1. Con vs. Con
2. Constructing Visions of "Perpetual Peace":
Interview With Noam Chomsky
This is a Nederlog of Monday, June 20, 2016.
is a crisis log, but it is a bit different from others, for it only
treats two articles by or about two persons: item 1
is about Chris Hedges' article on the presidential choice the Americans
will (probably) have: con vs. con (I partially agree, partially
disagree, and have troubles with the term "liberals"), and item 2 is about an interview with Noam Chomsky from
which I picked some general themes. (There also is a third link to an item by Bill Maher that is well worth seeing.)
Con vs. Con
That there are only two items in this crisis log is in part due to
there not being many crisis materials today, in part due to my having
somewhat different attitudes about the crisis series, that may be
outlined (in part again) as: I have done the details, and should
concentrate on larger issues), and is in part due to my essay about
fascism and neofascism that will be published later today or else
first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
During the presidential election cycle,
liberals display their gutlessness. Liberal organizations, such as
MoveOn.org, become cloyingly subservient to the Democratic Party.
Liberal media, epitomized by MSNBC, ruthlessly purge those who
challenge the Democratic Party establishment. Liberal pundits, such as
Paul Krugman, lambaste critics of the political theater, charging them
with enabling the Republican nominee. Liberals chant, in a disregard
for the facts, not to be like Ralph Nader, the “spoiler” who gave us
George W. Bush.
The liberal class refuses to fight for
the values it purports to care about. It is paralyzed and trapped by
the induced panic manufactured by the systems of corporate propaganda.
The only pressure within the political system comes from corporate
power. With no counterweight, with no will on the part of the liberal
class to defy the status quo, we slide deeper and deeper into corporate
despotism. The repeated argument of the necessity of supporting the
“least worse” makes things worse.
To start with, I mostly agree with
the title: The choice of the Americans for their next president is
between two persons who are both fairly described as cons - deceivers, liars, dishonest
people trying to convince others of their excellencies and plans by
what is fundamentally propaganda
Then again, I don't agree with the
title if the suggestion is that one con is as good or bad as the other
con. I think it is true both are fundamentally cons, but I also think
that one of them is not only a con but also is mad, and I refer
to Donald Trump. More of that below.
And I have three points about the quoted two paragraphs:
First, I really don't understand what Chris Hedges means by
"liberals". In part, the difficulty is that I am European, and the term
"liberal" - which in any case is quite ambiguous - is
used rather differently in Europe than in the USA, but I think it is in
part also due to vagueness by Chris Hedges.
In any case, I will suppose he understands
by "liberals" (in this article) "educated persons" - with a B.A. or
higher - "who favor the Democratic Party". This is also not very
precise, but it is a bit less vague than "liberals" while it
does seem to correspond fairly well to Hedges' use of "liberal". (I am not
saying it is quite accurate, but then I am a European.)
Second, on the basis of that
understanding, I more or less agree with Chris Hedges, while I quite
agree with his saying that "[t]he only pressure
within the political system comes from corporate power": This is organized; it has been organized
better and better since the 1970ies; it has lots of money;
it has very specific interests (those of the rich); and
in fact it pays both candidates. (Trump says he doesn't need
payment, but he is a part of the corporate powers.)
But third, I don't agree with "the repeated argument of the necessity of supporting the
“least worse” makes things worse". Here are my
As stated - "the necessity of supporting the
“least worse”" - this is simply a very
widely accepted principle of rational choice:
A rational choice (from a subject's point of view) is the choice of
either the best possibility there is (in the eyes of the subject) or
failing that (there are no good choices) is the choice of the least bad
possibility there is (in the eyes of the subject). 
But Chris Hedges doesn't mean that
principle, in general terms: He means something far more
specific, namely that the choice of Clinton and the choice
of Trump is not between two bad candidates, of which the one
(Trump) is a lot worse than the other (Clinton, although Clinton is
also bad): it is between two
candidates which are both equally rotten.
