Sep 24, 2016

Crisis: "Fascism is NOT coming" (Vote Stein!) , Prins on Obama, On Syrian Refugees
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 Keep Calm and Vote Green: Fascism Is Not Coming
2. Sen. Warren Calls for Wells Fargo CEO to Resign &
     Face Investigation Amid Growing Scandal

3. On Syria and Skittles, demagogues and the damned

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, September 24, 2016.

A. This is a crisis log with 3 items and 3 dotted links: item 1 is about Paul Street's completely wishful thinking notion that "Fascism Is Not Coming" (I am sorry: this was not an argument, but a declaration of faith); item 2 is about Elizabeth Warren, but with quotes from Nomi Prins; amd item 3 is about a good article by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan, who explain that there are now more than 65 million refugees, that the rich nations mostly do not want, possibly because their politicians believe in Donald Trump Jr.'s argument.

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: I do not know, but it may be you need to click twice to see any changes I have made. This certainly held for me, but it is possible this was caused by the fact that I am also writing it from my computer.

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. And it was yesterday still or again the case. Indeed, this also holds for the opening pages: These too are not renewed at "xs4all", or at least: Not for me.) [1]

1. Keep Calm and Vote Green: Fascism Is Not Coming

The first item
today is by Paul Street on Truthdig:
This review will be mostly a study of (I quote from my Philosophical Dictionary):
Wishful thinking: The inference of conclusions that conform to one's desires because they conform to one's desires: "It is so, because I desire it to be so; it is not so, because I desire it not to be so."

Inference Scheme of Wishful Thinking:
I desire it were true, therefore it is true.

This is the fundamental principle of invalid reasoning, and it should be clear why this is so and why no human being spends a day or an hour without some wishful thinking: Because wishful thinking yields what human beings wish, and gives them satisfaction and pleasure, even if this is merely fantasy, and because human beings desire so much to get what they please that merely imagining that things are as they desire to believe they are is a sufficiently strong motive to make them believe what they desire, and to act on that belief.

It is the real basis of each political ideology and each religion. Normally, it goes together with the active refusal to seriously consider the reasoned arguments of (supposed) opponents.

Here is the 19th Century English mathematician Augustus De Morgan (a good friend of Boole) on the subject and its implications:

"My opinion of mankind is founded upon the mournful fact that, so far as I can see, they find within themselves the means of believing in a thousand times as much as there is to believe in, judging by experience."
   (De Morgan)

The article I review is by Paul Street, who is about half my age and has a degree in history from Binghamton University. I have an M.A. in psychology with only straight As from the University of Amsterdam; a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Amsterdam, again with a straight A, from which I was illegally removed briefly before I could take an M.A. in that.

Both of my parents had IQs over 130 and were for 45 years members of the Dutch Communist Party; one grandparent also was a communist; two other grandparents were lifelong anarchists. My own IQ was over 150 when I was 28. (I don't really believe in IQs, but I am quite intelligent, which is in doubt now, because I take Trump seriously.) Also, I have never earned (at 66) even the minimum income in Holland, mostly because I was discriminated for decades, because of my opinions, and also because I am ill for nearly four decades (which is still not admitted).

I could say a lot more, but I only add that I was raised by real Leftist people (both of whom risked their lives in the Dutch resistance against the Nazis, and my father and his father were arrested in 1941, convicted as "political terrorists", and put in the concentration camp, which my grandfather did not survive), and I have always considered myself a Leftist, though indeed not a Marxist since I was 20 (and for very good reasons as well).

But according to Paul Street I must be more or less crazy - stupid, hysteric, irrational, uninformed - and (it seems) I must be "a liberal-left supporter of capitalism", because I take Trump seriously.

For he writes in the beginning of the article I am reviewing this:
Every four years, liberal-left politicos scream wolf about how the Republicans are going to wreak plutocratic, racist, ecocidal, sexist, repressive and war-mongering hell if they win “this, the most important election in American history.” The politicos conveniently ignore the plutocratic, racist, ecocidal, sexist, repressive and military-imperial havoc that Democrats inflict at home and abroad in dark, co-dependent alliance with the ever more radically reactionary Republicans.
I can remember American presidential elections back to the election of Kennedy. That is well over 50 years ago. The above - which I take it ("Every four years") has been so the last 12 presidential elections - is complete news for me. I suppose I must be stupid, according to Paul Street, not to have seen this happening the last 12 presidential elections.

