March 20, 2016

Crisis: Trump & Fascism, Apple vs FBI, Bill of Rights, Current USA
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Half The Country Sees 'Fascist Undertones' In Donald
     Trump's Campaign

2. The Apple Fight Is About All of Us
The Updated Bill of Rights
4. Back to the Future


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 20, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. It also is the weekend, and I couldn't find more than four items I wish to review: Item 1 is about a - to me - somewhat surprising outcome of a poll: Half of the Americans are aware of 'fascist undertones' in Trump's campaign; item 2 is about Apple and the EFF (and is brief); item 3 is about an interesting exercise with the Bill of Rights; and item 4 is about the rather sad situation of the current USA: it is effectively fighting many wars for the power, glory and profits of a few, in the name of propaganda only the stupid or the ignorant believe in.
1. Half The Country Sees 'Fascist Undertones' In Donald Trump's Campaign

The first item is
by Ariel Edwards-Levy on the Huffington Post:

This starts as follows (and surprised me):

Half of America believes Donald Trump’s campaign exhibits fascist undertones, with only 30 percent disagreeing, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll. The sentiment isn't contained to Democrats, who unsurprisingly are willing to agree with a negative statement about their political rivals. Forty-five percent of independents also say Trump's campaign has echoes of fascism, as do a full 28 percent of Republicans.

I say. This surprised me for several reasons:

First, I have not seen the word "fascism" in the American media, with some exceptions; second, one reason is that it is - among other things - an emotional and emotionalizing term; and third, while I have seen some use of the term in the alternative media (the non-mainstream media, that tend to be both more colorful and more true), notably by Robert Reich, who did use the term "fascism" to explain Donald Trump, again I have not seen many who did so.

Therefore to read that "Half of America believes Donald Trump’s campaign exhibits fascist undertones" is at least a bit surprising.

Then again, while I found this news interesting and hopeful, it should be realized also that (i) the term "fascism" has many meanings (see: March 16, 2016) and (ii) many may use it as a close equivalent to "I strongly dislike", without having any more specific meaning of the term in mind.

Also - having looked a bit closer at the scores in the link in the quotation - one should keep in mind that the "Half of America believes" statements are in fact based on generalizing from 1000 respondents. (But that is a reasonably sized sample.)

There is also this:

About half the country believes Trump encourages violence at his campaign events, with just 34 percent saying he doesn't. The rest aren't sure. Meanwhile, 27 percent of Republicans say it's acceptable to "rough up" protesters at political events.

I'd say it is clear Trump encourages violence through his violent temperament and his partial denials that he does, and only quite stupid or quite prejudiced people see it differently.

And it is quite disquieting that more than a quarter of Republicans believe that the law ceases to apply with "political events".

And there is this:

The data indicates that people generally consider protesters and the media to be most responsible for the uptick in violence, even if they also agree that Trump fans the flames. Fifty-four percent say protesters shoulder "a lot" of the blame, 41 percent say Trump's supporters do and 47 percent say Trump himself does. 

Only 23 percent of Republicans, though, say Trump is largely responsible, with barely one-quarter believing that he encourages violence.

I more or less agree with the first quoted paragraph. The second paragraph shows - in my opinion - strong bias, simply because Trump is the candidate
who praises 'roughing up' protesters, and because this happens at Trump's rallies.

The article ends as follows:

A lot of the talk about Trump's post-primary prospects revolves around his ability to reverse the overwhelmingly negative impression he's so far made on most of the country.

In recent speeches, he has previewed some arguments he would make in the general election. Many, like focusing on people left behind by the economy, are relatively moderate, and have the potential to resonate across party lines. Convincing voters that he has the temperament to take office -- or, at the very minimum, that he's not a would-be fascist -- may be the tougher sell.

This has - from my point of view - three positive points:

Trump seems to have made a very negative impression on most voters (and for what I saw: he is a bully; he doesn't know much; he utters many obvious lies; and his speeches sound stupid and crude, so this doesn't amaze me); Trump definitely does not have "the temperament to take office" (in fact, I think he is a grandiose narcissist: see March 14, 2016, and that is dangerous in the most powerful man on earth); and - I think - Trump is a would be fascist of some kind on several of the more than 20 definitions of fascism I briefly considered.

