1. Donald Trump’s Policies Are Not Anathema
Mainstream, but an Uncomfortable
Reflection of It
2. The Toxic Factors that Give Rise to Right-Wing Populists
Like Trump, Berlusconi and
3. Donald Trump Scares Me
4. New Fences on the Old Continent: Refugee Crisis Pushes
Europe to the Brink
This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 6,
crisis blog. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links, as it happens
mostly about Donald Trump: Item 1
is about an article of Glenn Greenwald who explains that Trump's
opinions are not that different from the mainstream (I mostly agree,
except about psychology); item 2 is about an
article by Robert Kuttner about the causes for the popularity of
right-wing populists: I found it interesting without agreeing with
considerable parts; item 3 is about a reaction of
one member of the US intelligentsia to Trump, which I mostly agree to;
and item 4
is about a long article in Spiegel International by a committee of (10)
journalists, whose ideas I did not much like nor admire.
1. Donald Trump’s Policies
Are Not Anathema to U.S. Mainstream, but an Uncomfortable Reflection of
first item is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
The political and media
establishments in the U.S. — which have jointly wrought so much
destruction, decay, and decadence — recently decided to unite against
Donald Trump. Their central claim is that the real estate mogul
and longtime NBC reality TV star advocates morally reprehensible
positions that are far outside the bounds of decency; relatedly, they
argue, he is so personally repellent that his empowerment would
degrade both the country and the presidency.
In fact, quite a lot could be said for both
criticisms of Trump: he is morally reprehensible and personally
repellent for many people (and see item 3 for one
expression of this).
Then again, Glenn Greenwald is quite correct in saying in effect that
those who criticize him from the Republican side (which also covers
most of the mainstream media) are about as reprehensible, and not much
Trump is self-evidently a toxic
authoritarian demagogue advocating morally monstrous positions, but in
most cases where elite outrage is being vented, he is merely a
natural extension of the mainstream rhetorical and policy
framework that has been laid, not some radical departure from it. He’s
I don't believe Freud's categories - "id" -
are helpful (and I am a psychologist), but the rest of the paragraph
seems more or less correct.
Then again, if it is correct, the question is: But why did Trump
get so popular? If he doesn't say things that are very different from
what the other candidates of the GOP say?
It seems to me that there are two things that make Trump special: He is
a billionaire, and he did lower the standards of the debate by many
personal attacks on other Republican candidates (who then responded in
Next, Glenn Greenwald considers torture, which is forbidden by
international laws, but which both Trump and Bush Jr. favored as a
technique of "inter- rogation", and which Bush Jr. also had practised.
I will only quote a few points from this: If you are interested, click
the above dotted link. There is rather a lot more.
First there is this:
Even Ronald Reagan, whom
virtually all the signatories claim to idolize, advocated for and signed
a treaty in 1988 that stated that “no exceptional
circumstances whatsoever … may be invoked as a
justification of torture” and that “each State Party shall ensure that all
acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law.” The
taboo is on “all acts of torture,” not its “expansive use” — whatever
Yes, but the "reply" to that was invented by the Bush
Jr. administration (it seems to me), which consisted in two things: (i)
using new definitions for old terms, that are not
in the dictionary, and largely consists of propaganda and
some lawyer who acts for the president sign some statement or mail that
insists on the new definition as a matter of course. 
Thus, what had been torture for 400 years or more (for
the practice of nearly drowing your victims until they speak is as old
or older than 400 years) was verbally restyled as "extended
interrogation", and that was then insisted as a
correct and allowable "technique" of "getting
information" from prisoners. 
Besides, there is this:
Torture was the official American
policy for years. It went way
beyond waterboarding. One Republican
president ordered it and his Democratic successor immunized
it from all forms of accountability, ensuring that not
a single official would be prosecuted for authorizing even the
most extreme techniques, ones
that killed people — or even allowed to be sued by their victims.
Yes, though the tortures that went beyond
waterboarding, which did kill people, seem to have been used mostly in places
of war and on black sites (both of which can be shielded
from journalists and other inquirers). Then again, Glenn Greenwald is
simply right that torture has been part and parcel of American
techniques "of getting information" for a long time.