Then again, I also must have been misled, by such liberal-left hysterics as  Reed:
But the main reason it is easy to understand why many intelligent lefties stuck behind contested state lines might follow Reed’s advice is that Trump is no ordinary Republican wolf. By some dire portside reckonings (including Reed’s), “the Donald” is something like a real fascist threat worthy of mention in the same breath as Hitler and Mussolini. He’s a really bad version of the wolf who finally appears to devour the sheep in the ancient fable.
Actually, as we will see below also, Paul Street knows that Trump is not a real fascist. Indeed, Paul Street is reminded of the sad fate of (I quote) "the German Community Party" in the 1930ies:
In warning about Trump and instructing lefties not to vote third-party this time, Reed reminds us of the German Community Party’s fateful error: choosing not to ally with the German Social Democrats against the Nazi Party during the early 1930s. The moral of the story is clear: All sane left progressives need to report to duty to protect the flock under the banner of the admittedly horrid (good of Reed to admit that) Hillary.
Actually, there never was a "Community Party" in Germany. What Paul Street is talking about is the German Communist Party (of which my father also was a member since 1945). Street may know the difference between "Community" and "Communist", but he doesn't write as if he does.

Then again, Street - even Street - does see some problems with Trump, and he even is so kind as to mention Noam Chomsky (who must be another hysteric Leftist who was stupid enough to take Trump more seriously than Street):
I do not so reflexively dismiss Gupta’s alarm or that of other leading left intellectuals like Noam Chomsky and Henry Giroux. There is more than just a slight hint of neofascism around the Trump phenomenon—not just in the bizarre Trump (who used to keep a copy of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside) himself but in his worst backers and in his largely white middle- and lower-middle-class base, precisely the stratum that has offered the key base for virulent right-wing movements in Western history.
I say: Trump shows more "than just a slight hint of neofascism"! It so happens that I also agree with the following criticisms of Trump (but remember: he is not a fascist; he is not a neofascist, really (according to Paul Street)):
There’s more, of course, to whiten left hairs about the prospects of a Trump White House. A short list includes: Trump’s repeated claim that U.S. wages are too high (something that is all too well-matched to his real-world record of mercilessly exploiting and cheating workers); his call for big increases in the already hyperbloated Pentagon budget; his claim that “there’s nobody bigger or better at the military than me”; his call to expand the nuclear arsenal; his claim that he’d consider using nuclear weapons in Europe; his statement that the U.S. “may very well be better off” if Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia developed nuclear weapons; his boast that he’d “shoot” Iranian ships if they ever again interdict “our beautiful destroyers with their little boats”; his legitimization of the use of violence against protesters at his rallies; his ugly mocking of a disabled reporter (able-ism is a hallmark fascist movement); his long record of deeply disturbing misogyny.
Incidentally, if "able-ism is a hallmark fascist movement" I suppose I am discriminated for nearly forty years now (since the first year in university, when my ex and I fell ill with Pfeiffer's disease) by a bunch of Dutch fascists or neofascists, but I let this be (apart from a footnote [2]).

Here is Paul Street's real opinion about Donald Trump: He is not - not by far - as dangerous as misled intellectuals like Noam Chomsky - presumably one of the many liberal-left politicos who was misled by men like Reed - say he is. O no!