I have several times insisted that in my
valuation of the candidates for the presidency, Sanders is a lot better
than Clinton, and Clinton is a lot better than Trump, and I will not
argue that again, but merely observe that most to the left of the GOP
seem to agree with me, especially as Sanders fell out of the race, and
as Trump seems a lunatic.
So I simply conclude that most who
think there is something to choose, and who stand to the left of Trump
and the GOP, will agree with me that the choice
should be for Clinton, simply because a choice for Trump is for an
ignorant braggart, who is a xenophobe, a racist, and who is far
too temperamental and far
too much of a grandiose narcissist to be given the presidency.
Next, there is this:
The rise of a demagogue like Donald
Trump is a direct result of the Democratic Party’s decision to embrace
neoliberalism, become a handmaiden of American imperialism and sell us
out for corporate money. There would be no Trump if Bill Clinton and
the Democratic Party had not betrayed working men and women with the North
American Free Trade Agreement, destroyed the welfare system, nearly
doubled the prison population, slashed social service programs, turned
the airwaves over to a handful of corporations by deregulating the Federal
Communications Commission, ripped down the firewalls between
commercial and investment banks that led to a global financial crash
and prolonged recession, and begun a war on our civil liberties that
has left us the most monitored, eavesdropped, photographed and profiled
population in human history. There would be no Trump if the Clintons
and the Democratic Party, including Barack Obama, had not decided to
prostitute themselves for corporate pimps.
First of all, I agree with Chris Hedges on
his list of sins of Bill Clinton (that runs from "had not betrayed" to
"in human history").
But I think that the argument that leads
from Bill Clinton's sins to Donald Trump is far
more complicated than the one sketched by Hedges (which also is
counterfactual: "if X would not have done p, then Y could not have done
q", which are both imaginary - in fact, something else
happened - and are hard to evaluate).
And I will not sketch a counter
argument, but merely observe that Trump has been publicly known since
the 1980ies, and might have arisen in quite different circumstances
than he did rise in. (Also a counterfactual, but easier
Then there is this:
The character traits of the Clintons are
as despicable as those that define Trump. The Clintons have amply
illustrated that they are as misogynistic and as financially corrupt as
Trump. Trump is a less polished version of the Clintons.
No. I dislike the Clintons, but
there are (at least) two or three major differences between
them and Trump: (1) there are considerable differences
between the plans and policies of the Clintons and of Trump: The
Clintons are rightist or centrist Democrats; Trump is a rightist
rightist. (2) The Clintons are far better political planners
than Trump is and know a lot more of politics in the U.S. And
(3) neither of the Clintons is mad, whereas Trump
There is this on "liberals" which I translate as "educated
persons" - with a B.A. or higher - "who favor the Democratic Party":
I mostly agree. My experiences are quite
different from those of Chris Hedges,
Liberals are employed by corporate
elites in universities, the media, systems of entertainment and
advertising agencies to perpetuate corporate power. Many are highly
paid. They have a financial stake in corporate dominance. The educated
elites in the liberal class are capitalism’s useful idiots.
but I think I have more experiences with Dutch academics than he has
with American academics, simply because I functioned for about twenty
and around the University of Amsterdam, where I tried to make academics
reason, and found that at least 95% decide in the end by their own
- very good - incomes, while most of them pretend to do so
for moral reasons. 
They are the academic intellectuals of the system we live in; they are
paid very well; and they will choose 19 out of 20 times to serve
those who pay and protect them.
Finally, this is the last bit I comment on:
Clinton and Trump, in this world
of political make-believe, will say whatever their listeners want to
hear. They will furiously compete for “undecided” voters, essentially
the apolitical segment of the population. And once the election is
over, one of them will go to Washington, where corporations, rich
donors and lobbyists—who they represent—will continue with the business
Yes and no.