Greenwald also considers the claims by Michael Hayden that the American
military would refuse to do illegal things when ordered by president
He thinks that they are an uncashed cheque that consists of baloney:
Throughout the 14-year war on
terror, a handful of U.S. military members have bravely
refused to take part in, or vocally
denounced, policies that are clear war crimes. But there was no
shortage of people in the military, the CIA, and working for private
American contractors who dutifully carried out the most heinous abuses
and war criminality.
I think Greenwald is correct: There will always
a minority of people who are willing to risk their careers (and perhaps
long years of imprisonment) for a moral conflict with their superiors
and the government. (In fact, that is the strongest reason why
very immoral things can be and are
being practised such a long time: Most know these things are immoral,
but most also like their own job, salary and security a lot better than
standing up and publicly doing the right thing: "video meliora
proboque; deteriora sequor" )
Glenn Greenwald also considers Trump's
proposal to kill the family members of terrorists - which incidentally
is a terrorist way of defending oneself - and concludes that as
well is nothing special in the USA:
Then there’s the feigned horror
over Trump’s proposal to kill the family members of terrorists. Though
they claim they don’t do it deliberately, the fact is that this is
something both the U.S. and Israel, among others, have routinely done
That is simply true. The same cannot be said
for the last bit I will quote - and I am a psychologist with one of the
best M.A.'s ever given:
As an excellent New
York Times op-ed last week by psychology researchers at Yale
explained, “human beings have an appetite for moral
outrage” because it’s often “a result of a system that
has evolved to boost our individual
No, and I am sorry: This is just another
bit of psychological baloney that hangs on quite a few very
questionable hypotheses and on equally questionable "experimental
The truth of the matter seems to have been seen by Ovid, 2000
Most people are moral until it
clashes with their self-interest,
and in that case most judge as follows "I see and approve of the better, but I follow the worse" , simply because it is easier to be egoistic
and popular than unselfish and unpopular.
2. The Toxic Factors that
Give Rise to Right-Wing Populists Like Trump, Berlusconi and Hitler
is by Robert Kuttner on AlterNet and
originally on Huffington Post:
This starts as follows:
Right-wing populists ascend when three
toxic forces converge. First, the economy needs to be really lousy for
most citizens. Check.
Second, the political system ceases to
be able to solve problems and loses legitimacy with regular people.
Third, some foreign menace causes people
to seek shelter in a strongman. Check.
Hm. For one thing, this doesn't seem to
fit Berlusconi very well. And while something can be said for all three
factors, I think it is a mistake to leave out two crucial facts:
Most who do turn to right-wing
populists tend to belong to "the poorly educated"
(which are very popular with Trump, in good part because they are so
easy to deceive
since they know so little), and also belong to the unintelligent.
Since "the poorly educated" are in fact the majority, as are the unintelligent (for these are at least half of the population) this also
explains why right-wing populists may win solid
majorities with what are rationally considered merely bullshit plans
and proposals. (And this is one of the shortcomings of democracy.)
There is also this list:
Other factors common to
successful rightwing populists are these:
I again say hm. I agree with two points:
Rightwing populists (and other populists as well) tend to be good at
using the mass media, and their rise tends to destroy much of the
influence of other politicians (as long as they are on top).
* They tend to be very good at breaking
the rules of conventional political discourse, and at using mass media.
* They are not conservatives. They love
to use big government to help the masses. More on that in a moment.
* They are not accountable to politics as
usual. Because of their direct rapport with the folk (or if you like,
the volk) their rise suddenly destroys the influence of politicians
whose stock in trade is the usual currency of politics -- money,
trading favors, cutting deals.
* They trigger cognitive dissonance.
Once large numbers of people see a populist outsider as potential
savior, it doesn't matter what they say, how much they contradict
themselves, how crude they are, or how much their own previous life is
at odds with their current role. This is all seen as anti-
But the rest seems questionable to me: They need not break the rules;
they may be conservatives (indeed they usually are, whatever their
pretenses); and the author uses "cognitive
dissonance" in a non-standard way. (Rightwing populists do not
"trigger" cognitive dissonance, although they may profit from it: The
dissonance refers to the inconsistencies between previous and new
values in those they appeal to, but this is usually rapidly
gotten over with, precisely because human beings value
consistency, also if this implies lying to themselves.)
