1. Con vs. Con
The Right-Wing Legacy of Justice Lewis Powell, and
What It Means for the Supreme
3. Documents Confirm CIA Censorship of Guantánamo
4. With Trump Sure to
Lose, Forget About a Progressive
This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, August 16, 2016.
There are 4 items with 4
dotted links today: Item 1 is by Chris Hedges and
is a repeat of June 20, with a repeat of my review of it from that day;
item 2 is a fine article on Lewis Powell
Jr. who must be seen as the main organizer of the rich right, that
mostly triumphed from Reagan onwards, also with help by Bill
Clinton and Barack Obama; item 3 is a fine article
that shows that "the courts" in Guantánamo (at least) are fed and
denied information by the CIA, and are not independent at
all (as they should be, in a real state of law); and item 4 is about some consequences of Trump's
attributed loss of the elections, which I think are a little too
1. Con vs. Con
first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
As I've noticed last week,
Chris Hedges is on holiday, and while he is, Truthdig publishes every
week an article that Hedges has published before.
Since I like Hedges, indeed without agreeing with him
relatively often , and since I normally have
commented on his weekly articles in Truthdig, I
can repeat my reviews, and indeed do so. This review was first
published on June 20 in Nederlog, and
I repeat it today between two "-----"s:
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
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.
Back to August 16, 2016: The above was written on June 20, 2016
and is repeated here, in part because I think the argument still is
good and in part because Hedges' article was repeated today.
The Right-Wing Legacy of Justice Lewis Powell, and What It Means for
the Supreme Court Today
The second item is by Bill Blum on Truthdig:
This starts as follows - and I like
it, because it is about Lewis Powell Jr.
(<- Wikipedia), who started the organization of the rich
right that has
taken most of the powers in the USA since 1980 (nine years after
Powell's memorandum), indeed also with considerable support from the
Democrats (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama).
Here is some more on Lewis Powell Jr. as a person:
Chances are if you were asked to name
the most influential conservative Supreme Court justice of the last 60
years, you’d nominate the late Antonin Scalia. And you’d have any
number of compelling reasons to do so.
Whether you liked him or loathed him,
Scalia was a jurisprudential giant, pioneer of the “originalist” theory
of constitutional interpretation, consistent backer of business
interests, and the author of the 2008 landmark majority decision in District of Columbia v. Heller,
which recognized an individual right to bear arms under the Second
Amendment. His death in February left a vacancy that has become a
hot-button issue in the runup to the November election.
But for all of Scalia’s impact—and
notwithstanding the political shivers and convulsions his demise has
sparked—I have another contender, or at least a close runner-up, in
mind: the late Lewis F. Powell Jr.
Yes, indeed. Here is some more on what
Powell did, in 1971:
On Aug. 23, 1971, Powell penned a
confidential 6,400-word memorandum and sent it off to his friend and
Richmond, Va., neighbor, Eugene Sydnor Jr., then-chairman of the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce education committee and head of the now-defunct
Southern Department Stores chain.
The memo, titled “Attack on American Free Enterprise
System,” was breathtaking in its scope and ambition, and far more
right-wing than anything Scalia ever wrote. It was, as writer Steven
Higgs noted in a 2012 article published
by CounterPunch, “A Call to Arms for Class War: From the Top Down.”
Yes, indeed - and both above links
(memo and 2012 article) are well worth reading
and downloading (especially the first).
Here are some small parts from that memo:
“No thoughtful person can question that
the American economic system is under broad attack,” Powell began his
analysis. “There always have been some who opposed the American system,
and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism).”
“But now what concerns us,” he
continued, “is quite new in the history of America. We are not dealing
with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or
even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the
enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is
gaining momentum and converts.”
Note this was written in 1971 (and see below). Here is more from then:
The first step, he reasoned, was “for
businessmen to confront this problem [the threat to the system] as a
primary responsibility of corporate management.” In addition, resources
and unity would be required.