I agree Hillary Clinton "will say whatever [her]
listeners want to hear", if only it is somehow
compatible with her general pretensions. This also means that you can not
count on any promises she makes before she is elected.
And I partially agree with thesis that "corporations,
rich donors and lobbyists" are in fact
determining most a government's choices these days, although I
think the governors and the government
also are important.
But I disagree with the (repeated) suggestion that Clinton and Trump
are convertible or equally bad: The plans and policies of Clinton are
more detailed, more informed and more sensible than those of Trump, and
Clinton may be bad but she is not mad, while Trump is. 
And this is a recommended article: I don't agree with the thesis that
both cons are equally bad (which I also think few agree with) but there
also are a number of good points.
2. Constructing Visions of "Perpetual Peace": An Interview
With Noam Chomsky
The second item is by C.J. Polychroniou on Truth-out:
This has the following in the
beginning and is by C.J. Polychroniou:
However, states are not abstract
entities or neutral institutions of human creation. On the contrary,
while they may have a logic of their own due to their huge built-in
bureaucracies, the policies they pursue reflect above all the interests
of the dominant social classes and seek to reproduce the existing
social and economic relations. In other words, states work on behalf of
what Adam Smith called "the masters of mankind" whose "vile maxim" is
"all for ourselves, and nothing for the other People."
Indeed, in the case of the United
States, one of the most disturbing and dangerous developments is the
growing insulation of the elite from any system of democratic
accountability, and the implementation of policies with total disregard
for the needs of the people. This is a development observed today in
most of the western, capitalist societies around the world, proving
that financial elites are in control of so-called "democratic" regimes.
I agree, and
like to restate this as points (with some personal changes and
- states have a logic
of their own due to their bureaucracies
- states mostly act to maintain and
continue the interests and privileges of the dominant groups
in the society they lead, which are nearly always the rich (power serves money,
money uses power)
- many of the rich are in fact
mostly committed to "all for ourselves, and nothing for the other
People", and also
- there have been 36 years of
build-up of a rich elite that is no longer controlled
democratically, and that fundamentally either disregards or works
against "the needs of the people".
Then there is this, on the presumed
"apathy of the voters" (and in the following texts, the bold questions
are by C.J. Polychroniou, and the non-bold replies by Noam Chomsky):
Perhaps. If the polls are correct,
most Americans have fundamentally adequate ideas about politics, in the
sense that they "believe that the government is
run by a few big interests looking out for themselves", but then there are two questions:
"Resignation" may be a better term than "apathy," and even that goes
too far, I think.
Since the early 1980s, polls in the US have
shown that most people believe that the government is run by a few big
interests looking out for themselves... I do not know of earlier polls,
or polls in other countries, but it would not be surprising if the
results are similar. The important question is: are people motivated to
do something about it? That depends on many factors, crucially
including the means that they perceive to be available.
(1) If so, why were most Americans too "apathetic" or too
"resigned" to do much to support their own interests, while (2)
there also is the fact (I pre- sume) that about 60% of all
Americans believe in the literal truth of Noah's Ark story
(which means they are mentally more fit for the Middle Ages than for a
In brief, my own response is that trying to gauge "what the people
want" and "what the people think" is very difficult to do adequately
in a population of over 300 million persons.
I do agree, though, with Chomsky's point that the "important question is: are people motivated to do something
about it?" - and my inference is that it is (overall, and with some
exceptions) quite disappointing (and see the above four points), but I agree this is my personal
Then there is this (skipping a lot):
I agree. I also know - I think - what Obama's
reply probably is: He droned because he did not want American
troups on the ground, and by droning he
Does the US remain the world's
leading supporter of terrorism?
