
Blyth, Mark, Austerity. The History of a Dangerous Idea. Oxford (Oxford U.P.) 2013
Engelhardt, Tom, Donald Trump’s administration has the feel of an increasingly militarized, autocratic regime, in The Nation 01.12.2016
Eisenhower, Dwight D., Military-Complex Speech, January 17, 1961
Feinstein, Andrew, The Shadow World. Inside the Global Arms Trade. London (Hamish Hamilton) 2011
Felber, Christian, Neue Werte für die Wirtschaft. Eine Alternative zu Kommunismus und Kapitalismus. Wien (Deuticke) 2008>
De Grauwe, Paul, The limits of the market. The link between government and capital. Tielt (Lannoo) 2014
Guérot, Ulrike, Warum Europa eine Republik werd muss! One Political Utopia. Bonn (Dietz) 2016
Heijne, Bas, Discomfort. Amsterdam (Ambo / Anthos) 2016
Holslag, Jonathan, The power of paradise. How Europe can survive in the Asian age. Antwerp (The Bee Bee) 2014
Judt, Tony, Ill Fares the Land. London (Allen Lane) 2010
Kennedy, Paul, The Parliament of Man. The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations. New York (Random House) 2006
Klein, Naomi, The Shock Doctrine. The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. London (Allen Lane) 2007
McChesney, Robert W., Blowing the Roof Off. Media, Politics, and the Struggle for Post-Capitalist Democracy. New York (Monthly Review Press) 2014
Müller, Jan-Werner, Was I Popularism? Berlin (Suhrkamp) 2016
Piketty, Thomas, Le capital au XXIe siècle, Paris (Seuil) 2013
Rodrik, Dani, The Globalization Paradox. Why Global Markets, States and Democracy Can not Coexist. Oxford (Oxford U.O.) 2011
Sapir, Jacques, La démondialisation. Paris (Seuil) 2011
Scheffer, Paul, The Freedom of the Border. Amsterdam (The Busy Bee) 2016
Skidelski, Robert and Edward, How Much Is Enough? Money and the good life, New York (The Other Press) 2012
Smiers, Joost, Pieter Pekelharing, John Huige, Power of the big corporations. Towards a fair international economy. Amsterdam (Van Gennep) 2016
Stiglitz, Joseph E., Freefall. America, Free markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy. New York (W.W. Norton & Company) 2010
Stiglitz, Joseph E., The Euro. How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe. New York (W.W. Norton & Company) 2016
Varoufakis, Yanis, And The Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe, Austerity and the Threat to Global Stability. London (The Bodley Head) 2016
Wolff, Michael, Fire and Fury. Inside the Trump White House, London (Little, Brown) 2018

Newspapers
New York Times International Edition, The Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Le Monde, De Volkskrant, NRC Handelsblad, De Groene Amsterdammer, De Correspondent

Translation: Menno Grootveld
Publisher: Starfish Books

© 2017 Joost Smiers

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Bruce Springsteen – Chimes Of Freedom (East Berlin 1988)

July 1988. One year before the fall of the Berlin wall, between 200.000 and 300.000 east-berliners witnessed this historical concert. In his speech, they recommended him not to say the word “wall” so he changed it for “barriers”. Epic historical moment.

GERMAN: Es ist schön in Ost-Berlin zu sein. Ich möchte euch sagen ich bin nicht hier für oder gegen eine Regierung, ich bin gekommen um rock’n’roll zu spielen für Ost-Berlinern, in der Hofnung dass eines Tages alle Barrieren obgeriesen warden.

ENGLISH: It’s nice to be in East Berlin. I want to tell you that I’m not here for or against any government, I have come to play rock’n’roll for the East-Berliners, in the hope that one day all barriers will be torn down.

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Open Culture: Public Domain Day Is Finally Here!: Copyrighted Works Have Entered The Public Domain Today For The First Time In 21 Years

Earlier this year we informed readers that thousands of works of art and entertainment would soon enter the public domain—to be followed every year by thousands more. That day is nigh upon us: Public Domain Day, January 1, 2019. At the stroke of midnight, such beloved classics as Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Yes! We Have No Bananas” will become the common property of the people, to be quoted at length or in full anywhere when the copyright expires on work produced in 1923. Then, 1924 will expire in 2020, 1925 in 2021, and so on and so forth.

It means that “hundreds of thousands of books, musical compositions, paintings, poems, photographs and films” will become freely available to distribute, remix, and remake, as Glenn Fleishman writes at Smithsonian. “Any middle school can produce Theodore Pratt’s stage adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and any historian can publish Winston Churchill’s The World Crisis with her own extensive annotations… and any filmmaker can remake Cecil B. DeMille’s original The Ten Commandments.”

Read more: http://www.openculture.com/2019/01/public-domain-day-is-coming.html

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Henry David Thoreau ~ On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience is Thoreau’s primary essay on how to interact with Government. Here the author argues that a citizen must always uphold conscience over what is prescribed by law. Never one to accept the status quo, Thoreau says that if called, we must all disobey a system that is inherently prone to corruption and that even personal endangerment may be needed in order do what is right. An inspiration to luminaries such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., this essay is one of the core American writings on government.

Read or download the book: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/71

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