April 25, 2016

Crisis: Bacevich, TTIP's fascism, Hillary's "'honesty'", Reich, Sanders
Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Andrew Bacevich and America’s Long Misguided War to
     Control the Greater Middle East

2. Calling Corporate-Backed Deals an ‘Indisputable’ Good,
     Obama Makes Pitch for TTIP

Is Hillary Clinton ‘Honest’?
The Endgame of 2016′s Anti-Establishment Politics
5. Sanders Assures Supporters Nationwide: 'We're Going
     All the Way to California'

This is a Nederlog of Monday, April 25, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about a book by Andrew Bacevich that comes with what doesn't seem to be a very good review (and no, I didn't read the book, but I did read the review, and judge that); item 2 is about Obama's proposing the - still secret (!!) - TTIP deal, that will (I am sure) soon introduce a kind of (neo-)fascism in Europe; item 3 is about the honesty, the "honesty" and the "'honesty'" of Hillary Clinton (and the three concepts are not the same); item 4 is about an article by Reich on what seems to be the moral purity of quite a few American voters (who will vote Sanders or nothing, they say); and item 5 is about Sanders, who is going on till the end (and who still may win), with an interesting opinion of Charles Koch at the end.
1. Andrew Bacevich and America’s Long Misguided War to Control the Greater Middle East

The first item is b
y Charles Glass on The Intercept:
This starts as follows, and is basically a review of Andrew Bacevich's America’s War for the Greater Middle East:

THE CONVICTION that invasion, bombing, and special forces benefit large swaths of the globe, while remaining consonant with a Platonic ideal of the national interest, runs deep in the American psyche. Like the poet Stevie Smith’s cat, the United States “likes to gallop about doing good.” The cat attacks and misses, sometimes injuring itself, but does not give up. It asks, as the U.S. should,

What’s the good
Of galloping about doing good
When angels stand in the path
And do not do as they should

Nothing undermines the American belief in military force. No matter how often its galloping about results in resentment and mayhem, the U.S. gets up again to do good elsewhere. Failure to improve life in Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya stiffens the resolve to get it right next time. This notion prevails among politicized elements of the officer corps; much of the media, whether nominally liberal or conservative; the foreign policy elite recycled quadrennially between corporation-endowed think tanks and government; and most politicians on the national stage. For them and the public they influence, the question is less whether to deploy force than when, where, and how.

Really now?! I'd say that if the first statement is approximately true, "the American psyche" is rather insane, for anyone who believes (or pretends to believe) that the virtues of "invasion, bombing, and special forces benefit large swaths of the globe" must be - at the very least - a sick violent bully who enjoys bullying people (and thinks he has a right to it, e.g. as "An Exceptional

Then again, I don't believe that
"the American psyche" really exists, for apart
from a shared nationality there is very little that the over 300 million people who share the American nationality have in common (and the whole assumption
that there is or could be anything called "the American psyche" seems to me to
be cheap, easy and false).

The third paragraph also seems to convey - to me, at least - that "
all or most Americans" (who are somewhat ambiguously referred to by "the American belief", that I must suppose is enjoyed by "the American psyche") are not only violent bullies, but also pretty insane, for statements like "Nothing undermines the American belief in military force. (...) Failure to improve life in Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya stiffens the resolve to get it right next time" do convey that the Americans keep on bullying (and partially destroying) nation after nation without learning anything - which means that they are continuing to do what they know does not work, and are thereby quite
insane (on Einstein's criterion, that one who continues to do what he knows does not work cannot be sane).

But the end of the third paragraph makes a lot more sense, for - a bit late, it seems to me - there the following makers of opinions are mentioned:
  • politicized elements of the officer corps
  • much of the media
  • the foreign policy elite
  • most politicians on the national stage
And these entities - although also not very specific - seem a lot easier to trace than "the American psyche" they "inform", basically with lots of propaganda - or at least that is how I would describe much of their "information".

Here is how Bacevich describes them (according to Glass):

Bacevich describes a loyal cadre of intellectuals and pundits favoring war after war, laying the moral ground for invasions and excusing them when they go wrong.
That seems quite correct to me, although I did not read Bacevich's book. At any rate, there is such a "cadre of intellectuals and pundits" (and there is no such thing as "the American psyche", or so it seems to me - and note the "the").