Paul Street knows it much better:
For many lefties (this writer included), however, the Trump threat level does not rise that high. The wolf cry still falls on deaf ears. This is for at least six reasons.
First, ominous warnings from smart people notwithstanding, the American corporate, financial and imperial ruling class doesn’t yet need or want real or quasi-fascism through Herr Trump or anyone else at this historical moment. The U.S. model of corporate-managed and “inverted totalitarianism” (Sheldon Wolin) sold as “democracy” is not about strongmen and brown shirts. The notion that the nation’s “deep state” power elite—the actual rulers who run the nation’s commanding-heights affairs behind the marionette theater of electoral politics—would (a) let an uber-narcissistic man-child like Donald Trump into the Oval Office and (b) permit him to do the crazy things he talks about is far-fetched.
See? There is only fascism if there are "strongmen in brown shirts" (with Hitlerite moustaches and swastikas everywhere): that is fascism. A man like Trump is not, really. Neither does "the nation’s “deep state” power elite" want "strongmen in brown shirts", for Paul Street knows them all. And "inverted totalitarianism" just isn't fascism and can't be re-inverted (even though Sheldon Wolin - the originator of "inverted totalitarianism" - wrote an article in 2002 in which he warned against the rise of fascism: He too must have been influenced by "liberal leftists" like Reed, or so it seems).

What is the proof according to Paul Street (I imagine)? That he knows politics, fascism and neofascism a lot better than Noam Chomky? Wishful thinking, for he wants you to vote for Jill Stein, who presently commands 4% of the votes.

That is the Real Alternative! As to neofascism: Paul Street must have interviewed all the members of the American ruling class, for he knows what they want, and what they want is this:
Neofascism is simply not where the American ruling class is right now. When it is, we will know.
Are you crazy? The American ruling class does not want neofascism. Believe Paul Street. His proof is excellent: Wishful thinking, for he wants you to vote for Jill Stein, who presently commands 4% of the votes.

Not only that: He knows what the presidential elections will not deliver:
Fourth, Trump’s not going to win.
Again, his proof is as excellent as for any of his statements: Wishful thinking, for he wants you to vote for Jill Stein, who presently commands 4% of the votes.

Finally, as to Jill Stein, she knows not only that a candidate who pulls 4% may win the presidential elections, she also knows about that horror of horrors that she calls LEV (for abbreviations tremendously clarify arguments):
Sixth, “lesser-evil voting” (LEV) has a “terrible track record,” as Stein reminded me last spring. The more American liberals and progressives do it, the more the Republican right wing is emboldened, the further the Democrats move into ideological and policy territory formerly held by Republicans, and the more dire the American and global situation becomes. LEV is a viciously circular, self-fulfilling prophecy that itself holds no small responsibility for the ascendancy of horrible Republican presidents and other terrible things like the tea party and Donald Trump phenomena.
For the mechanism works like this, according to Jill Stein, who commands 4% of the votes, which may be sufficient to deny Hillary the presidency, but won't make Stein president:

If your choices are limited to a bad alternative and a horrible alternative, you do not vote for the bad alternative, because you believe in
Wishful thinking, for Stein wants you to vote for Jill Stein, who presently commands 4% of the votes.

So you see: Keep calm and vote Green: Fascism is not coming. Paul Street and Jill Stein [3], who pulls 4% of the vote, know, for they are enlightened by that most powerful political motive:
Wishful thinking.

(For no: Paul Street also did not give one rational argument. He merely asserted, asserted, and asserted.)

2. Sen. Warren Calls for Wells Fargo CEO to Resign & Face Investigation Amid Growing Scandal

The second item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts as follows:

We get reaction to this week’s Senate Banking Committee hearing where Senator Elizabeth Warren grilled Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf over a growing scandal at the major Wall Street bank involving thousands of employees who took private customer information to create 2 million fake accounts in order to meet sales targets. The scandal dates back to at least 2011, and CEO John Stumpf admits he’s known about the practice since 2013. Wells Fargo has been fined $185 million. "John Stumpf let 5,300 people take the fall for his criminal behavior," says Nomi Prins. Prins is a former managing director at Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs and previously an analyst at Lehman Brothers and Chase Manhattan Bank. Prins’s latest book is called "All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power.

This is the introduction, and it is quite correct Elizabeth Warren and John Stumpf are both quoted in the article, and well worth reading. I skip them here, because I am mostly interested (here and now) in Nomi Prins (<- Wikipedia):

For more, we’re going to Los Angeles to speak with Nomi Prins, former managing director at Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs, previously an analyst at Lehman Brothers and Chase Manhattan Bank. Her latest book, All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power.