So by and large this poll seems good to me: More Americans doubt Trump, his abilities, or his "program" than I thought. (Then again, this is just one poll, and
the elections are 8 months ahead.)

2. The Apple Fight Is About All of Us

The second item is
by Rainy Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

This starts as follows:

Dear Friend of Digital Freedom,

President Obama’s advisors may be split on the encryption issue, but we’re not. We believe all of us are stronger and safer because end-to-end and full-disk encryption exist. We want to create a world with more encryption, not less. That’s exactly why we’re supporting Apple in the battle against the FBI.

The fight is not about just one iPhone—it implicates the security of all technology users.

If Apple can be compelled to create what would effectively be a master key to unlock this iPhone, then the barrier will be substantially lowered for the government to order any company to turn its products into tools of surveillance—compromising the safety, privacy, and security of all Americans.

I agree with this, and I review it because this is by the EFF, who support Apple. So do I, but only because they have the far more correct arguments about encryption, and not because I like Apple, for I don't.

If you want to read more (there isn't much more) click the last dotted link.

3. The Updated Bill of Rights

The third item today is by Daniel Bruno on Washington's Blog:

This starts as follows:

Written in 1789, year of the French Revolution that beheaded the king and queen of France, the American Bill of Rights was accepted as law of the new land called the United States on December 15, 1791.   Much has happened since then. Both the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence were inspired by Oliver Cromwell’s Glorious Revolution and the Magna Carta. In 1215, the Magna Carta was issued by King John and established the precedent that no monarch was above the law. The rule of law has been a core concept of Anglo-Saxon civilization ever since. Colonists born in British America felt entitled to the same rights as Englishmen in England.

The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the constitution. The constitution is like a playbook or a guide spelling out the rules of engagement that everyone has to abide by.
There is considerably more in the introduction, that ends with the proposal to quote the first ten amendments, and to interpret and update them, with the following convention:

Red is the original text.

Blue is my proposed translation to modern times.

I think that is a good idea, and I mostly like the interpretations and updates. All ten amendments are quoted and interpreted and amended, and you can read all by clicking the last dotted link.

I will quote two of them. Here is the first:

Amendment 1

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Translation and update:

The United States is founded on the principle of separation between religion and the state.  The United States has no religion nor does it favor any government, movement or ideology that has a religious or nationalist identity.  Religion is a personal matter and has no place in American politics and statecraft.    All persons may speak, blog, paint, photograph, video, write or publish as they please so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. The United States government will not punish journalists and whistle-blowers, will not mislead  people via newspapers, radio, television, movies, social media, the Internet or any future technology.   

The people are free to participate in civil disobedience, boycotts, demonstrations, marches, protests, rallies, recalls, sit-ins and strikes targeting corporations, politicians and the government itself.   The government will not outsource any activity that the Bill of Rights prohibits, nor will it establish constitution free zones at airports, border crossings, ports of entry or border regions.

That seems a fair interpretation, and the last statement implies that the U.S. government is breaking this first amendment in its so-called "free zones at airports" etc., where it evolves that the police suddenly gets the force to inspect your laptop, etc. ("because the Constitution does not apply here").

Incidentally, it might have been added in the interpretation that "
freedom of speech" is neither equivalent with nor does it imply "freedom to support with as
much money as one has the goals that one shares" (which gives millionaires and billionaires far more powers than they should have by the totally false equivocation of "money" and "speech"), but then I agree this is an utterly nonsensical equivocation, even though it was supported by a - conservative - majority of the U.S. Supreme Court.