Here is Glass's opinion about the book he reviewed:
This tour de force of a book covers the modern history of American warfare with sharp criticism of political decisions and rigorous analysis of battlefield strategy and tactics. As such, it should be required reading at the author’s alma mater. It would not hurt for those aspiring to succeed Barack Obama as commander-in-chief to dip into it as well. None of them, with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders, is likely to reject the worldview that led to so many deaths around the world.
If so - I did not read the book - I don't think this was a very good review, simply because most of these things have not been argued in the review.

2. Calling Corporate-Backed Deals an ‘Indisputable’ Good, Obama Makes Pitch for TTIP

The second item is b
y Jon Queally on Truthdig, and originally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Despite the tens of thousands of people who marched against the deal in Germany ahead of his arrival and the steady drop in support for such neoliberal trade deals overall, President Barack Obama stood next to Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday and defended the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and said similar past deals have been an “indisputable” benefit to the U.S. economy.

“It is indisputable that [“free trade”] has made our economy stronger,” Obama said during a joint news conference. “It has made sure that our businesses are the most competitive in the world.”

As a matter of fact, I think I completely agree with what Obama is here reported as saying (although he is mistaken the TTIP is about free trade:
that is merely the pretext).

For it is “indisputable” that the TTIP will much benefit "the U.S. economy", that is, at least in so far as the rich are concerned.

I also think it is as “indisputable” that the TTIP will cost Europe her freedom, her independence, her riches, and most other good things, and it will be, probably quite rapidly as well, be transformed by the ISDS [1] into merely another Texas or Kansas, but I grant that Obama was not quoted on these consequences.

There is this quoted from the New York Times:

As the New York Times reported from near the summit on Sunday:

Monica Orth, 54, a therapist for teenagers who lives in Bonn, is one of many here who see the trade pact as a plot by big businesses — often American ones — to lower consumer standards, bypass national justice systems and undermine Europe’s way of life.

“I don’t want Monsanto and Bayer to determine which seeds I eat,” Ms. Orth said. As two friends nodded in agreement, she added, “Democracy is a really valuable thing, and I don’t want big business to take that from me.”

I agree with Ms. Orth, but she doesn't seem to mention the main thing that the TTIP will bring to Europe:

The complete bypassing of the national European justice sytems; the complete bypassing of the national parliaments; and the complete bypassing of the national governments, for all will be judged and condemned by the TTIPs ISDSs:

Whatever diminishes the expected profits of the multi-national corporations must be destroyed (and the national populations have to pay from their taxes to make up for what the multi-national CEOs expected in profits).

Here is Lori Wallach, who is the director of the Global Trade Watch project for Public Citizen in the U.S:

Two decades of U.S. “trade” agreements becoming delivery mechanisms for extreme investor protections, new monopolies that increase medicine prices and deregulation of food safety and environmental safeguards is fueling the bipartisan revolt against more-of-the-same trade agreements now occupying center stage in the U.S. presidential election.

Unfortunately, the same secretive negotiating process – that is dominated by the interests of 500 corporate advisors, that was used by the Obama administration to conclude the highly unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) now drives the TTIP negotiations.

When talks were launched in 2013, many hoped TTIP would finally break the U.S. “free trade agreement” model that sets a ceiling on consumer and environmental safeguards and exposes our laws to attack in corporate arbitration tribunals. Instead, the TTIP is shaping up to roll back superior European food safety, chemical and consumer privacy safeguards and climate policies that many Americans would like to see here.

So once again: [2]

1. The methods with which the TTIP is introduced are authoritarian(neo-)fascistic, morally degenerate, and totally anti-democratic and treat almost every person whose lives will be very much effected as if he or she is a sub-human.

Here is proof, for this is the way this "treaty" is made into law: By trying to hide everything that is in it from almost everyone whose lives will be very much effected by it - and I quote from TTIP on Wikipedia:
Only a handful of people can access the documents known as "consolidated texts", the drafts containing the most recent results of the negotiations. On the European side, authorised readers include the European Commission negotiators, most of them from the Directorate-General for Trade and some European Union members' ministers and MPs. Upon the insistence of the US, the documents are not transmitted any more as electronic or even printed documents. They are only made available in a highly secured room in Brussels or in a number of US embassies in European capitals. In all these secured rooms phones or other types of scanning device are forbidden. Blank sheets of paper, marked with the reader's names, are provided on which visitors can jot down their comments. On the US side, the procedure is similar: only Senators and USTR negotiators may access the documents and must comply with similar conditions.[The US side has insisted on the same security arrangements for the drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal]
Also, only intentional anti-democrats or (neo-)fascists would consider to use the above utterly degenerate means of imposing unknown laws on hundreds of millions of persons.