“Strength,” Powell wrote, “lies in
organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in
consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale
of financing available only through joint effort, and the political
power available only through united action and national
Deepening his call to action, Powell
urged the Chamber of Commerce and other business entities to redouble
their lobbying efforts and to “recruit” lawyers of “the greatest skill”
to represent business interests before the Supreme Court, which under
the stewardship of Chief Justice Earl Warren had moved steadily
leftward. Powell wrote: “Under our constitutional system … the
judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and
He was right in saying that "the judiciary may be the most important instrument for
social, economic and political change" and
indeed his call to the rich for "organization,
in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of
action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing
available only through joint effort, and the political power available
only through united action and national organizations" seems to have been very effective and very
Indeed, here are some of Powell's successes:
Yes indeed, and the present article is a good
introduction to Powell and is strongly recommended.
He was especially instrumental in
helping to orchestrate the court’s pro-corporate reconstruction of the
First Amendment in the area of campaign finance law, which culminated
years later in the 2010 Citizens United decision. He joined the
court’s seminal 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which equated money, in
the form of campaign expenditures, with political speech. And he was
the author of the 1978 majority opinion in First National Bank
of Boston v. Bellotti, which held that corporations have a First
Amendment right to support state ballot initiatives.
But it is the secret memo that has proved
to be Powell’s most important and lasting legacy.
O and by the way, mostly because I was
reading this yesterday, and indeed remembered a lot of what is said in
Wikipedia lemma "Counterculture
of the 1960s" seems quite good and does give a decent
background to Powell's 1971 article (especially for those who did not
live through the Sixties and Seventies).
3. Documents Confirm CIA Censorship of Guantánamo Trials
item is by Mattathias Schwartz on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:
In January 2013, during the military
trial of five men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks, a defense
lawyer was discussing a motion relating to the CIA’s black-site
program, when a mysterious entity cut the audio feed to the gallery. A red
light began to glow and spin. Someone had triggered the
courtroom’s censorship system.
The system was believed to be under the
control of the judge, Col. James Pohl. In this case, it wasn’t.
“The 40-second delay was initiated, not
by me,” Pohl said. He was referring to the delayed audio feed,
which normally broadcasts to the press and other observers seated in
the gallery. The gallery is cut off from the courtroom by three layers
of soundproof Plexiglas. “I’m curious as to why. … If
some external body is turning the commission off under their own view
of what things ought to be, with no reasonable explanation, then we are
going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on or off.”
Later, Pohl said the censorship was the
work of an “OCA,” short for “Original Classification Authority.” In the
future, he said, no external body would be permitted to unilaterally
censor what was happening in his courtroom.
I say! This seems to me rather like the
Soviets did their court cases, that were effectively often run by the
KGB, in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties of the previous century.
The above shows that similar
things happen in the present-day's USA, where the courts are simply
switched off by the secret services, especially if the court is
hearing matters the CIA thinks it should not hear.
And indeed it is the CIA that secretly interferes in court
cases - which shows the courts are not
anymore one of the three independent powers in the state (parliament,
government, judiciary) but function (at least in cases of terrorism and
quite a few others) more like parts of the CIA then as
independent objective courts, simply because it is the CIA that
decides what is evidence; it is the CIA that prepares most of
the evidence; while it is also the CIA that decides what the
court, the jury, the judges and the public should and should not hear:
Note that secret services with "secret rules governing what is and is not allowed to
be discussed before the military court at Guantánamo" make the "justice" that is administered by such overseen
courts CIA-justice much rather than real justice.
Many have speculated that Pohl’s “OCA”
is in fact the CIA. That speculation is now confirmed with the
release of three new documents by The Intercept. The
documents show the evolution of secret rules governing what is and
is not allowed to be discussed before the military court
Here is more on what the CIA does to make it impossible for the
courts and the public to get independent and true evidence:
appears to be a 2015 version of a similar CIA guidance document was
released by OpenTheGovernment.org last year. Unlike the older guidance
documents released by The Intercept today, the sections
addressing the CIA’s black-site and rendition programs are completely
The CIA calls its classification rules
“guidelines … to be applied throughout the legal process.” They are
intended to provide the Pentagon-employed court security officers with
“general direction about when national security information may be at
issue, … triggering the need for protection.”