First, here is Nomi Prins's summary of what Wells Fargo's CEO Stumpf did:

NOMI PRINS: What John Stumpf did is he let 5,300 people take the fall for his criminal behavior. That’s what he did. This particular case that was in front of the Senate Banking Committee early this week is a tiny portion of the array of criminal activity that Wells Fargo has basically done under the direction of John Stumpf. John Stumpf has been the CEO since 2007. He has been chairman of the board of Wells Fargo since 2010. He has been there through the beginning of the financial crisis ’til now, and he has presided not just on this case, where 5,300 people were involved in technically possibly creating phony accounts for credit cards and for depositors in order to charge fees, in order to make those cross-sell objectives, that are set on high, but for years he was knowledgeable of it. And during those years, Wells Fargo racked up about $10 billion. This fine, on this particular set of activities, was only $185 million.

It also seems Stumpf made $200 millions profits (for himself) from the actions for which "he let 5,300 people take the fall for his criminal behavior". And since his bank was fined $185 million for profiting $10 billion, it seems his bank's profits were as 185 million : 10 billion, which means he had to pay back 1 dollar (in "punishment") for receiving over 54 dollars.

That was very good profit! (And the "punishment" also implied Wells Fargo was neither criminal nor culpable, if I remember well.)

Here is Nomi Prins on Obama's government (and indeed his promises in 2008):

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Nomi, I’d like to ask you—we’re heading into the last few months of the Obama administration. The title of your new book is All the Presidents’ Bankers, "presidents" with the plural, so you’re dealing with all past presidents. But how do you assess the record of the Obama administration in dealing with the criminal activity and the fraud of so many of the major banks in this country?

NOMI PRINS: Well, we just talked about John Stumpf at the beginning of this. The Obama administration has not gotten behind prosecuting any of the individuals at the top of these banks. So we basically have three sets of individuals at the head of three of the six largest banks in the country—we have John Stumpf at Wells Fargo, we have Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs, and we have Jamie Dimon at JPMorgan Chase—who have not only benefited from the post-crisis environment and what the government has allowed them to get away with, their institutions have all grown and flourished, as they’ve been paying very small settlements related to what their profits are to the United States government. So the Obama administration has done a very poor job of handling the criminality of the banking system, of changing the banking system, of personally making responsible, on a—from a criminal basis, the individuals that run the largest institutions in this country.

In addition, it has not broken up the banks. We have a situation where these large banks and these individuals control so many assets and so many deposits of the American people, because they are allowed to do so because of our regulatory framework. Our regulatory framework in the post-Glass- Steagall-repeal environment, which happened under Bill Clinton, before Obama came into power, still exists. That’s why there is so much power in these institutions. That’s why these individuals get away with so much. And that’s why the Obama administration has done a very poor job of changing any of that for the benefit of our country or for economic stability going forward.

I think that is quite true and very sad. And this article is recommended.

3. On Syria and Skittles, demagogues and the damned

The third item is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Democracy Now!

This starts as follows:
The sheer number of people suffering forced displacement today is staggering — the greatest flow of refugees since World War II. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 65.3 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide. Of those, 21.3 million are designated as refugees, and almost half of those people hail from just three countries: Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria. Five million have fled Syria alone, and more than 6 million are internally displaced there. Estimates put the death toll in Syria’s five-year civil war at more than 400,000. The destructive war in Yemen, meanwhile, has forced more than 3 million to flee their homes. The UNHCR
predicts that 2016 will be the deadliest year for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Another key statistic from Oxfam: “The six wealthiest countries [the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom] — which make up more than half the global economy — host less than 9 percent of the world’s refugees while poorer countries and territories are shouldering most of the responsibility.”
Yes, indeed - and 65.3 million people are more people than got killed in WW II, though I agree they are not all dead yet. I also agree that - while especialy the USA's and the United Kingdom's military actions produced millions of refugees - it also are precisely they who refuse to take up most of the refugees.

It seems their refusal to do their humane duties may go back (in the end) to this argument of the neofascist madman's son:
As the U.N refugee summit was underway, Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr., tweeted, “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” Skittles’ parent company, Wrigley, responded, “Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy.”
I agree somewhat with Wrigley - except that I would say that Donald Jr.'s argument wasn't merely about "people": What he meant was that Syrian refugees are poison, that is: They are extremely far removed from truly human people like Donald Jr., who proposes to treat them as poison.