And next I quote this:

Amendment 4

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


The government, its agents, contractors, peace officers and military will not confiscate, copy, disrupt, monitor, record, spy on, surveil, search, seize, track or video the archives, art, banking records, books, briefcases, cables, cassettes, cell phones, cell phone towers, cloud storage, computer drives, credit card receipts, crypto currency wallets, deliveries, desk tops, diaries, drawings, electric consumption, employment records, Facebook pages, financial records, files, folders, hard discs, health records, journals, hand-written letters, Internet activity, kindles, laptops, library records, license plates, luggage, magazine subscriptions, medical records, packages, papers, pockets, political activity, private conversations, purses, religious texts, social media, spread sheets, tapes, telegrams, telephone records, television usage, texts, thumb drives, travel histories, Twitter accounts, wifi, word documents, automobile, home, office, business, private property, rental space… without just probable cause that spells out the specific reason and specific person or thing to be exempted from this rule. The reason must be clearly stated to the accused and no fishing expeditions are permitted. This rule will apply equally regardless of race, color, appearance, dress or form of speech.

The government will not detain, stop, frisk, interrogate, delay, strip search, scan, fingerprint, iris scan or palm scan any person without specific probable cause. Government will not, without probable cause, impede the movement of people, create black-lists, no-fly lists and watch lists.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits government agents from touching you or placing you under surveillance or entering your property without probable cause and even then, only with a court-sanctioned warrant. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has been all but eviscerated in recent years by court rulings and government programs that sanction all manner of intrusions, including giving police carte blanche authority to break into homes or apartments without a warrant, conduct roadside strip searches, and generally manhandle any person in manner they see fit. Moreover, in the so-called name of national security, intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency now have the ability to conduct mass unwarranted electronic intrusions into the personal and private transactions of all Americans, including phone, mail, computer and medical records.

I completely agree with the first two paragraphs of the "Translation", and indeed that is how I understood and understand the Fourth Amendment, and as I think it should be understood.

As to the last paragraph:

I again completely agree that the Fourth Amendment has been "
all but eviscerated in recent years by court rulings and government programs that sanction all manner of intrusions" but it seems to me both these (often secret) "court rulings" and "government programs" simply have been illegal, because they obviously contradict the Fourth Amendment, which is Constitutional and which cannot be removed (without extensive changes), and indeed never has been removed.

Again, just the same applies to the NSA: Its "
unwarranted electronic intrusions into the personal and private transactions of all Americans" that are now going on since 2001, have all been illegal, immoral and indecent intrusions in the personal freedoms of all Americans, and of everybody else with a computer or cellphone with an internet connection.

Anyway... the other eight rights of the Bill of Rights are also quoted and translated, and I liked the interests and the exercise. You can read all by clicking on the last dotted link, and this is a recommended article.

4. Back to the Future

The fourth and last item today is b
y Peter Van Buren (<- Wikipedia) on TomDispatch:

This starts as follows (after an introduction by Tom Engelhardt):

The nuances of foreign policy do not feature heavily in the ongoing presidential campaign. Every candidate intends to “destroy” the Islamic State; each has concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea, and China; every one of them will defend Israel; and no one wants to talk much about anything else -- except, in the case of the Republicans, who rattle their sabers against Iran.

In that light, here’s a little trip down memory lane: in October 2012, I considered five critical foreign policy questions -- they form the section headings below -- that were not being discussed by then-candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Romney today is a sideshow act for the current Republican circus, and Obama has started packing up his tent at the White House and producing his own foreign policy obituary.

And sadly, those five questions of 2012 remain as pertinent and unraised today as they were four years ago. Unlike then, however, answers may be at hand, and believe me, that's not good news.  Now, let’s consider them four years later, one by one.

As the Wikipedia lemma on Peter Van Buren says, he worked for 24 years for the U.S. Department of State and spent a year in Iraq. Here are his five (or six) questions (quoted without text):

Is there an endgame for the global war on terror?
Do today’s foreign policy challenges mean that it’s time to retire the Constitution?
What do we want from the Middle East?
What is your plan to right-size our military and what about downsizing the global mission?
Since no one outside our borders buys American exceptionalism anymore, what’s next? What is America’s point these days?

Here are my answers to these questions, that originally were posed in 2012:

First question: Obviously there is no endgame, and there hasn't been one since 2001. In fact, the whole tendency was the opposite: The USA apparently is busy on a non-terminating "war against terrorism", which it does battle with by its own terrorists, with drones, for example, and as Peter Van Buren says:

The United States claims the right to fly into any nation's airspace and kill anyone it wishes. Add it all together and when it comes to that war on terror across significant parts of the globe, the once-reluctant heir to the Bush legacy leaves behind a twenty-first century mechanism for perpetual war and eternal assassination missions. And no candidate in either party is willing to even suggest that such a situation needs to end.