2. The ends wiich the TTIP further are anti-democratic, neo-fascistic, authoritarian and sick, and will only service the rich and the CEOs of multi-national corporations. [3]

I have in 50 years of reading never seen a more fascistic, a more degenerate, a more authoritarian, and a more anti-democratic set of laws as the sick TTIP - and no: I don't need to know its secret prose in full detail to know what I just said. This is secret because it is fascistic, and because those who wrote it know this would not be passed by any population who knew what is being passed in their names.

So therefore: Thank you, Obama! Thank you for furthering the causes of the rich and the corporate; thank you for proposing a secret utterly neo-fascistic law; thank you for furthering the secret destruction of European democracy; thank you for collaborating with the unelected European neo-fascists from the European Union (who style themselves quite differently, but are neo-fascists); thank you for everything you did for the rich, the corporate and the greedy; and thank you for trying to destroy European civilization!! [2]

3. Is Hillary Clinton ‘Honest’?

The third item is by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:
This starts as follows:

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has offered a curious defense of Hillary Clinton’s “honesty,” refuting the public’s widespread view that she is a liar by narrowly defining what it means to be “honest” and arguing that she is less dishonest than she is a calculating and corner-cutting politician.

Kristof writes, “as we head toward the general election showdown, by all means denounce Hillary Clinton’s judgment and policy positions, but let’s focus on the real issues. She’s not a saint but a politician, and to me this notion that she’s fundamentally dishonest is a bogus narrative.”

I say?! Mr Kristof seems to be doing what Obama and his lawyers also specialize in doing:

Personal redefinitions of concepts whose standard dictionary definitions conflict with what they wish them to say, also without any indication that their definitions are personal, and are propaganda, and are fundamentally extremely dishonest.

Indeed, this is about honesty, or indeed perhaps better "honesty" or even "'honesty'", for Mr Kristof has found a way (or: a "'way'") of declaring Hillary Clinton "'honest'", which he tries to sell to his readers without explicitly saying to them that he considers the majority of his readers quite "'stupid'" (for else the majority would not think of Hillary Clinton as dishonest, or even as  "dishonest", while they do).

For example, I take it that Mr Kristof wants to insist that even while the Clintons received (it seems: I got different numbers, though all are very high) a mere $158 million dollars for helping the banks' managers, they were very "'honest'" in receiving that money.

And it seems essentially his argument is this:

Hillary Clinton is a politician; for politicians there are quite different standards of what it means to be honest than for non-politicians; and - concentrating on what she said in primaries - about half of the sayings she made were dishonest, which was, for an American politician, quit "'honest'".

In fact, I don't say "No!", but I certainly do not consider honesty to be the same as "'honesty'", were it only because "'honest'" politicians still lie half the time, which means for me that they are - compared with non-politicians, at least - quite dishonest.

Indeed, it seems to me that Mr. Kristof would have been more honest if he would have said (as he did) "She’s not a saint but a politician" followed by (as he did not) 'but we all know that most politicians are great liars', which again could have been followed by his conclusion that therefore "this notion that she’s fundamentally dishonest is a bogus narrative" - for she is merely very dishonest compared to non-politicians, but not compared to most politicians.

I do not know whether this is correct, but at least this would have been a somewhat less incorrect argument than he gave.

This is Robert Parry's opinion (rather than Kristof's):

Many Americans sense that there is a Nixonian quality to Hillary Clinton – her excessive secrecy, her defensiveness, her rigidity, her unwillingness to acknowledge or learn from mistakes. Even when she is forced into admitting a “mistake,” such as her violation of State Department rules when she maintained a private email server for official correspondence, she acts as if she’s just “apologizing” to close off further debate or examination. As with Richard Nixon, there’s a feeling that Clinton’s apologies and rationales are self-serving, not forthcoming.

I do not know whether I would describe these qualities (which I agree she has) as "Nixonian".