Even so, I found this an interesting read, and it has the merit of
It's only February. God only
knows what this election year will still bring.
3. Donald Trump Scares Me
third item is by Diane Ravich on Common Dreams
and originally on her blog:
This is here mostly because it articulates the
feelings of the more intelligent part of the American electorate (with
a small correction by me between ''):
Given the wide lead Trump has, he is
likely to be the candidate of the Republican party. This is horrifying.
To watch him makes me feel frightened for the future of our country. I
also listened to him speaking (I think in Maine) i[n] the morning.
He is crude, egotistical, bullying,
self-centered, and vulgar. He boasts nonstop about his wealth and power
and success. When he spoke to a crowd, he was egomaniacal. His subject
is Donald Trump. He is an expert on himself.
In both venues, he made a crude sexual reference. In the morning, he
said that Mitt Romney begged for his endorsement in 2012 and would have
gone on his knees had Trump asked. The audience roared. During the
debate, he made a reference to his male anatomy.
Yes, I mostly agree: Trump is "crude, egotistical, bullying, self-centered, and vulgar" and he definitely is "egomaniacal".
Apart from this, I am certain that he is not by far as smart as he
thinks he is, which also means that I think he is fairly honest in
showing what he is and stands for (which makes him differ from most of
the other Republican candidates, which in turn makes him popular with
Diane Ravich also has the following:
Again I mostly agree, although I think I can
imagine him as a president: What is far more difficult to
imagine is how this will change the USA.
I can’t imagine him as president. We
would be the laughing stock of the world. I imagine him insulting other
nations, isolating us in the world. I can’t imagine him with his
touchiness and temperament in charge of the nuclear codes.
His behavior is revolting. His
braggadocio is appalling. His egomania is disgusting. The idea of Trump
as president is too horrible to imagine.
In any case, what I am most worried over if he becomes
president is the combination of his temparement and the nuclear codes.
But this is an interesting and recommended (small) article.
4. New Fences on the Old
Continent: Refugee Crisis Pushes Europe to the Brink
The fourth and last item today is by a committee of 10 journalists on
This is from near the beginning:
"Fortress Europe" is supposed to begin on
"the border between Greece and Macedonia". I do not know why,
and part of my reason is that I thought that
This is where Fortress Europe begins,
secured with razor wire and defended with tear gas. Desperate scenes
played out here on Monday, reminiscent of those witnessed in Hungary
back in September. A group of young men used a steel beam as a
battering ram to break down the gate. Rocks flew through the air as the
gate flew off its hinges, prompting the volleying of tear gas
cartridges and stun grenades from the Macedonian side. Men could be
seen running and children screaming. One woman lay on the ground with
her daughter, crying.
This frontier has become Europe's new
southern border, with Greece serving as Europe's waiting room -- and
the possible setting for a humanitarian disaster.
Europe has a duty of helping refugees of war.
Then again, while I still think it has that duty it seems that
many, and perhaps most, Europeans, and also most of the leading
European politicians, do not
want to help refugees of war any more, especially not since there are
so many, and since most are Mohammedans - or thus it seems at least to
Chancellor Merkel also has redefined her role rather a lot:
Merkel wants to see Turkey stem
the flow of refugees and put a stop to the exodus to Europe. European
leaders agreed on Feb. 18 that this plan remains the "priority." But
Austria and the Balkan states nevertheless moved ahead and closed their
That is: Refugees were welcome until
they "became too many", and by now they are not welcome
anymore. Here is some background:
Were Europe in agreement, it
would be unproblematic to accommodate 2-3 million refugees, given the
Continent's population of a half billion people. From such a
perspective, the current spat actually seems somewhat ridiculous. But
in the run up to next week's EU summit, Europe is gripped by strife.