Much of what the CIA sought to keep out
of open court effectively constrained the detainees’ ability to give an
account of their own torture at the hands of the CIA and officials from
other countries where they were held.
That "the sections
addressing the CIA’s black-site and rendition programs" are "completely redacted" I take to mean that all
the text has been replaced by blacked out lines (as may be
familiar to people who have read some of Snowden's revelations).
This means that the USA's secret
services decide what the court and the public should and should
not know. And in fact it also does this:
“In effect, the government was making
the chilling and breathtaking assertion that it owned and controlled
detainees’ memories of torture, whether true or false,” said Ashley
Gorski, a staff attorney with the ACLU, who reviewed the newly released
And this happens while both the American
government and the American secret services are responsible for
the illegal tortures.
As I said: These are the means of the KGB
in the former Soviet Union. This has nothing to do with real
justice, for the very least that real justice involves
is a full disclosure of all evidence that is available, and not
merely that evidence that the torturers of the government and the CIA
decide might be seen by the courts.
4. With Trump Sure to Lose, Forget About a Progressive
The fourth and last
item today is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
With the nominating convention over and
the struggle with Bernie Sanders behind her, Hillary Clinton is
triangulating sharply to the right, “scooping up the dollars” and the
endorsements of elites “shaken loose in the great Republican wreck,”
writes Thomas Frank at The Guardian.
Yes, that may well be right. Here is some
I certainly do not believe in "a landslide for Clinton" on November
8 while it is August 16, which means that there still are nearly
three months to go. It may
be that Hillary Clinton has that belief, but if she does I think she is
mistaken, simply because many things may happen in three months that
she did not foresee (and that no one can foresee, also).
She is reaching out to the foreign
policy establishment and the neocons. She is reaching out to Republican
office-holders. She is reaching out to Silicon Valley. And, of course,
she is reaching out to Wall Street. In her big speech in Michigan on
Thursday she cast herself as the candidate who could bring bickering
groups together and win policy victories through really comprehensive
Things will change between now and
November, of course. But what seems most plausible from the current
standpoint is a landslide for Clinton, and with it the triumph of
complacent neoliberal orthodoxy.
There is this on Trump, which also seems based on the conviction that
he will loose the presidential elections:
In this ironic and roundabout
way, Trump may prove to be a disaster for the reform politics he has
never really believed in. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a
leader who could discredit populism more thoroughly than this
I don't know that Trump will loose,
and I think his major weakness is not his lack of compassion
but his continuously making up "facts", his very many lies,
and his obvious very strong temperament that cannot bear any
slight or any criticism.
This article ends as follows:
This is the real potential
disaster of 2016: That legitimate economic discontent is going to be
dismissed as bigotry and xenophobia for years to come.
My guess is that this is false,
mostly because most people (if not strong Trumpian Republicans)
will be able to see that what Trump offers indeed are
"bigotry and xenophobia",
and that this is not at all what people like Sanders offered
and offers, and indeed also not what Hillary Clinton offers.
I may be mistaken, but I hope not.
 I do, and
main reason for this note is that it seems to me far too many people
are - in fact, often also without understanding it - far more totalitarian
than they should be, and notably in only supporting people that
they agree with almost completely.
I am not a totalitarian (indeed
that was one important reason for me to give up on communism in 1970,
although my parents, whom I admired, were communists for a long time
then, and would remain so the rest of their lives) and I like
people who are informed, intelligent and capable of writing well, and
it is for these reasons that I generally like people like Chris Hedges
and Bill Maher:
I may disagree with them, but not
about their being informed, intelligent and capable of writing well,
and these are characteristics which themselves are far too rare
these days, and which makes me like them also if I disagree.
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