For me it seems considerably more likely that she simply misses most of the political talents her husband has, who (perhaps, and again I don't know) might have the same "excessive secrecy, (..) defensiveness, (..) rigidity, [and] (..) unwillingness to acknowledge or learn from mistakes", but who was a whole lot better at presenting them otherwise to "the public".

And my explanation seems a bit more simple: She is as dishonest as average American politicians (nearly all of whom are great liars) but she clearly lacks the talents her husband had to be liked even if people tend to know he is a crook: 'He is a liar and a crook, but he also is a very charming one.' She is the same, except that either she lacks the charm or the skill to pretend the charm.

But the conclusion is correct:

So, when one considers Hillary Clinton’s “honesty” more should be in play than simply whether she accurately describes her policy positions half the time. Honesty, as most people would perceive it, relates to a person’s fundamental integrity, strength of character, readiness to acknowledge mistakes and ability to learn from them. On that measure, the American people seem to have sized up Hillary Clinton pretty well.

Yes, indeed. And incidentally: Somebody who lies "half the time" is a very great liar (outside politics).

4. The Endgame of 2016′s Anti-Establishment Politics

The fourth item is b
y Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

Will Bernie Sanders’s supporters rally behind Hillary Clinton if she gets the nomination? Likewise, if Donald Trump is denied the Republican nomination, will his supporters back whoever gets the Republican nod?

If 2008 is any guide, the answer is unambiguously yes to both. About 90 percent of people who backed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries that year ended up supporting Barack Obama in the general election. About the same percent of Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney backers came around to supporting John McCain.

But 2008 may not be a good guide to the 2016 election, whose most conspicuous feature is furious antipathy to the political establishment.
Yes, indeed. And this may be somewhat of a problem, because quite a few of the voters seem to reject my type of argument, that may be expressed thus:
Sanders >> Clinton >> Trump or Cruz
That is: Sanders is considerably better than Clinton, and Clinton is considerably better than either Trump or Cruz. (And therefore, if you like Sanders, you should vote Clinton if Sanders does not get the presidential candidacy.)

For a considerable number of the voters seems to have found in themselves a considerable degree of moral purity, or so it seems:

But, unlike previous elections, a good number may simply decide to sit out the election because of their even greater repulsion toward politics as usual – and the conviction it’s rigged by the establishment for its own benefit.

That conviction wasn’t present in the 2008 election. It emerged later, starting in the 2008 financial crisis, when the government bailed out the biggest Wall Street banks while letting underwater homeowners drown.

I must say that I don't believe in the moral or political purity of many voters.
And I have quite a few reasons for my conviction, although I will state only two:

First, I hold that "politics is rigged
by the establishment for its own benefit" since (at least) 50 years, which indeed, together with my strong distaste for most politicians and for their simpleminded ideas and values, is the reason I haven't voted since 1971 (in Holland, to be sure).

But second, had I been an American, I would vote in the coming elections, and my main reason to do so is not my sympathy with politics or politicians, but my strong conviction that Trump or Cruz, if elected as president of the USA, will be an enormous disaster, simply because each is totally incompetent for the job. (Indeed, see the end of item 5 for someone who seems to think similarly,
although I disagree completely with his politics.)

And as to the moral purity of voters: I am sorry, but voting is so minor a thing, in principle, and in time and trouble spend on it, that no one should be able to derive any moral purity from non-voting [4], nor should anyone argue as if his or her moral purity prevents him or her from making a selection from two evils, and choose the least bad.

You are not asked to do something heroic, dangerous and difficult: all you are required to do is to vote for either the best or the least bad of the candidates on offer.

Here is Reich's opinion on crony capitalism:

(..) many Americans have connected the dots in ways they didn’t in 2008.

They see “crony capitalism” (now a term of opprobrium on both left and the right) in special tax loopholes for the rich, government subsidies and loan guarantees for favored corporations, bankruptcy relief for the wealthy but not for distressed homeowners or student debtors, leniency toward corporations amassing market power but not for workers seeking to increase their bargaining power through unions, and trade deals protecting the intellectual property and assets of American corporations abroad but not the jobs or incomes of American workers. 