Second question: I have not seen or heard any formal demand to retire the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but I am quite willing to agree that neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights are followed anymore.

Then again, I don't quite agree with Van Buren"s answer to this question, that ends thus:

If the question in 2012 was: “Candidates, have we walked away from the Constitution? If so, shouldn’t we publish some sort of notice or bulletin?” In 2016, the answer seems to be: “Yes, we’ve walked away, and accept that or else... you traitor!”

My reply to this is that the 2016 "answer" is totally anti-Constitutional, quite unreasonable and completely invalid. So once again I say that both these answers and the government's and NSA's treatment of the Constitution are simply illegal.

Incidentally, there is in the text to this question a Snowden-quote that I like:

Snowden summed it up this way: "You see programs and policies that were publicly justified on the basis of preventing terrorism -- which we all want -- in fact being used for very different purposes."

Precisely! This is in fact my basic objection to the tales I was told about "terrorism" in 2005. (For readers of Dutch, see October 29, 2005: It is good.)

Third question: My answer to the question what the Americans want from the Middle East is quite simple: Profits and power.

And it does succeed - in a way, up to a point, all apart from legalities, moralities, decencies or Constitutional duties - quite well, although it should be remarked that the profits "the Americans" make from the wars they indulge in the last fifteen years are mostly the profits of the military-industrial complex (<- Wikipedia): Those industries that, supported by the taxes paid by most Americans, change these into profits for war planes, bombs, drones etc.

Fourth question: There simply is no plan to "right-size our military" and no plan for "downsizing the global mission". Not in fifteen years of continuous wars, on which 54% of the American taxes are being spend now.

All that the Americans seem to be able to do and see at present (and the last 15 years!)  is to send in more military folks and more drones, and they do not even speak about costs or endings.

Fifth question: I take this as two questions, and the present one is about American Exceptionalism. Since I am not an American, I indeed wonder whether American Exceptionalism was ever believed by many non-Americans since the early 1960ies (when there was some force in the notion: See the Marshall Plan). Apart from that "American Exceptionalism" was a propaganda pretext
for more wars, as far as I can see - and if you believe that Americans on average are truly exceptional, you must be quite stupid.

Sixth question: As to "America’s point these days": There used to be some point to the USA that was made outside the USA, and that also had some plausibility in the earlier days:

The forces of the USA were forces for democracy, for free elections, and for human rights as stated by the 1948 Declaration on Human Rights.

But it does seem to me that democracy is mostly dead inside the current USA; free elections are questionable and are anyway manipulated by the rich in the current USA; and that the
1948 Declaration on Human Rights seems completely outmoded and is meanwhile "replaced" by such agreements as the European Convention, that are in fact totally against the 1948 Declaration.

Then again, I suppose that some Republicans and some Democrats still believe that the USA has the point it had in the 1950ies, but then I also believe that they are mostly moved by propaganda, prejudice or wishful thinking.

Here is the ending of Peter Van Buren's article (apart from the last two sentences):

Above all, no politician dares or cares to tell us anything but what they think we want to hear: America is exceptional, military power can solve problems, the U.S. military isn’t big enough, and it is necessary to give up our freedoms to protect our freedoms. Are we, in the perhaps slightly exaggerated words of one foreign commentator, now just a “nation of idiots, incapable of doing anything except conducting military operations against primitive countries”?

I'd say this may be slightly exaggerated (a few politicians do say different things, but indeed not many) and I'd also say that the current USA may not be so much a "nation of idiots" as a nation led by militarists, secret service generals, and propaganda staffs, most or all of whom are much more propelled by thoughts of glory, power and profits than by thoughts of democracy, freedom and human rights.

But by and large I agree there is little to be said for the current USA and its many wars, and not because this could not be done in principle, but because all principles have been used almost exclusively to support American
glory, power and profits.

       home - index - summaries - mail