The article ends as follows:

The philosopher George Santayana wrote, more than 100 years ago, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” From the Trumps’ hateful rhetoric to Obama’s pernicious refugee policies, the lives of millions hang in the balance. Let’s hope that reason and compassion prevail over xenophobia and hate.
I like the article and recommend it, but I should also say that (1) I know of Santayana's quote for at least 55 years now, because my parents often used it when they warned against the dangers of a re-emerging fascism, but (2) it
seems to me Santayana was mostly quite literally correct: If you cannot remember the past, you will probably repeat it, for (3) I have seen mostly repetitions of the mistakes of the past, by people who simply did not know the past.

Since history - as a discipline - almost everywhere has been taken from ordinary education (you can take it, but you are not forced to, anymore),
I expect to see many more repetitions of previous mistakes.

I am very sorry, but I am merely applying here what I have learned the last 55 years.

[1]  Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all" (really: the KPN), simply because these haven been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[2] I have in fact three remarks on this, but keep all three limited and brief.

First, while "able-ism" was part of the Nazi-program (that also advertized it would kill idiots and morons), I would not say this was a "hall-mark" of either fascism or Nazism (but then I know a lot about fascism and Nazism).

Second, I am ill (and my ex is ill) since the first year of our university- studies: I fell ill on Jan 1, 1979 and she fell ill on Jan 10, 1979. We are both still ill, and I - at least - have never gotten any excuse for 37 years of continuous discrimination by all Dutch bureaucrats, all Dutch politicians, and
many (but not all) of Dutch "medics" (presently educated in about half the time with less than half of the difficulties that medics had to pass until 1980 or so).

Third, I will not deny there were many fascists or neofascists among the Dutch bureaucrats and politicians who discriminated me and left me completely unhelped and unguarded to survive 7 years of terrorism and murder threats in Amsterdam, were it only because quite a few of the politicians are grandsons or great-grandsons of two Dutch very rich and - it seems to me - quite sadistic Jews (Asscher and Cohen), who helped the Nazis to find over 100.000 Dutch poor Jews, nearly all of whom were murdered, as payment for their not being killed, nor their riches taken from them (which both indeed happened, while after the war the very same - very rich - men did not even have to face any judge: That is Dutch morality).

But I will not affirm they are fascists or neofascists, for the simple reason that this probably is forbidden in Holland about any living person (also if it is quite true, and in spite of the fact that according to Dutch law every Dutchman is "the equivalent" of any other Dutchman, which means that my heroic anti-fascistic father was precisely as good as any Dutch fascists): I am not going to court for offending some of the grandchildren of some of the worst degenerates who ever were born Dutch.

[3] And as to Jill Stein: I have tried to like her, but I found I cannot.

This is from February 25, 2016, when I wrote this about her (after reading Chris Hedges - whom I like, but don't agree with - about her, and after watching several videos with Jill Stein):
Third, I should also say that I have seen very little of Jill Stein (and have read some more) but I don't like her presentation: She shakes her head far too much, and inserts extremely many "you know"s in her texts.

In case you think I am unfair: No, I am not. I am simply reporting on what I saw and I don't dislike Jill Stein. All I am saying is that her presentation is weak, especially for a presidential candidate.
If that seems not enough, I also quoted Stein (literally - you can find it on
February 25, 2016) and then concluded this:
I am sorry, but I am an intellectual of the same age as Jill Stein, and I find that this brief passage contains five "you know"s in a very unclear argument, that also contains complete tautologies like "We are undergoing extinction that we will not survive".

So all in all - and I read the whole interview - I don't think this made me like Jill Stein more.
Since February I have not seen and not read anything to improve my judgement on Stein.

And besides: Even if I thought she is brilliant (which I don't, but suppose) I cannot vote for someone who has no chance whatsoever to win the presidential elections, and voting for whom could cost a non-mad non-fascist
candidate the presidency.

For I am also a psychologist, and I think Trump is a mad narcissist.

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