Yes, indeed. But also: While I grant that a vote for Sanders - if he is the presidential candidate - is a vote against crony capitalism, and a vote for Clinton - if she is the presidential candidate - is (in fact) a vote for crony capitalism, not voting for Clinton (if she is the presidential candidate) or to
vote for Trump or Cruz is to vote for rightist extremists who will try to destroy most of the American government, and who will give all the powers they can to the rich.

In brief, if the choice is between Clinton and Trump or Cruz, everybody who is
against Trump or Cruz should vote for Clinton: She is bad (I think) but she is not crazy, nor does she have really insane ideas, as do both Trump and Cruz.

5. Sanders Assures Supporters Nationwide: 'We're Going All the Way to California'

The fifth and last item is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Confronted on multiple weekend news shows over his campaign strategy going forward, Bernie Sanders assured his supporters in no uncertain terms on Sunday that the race for the Democratic nomination is not yet over and that every voter in upcoming state contests will have a chance to have their voice counted ahead of the party's national convention this summer.

"We're going all the way to California," Sanders told George Stephanopolous on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday morning.

Sanders mentioned his campaign stop in Baltimore, Maryland on Saturday and said the endemic poverty he sees in such cities is a major reason why the status quo of "establishment politics" and "establishment economics" must be overcome.

"The level of poverty there is beyond belief," Sanders said. "The fact that we have so much income and wealth inequality, the fact that so many of our kids are graduating college deeply in debt, the fact that we're really not engaging in the planetary crisis of climate change, these are the issues that we need to be debating."

I agree with Sanders (and he hasn't yet lost the election as presidential candidate).

Here is Sanders on the difference between him and Clinton:
"I think what divides us is the understanding on the part of millions of people who are supporting my candidacy that it really is too late for establishment politics and establishment economics. We have to deal in a very substantive way with income and wealth inequality. We need to understand why we're the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all people, not to have paid family and medical leave. And that we have to deal aggressively with a corrupt campaign finance system which allows big money interest to buy elections. Those are areas I think of difference."
Finally, here is one other bit from the article that I found interesting, because of the man who said it:
Meanwhile on Sunday, billionaire rightwinger Charles Koch made headlines for telling television viewers "it's possible" that Clinton would be a better presidential choice in his mind than the remaining Republican candidates.
I believe he is serious, if only because he has spend millions to have a Republican candidate elected, and is now faced - as a Republican - with a choice from Trump or Cruz, each of whom has insane ideas (Trump: The Mexican wall; Cruz:  A global warming denier).

[1] The ISDS = Investor-State dispute settlements. The link is to the Wikipedia. It is well worth reading, but you should not feel overwhelmed by judicial prose or by the empty promises of Karel de Gucht. Here is the end of the Wikipedia article (minus a note):
In 2015, faced with opposition to ISDS in several European countries, the European Parliament adopted a resolution requiring any new dispute settlement scheme included in TTIP "must be replaced by a new public and transparent system of investment protection, in which private interests cannot undermine public policy and which is subject to public law".

South Africa has stated it will withdraw from treaties with ISDS clauses, and India is also considering such a position. Indonesia plans to let treaties with ISDS clauses lapse when they need renewal. Brazil has refused any treaty with ISDS clauses.

As to the first paragraph: I am glad the European Parliament made the resolution, but since I don't much trust that parliament, and do not trust any
secret law like the TTIP, and since I do not know what if any alternatives the
European Parliament had in mind, I am also rather skeptical.

[2] For I have several times before outlined this.

[3] By "fascism" I mean what the American Heritage Dictionary defines as follows:
"fascism" is defined as "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
By neo-fascism I mean - here - a fascism that does not occur through "the merging of state and business leadership" but that occurs through the subjection of state leadership to (external) business leadership, e.g. as foreseen by the TTIP's ISDSs (see Note 1).

The "(external)" is motivated by the fact that multi-national corporations that wish to attack a state over some of its decisions that caused a lowering of the expected profits of their CEOs, usually do not belong to the state they attack.

[4] Note that I also do not derive any special moral purity for myself for not having voted for 45 years now, even while my reasons not to do so are intellectual (I hardly know of any Dutch politician that I can regard as intelligent) and moral (I think almost all Dutch politicians are great liars).

This really amounted to very little on my part, in my opinion. (In case you ask: I am more impressed by my site, for example, for that was all done without receiving any payment, and took a lot of work - 500 MBs, mostly of my prose - that I also all did while ill.)

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