A review of several recent books on Obama's
global assassination (drone) campaign in the American Journal of
International Law concludes that there is a "persuasive case" that
the campaign is "unlawful": "U.S. drone attacks generally violate
international law, worsen the problem of terrorism, and transgress
fundamental moral principles" -- a judicious assessment, I believe. The
details of the cold and calculated presidential killing machine are
harrowing, as is the attempt at legal justification, such as the stand
of Obama's Justice Department on "presumption of innocence," a
foundation stone of modern law tracing back to the Magna Carta 800
years ago. As the stand was explained in the New York Times, "Mr. Obama
embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did
little to box him in. It, in effect, counts all military-age males in a
strike zone as combatants, according to several administration
officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving
them innocent" -- post-assassination.
killed less than would have been killed if he had sent
in troups, both of which
may be factually correct, but it remains the case that droning is immoral
also unlawful (on the basis of internationally acknowledged
principles of law),
and besides worsens the problems of terrorism.
Also Chomsky is quite right that the decision to count "all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants" is sick, precisely because it means you can
only prove them innocent after they have been murdered (also
they were murdered they were either anonymous or nothing was known
about them that marked them as terrorists - "but" (hey presto!) "they
are of military age, therefore combatants, therefore justifiably
Then there is this, which starts with a good and honest question by
Well... I agree that "I
see no conflict at all between an egalitarian vision and human variety", but then that is about an unknown future. In the present,
With human nature being what it
is, and individuals clearly having different skills, abilities, drives
and aspirations, is a truly egalitarian society feasible and/or
Human nature encompasses saints and
sinners, and each of us has all of these capacities. I see no conflict
at all between an egalitarian vision and human variety. One could,
perhaps, argue that those with greater skills and talents are already
rewarded by the ability to exercise them, so they merit less external
reward -- though I don't argue this.
would say there is far too much stupidity and ignorance, but
I agree that, while it is true that the stupidity and the ignorance of
the many may do in the human species, it is a fact of life that
the intelligent and knowledgeable few have to learn to live
The article ends as follows:
We can construct visions of
"perpetual peace," carrying forward the Kantian project, and of a
society of free and creative individuals not subjected to hierarchy,
domination, arbitrary rule and decision. In my own view -- respected
friends and comrades in struggle disagree -- we do not know enough to
spell out details with much confidence, and can anticipate that
considerable experimentation will be necessary along the way. There are
very urgent immediate tasks, not least dealing with literal questions
of survival of organized human societies, questions that have never
risen before in human history but are inescapable right now.
I mostly agree.
I think "perpetual peace" is a dream given the qualities of most
persons, but it is a worthy aim and it is also a worthy
aim to make armed conflicts as rare and as small as is possible.
And I am strongly for "a society of free
and creative individuals not subjected to hierarchy, domination,
arbitrary rule and decision", although again
this seems both an end that is far ahead in the future and
one that is well to keep in mind as a measuring stick.
I also agree with Chomsky that "we do not
know enough to spell out details" (bolding
added) of any future society, and that there "are
very urgent immediate tasks, not least dealing with literal questions
of survival of organized human societies, questions that have never
risen before in human history but are inescapable right now".
And while I think the present human situation is quite dire, I
agree with Edmund Burke that "If you despair, work on".
This is also a recommended article, that has a lot more than is dealt
that this principle is stated for subjects: What the one thinks
best may be quite different (indeed sometimes the opposite) of
what another thinks best, but even so, a rational choice of
each of them is one that prefers their best or least bad choice
from the alternatives they see and they evaluate.
have explained several times that in my psychologist's opinions Trump
is mad. In case you don't agree, watch this:
This compares Trump with
other candidates, and gives some choice moments from his speeches.
This refers to the times between 1977 and 1997, roughly, but I should
also point out that I stopped studying at least 4 times in those years,
and probably more, in each case motivated by my illness, except when I was denied
the right of taking my M.A. in philosophy (which more or less forced me
- I wanted at least an M.A. - to take one in psychology). Incidentally,
think I am the only person in Holland who was denied
the right to take an M.A. (that I perfectly well could do, and also very
well) since World War II.
Why? Because I had spoken
and written the truth about Dutch academics.
 See note 2.