Europe's greatest achievement, the opening of its borders through the
Schengen agreement, is at stake, and the increasingly toxic atmosphere
between countries has reached alarming dimensions.
For 2-3 million refugees is about 1/2 a
procent of the European population.
Well, either the Europeans are not capable of accomodating a half
procent of refugees of war, or the Europeans do not want to accomodate a half procent of refugees of war, and quite possibly both.
What has happened comes to this (according to the journalistic
committee that wrote this):
Indeed, the notion of a united Europe is
currently under extreme duress, and no summit or compromise on refugees
is going to be able to fix that overnight. The Europe of today is a
collection of states that have become dangerously foreign to each other.
Perhaps, but the committee seems much
more concerned about "a united Europe" than about the rights of
refugees not to be bombed, not to be tortured, not to be shot at, not to have their houses destroyed etc. (and they
are Mohammedans as well).
Here are the real values of the committee
I am sorry but that seems just baloney - bullshit,
trash, crap - to me as a reply to the question what to do with
millions of refugees of very cruel and meanwhile quite long wars:
"Our European size is decisive. Therefore you refugees should flee
Europe is risking its future by closing
its borders. Not only will its economic power suffer, but also its
global political influence. In the concert of large geopolitical
powers, individual European countries do not have a loud voice, not
even Germany. The United States and China are only interested in the EU
as a whole. Size is decisive. If Europe is unable to present itself as
a unity, it will be marginalized.
There is a whole lot more in the article, but this is what I made of it.
 In fact, all of this was propaganda,
and because it was both steps - redefining the meanings of well-known
and accepted terms into meanings they never had, and
"legally" insisting (by means of a degree in law, in fact) the new
meanings are the proper ones and should be followed -
tend to be somewhat obscured.
But this extremely dishonest double system of lies
has been very widely practised by the American government.
The reason is - or ought to be - obvious: With new meanings for
old terms, coupled to legal looking orders to accept
these, any breaking of any
law becomes very easy: You simply redefine the meanings of terms in the
law; you find a lawyer willing to sign a statement that the new
meanings are the governments's understanding; and hey presto,
suddenly absolutely anything goes.
 This was merely one specific
instance of the much
wider schema of redefining accepted meanings into the new meanings you
want, and insisting that the new meaning are legal by having some
lawyer sign this. This has been
a very popular technique both in the Bush Jr. administration and the
And incidentally (in case you didn't know) the water torture is at
least 400 years old; was all that time considered to be torture;
and was resorted to because it is not bloody and tends to be fast.
meliora proboque; deteriora sequor" = "I see
and approve of the better, but I follow the worse", Ovid.
Incidentally, this is not just a lack of self-control: it may
be quite conscious egoism
or greed that one allows or insists is much better in this
case than one's moral rules. And indeed that may also be or seem
"right", especially in cases where one must choose between a personally
risky defense of moral norms and a personally safe
Also incidentally, from my own - wide and long -
experiences in the University of Amsterdam, I guess at most 1 in 20 is
willing to do the right thing if the right thing is the decidedly less
And I think there is nothing special about the University of Amsterdam:
This seems to be more or less the normal proportion of doing
the right thing if the right thing is less popular: Then the vast
majority will not do the right thing, simply because it is
risky to their self-interest.
This explains very many things quite adequately, including how it was
possible that more than 1% of the total Dutch population was murdered
in WW II because of their supposed "racial inferiority": Very few
Dutchmen risked going into the real resistance. (In fact, the two
groups who - really - resisted were radical Christians and communists.
Most of the rest conformed,
and 6 times more Dutchmen went into the SS than went into the
 For one who did the M.A. in
Amsterdam (brilliantly, thank you), and who knows how absolutely
horrible, stupid, ideological and unscientific
the forced three months (!!) were that were set apart to learn "the
scientific method" (as (mal-)practised in psychology) the whole notion
of "experimental work" in psychology is rather ludicrous. (And yes, it
happens. But usually it doesn't. And few psychologist know anything
of science, just as few really understand the statistics
Also, perhaps those who did not study psychology should - at
least - read this
psychology a science?" by Paul Lutus.