Nov 10, 2016

Crisis: Greenwald, Schwarz, Frank, Scheer, Fulton
Sections                                                                     crisis index

Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous
     Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit

2. Donald Trump Will Be President. This is What We Do

Thomas Frank: ‘Donald Trump Is Moving to the White
     House, and Liberals Put Him There’

4. Revenge of the ‘Deplorables’
5. Here It Comes: Trump's 100-Day Plan to "Make America
     Great Again"

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, November 10, 2016. This is the day after the day after the American presidential elections, which were won by Donald Trump, who is in my (quite firm) opinion both a neofascist ([2]) and insane (and I am a psychologist: he is a grandiose narcissist, which is a psychopathology).

As to Trump and Clinton, here is Mencken:

The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who tell them the truth.
 -- H.L.Mencken
Basically, what follows is a survey of some of the first attempts to grasp the implications of a Trumpian presidency.

This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links and it consists of five deliberations on the meanings of Trump's election as president of the USA:

Item 1 is by Glenn Greenwald and seems mostly correct (to me [3]); item 2 is by Jon Schwarz, also on The Intercept, but this seems mostly incorrect to me;
item 3 is about Thomas Frank's opinions, which seem mostly false to me; item 4 is by Robert Scheer, and seems mostly correct to me; and item 5 is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams (that I am very glad this still exists) and is quite correct in my eyes.

-- Constant part, for the moment --

B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It was OK for two days now, but again didn't work out in Holland the last days: It keeps being horrible most days. And it still does (10.xi.2016).

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/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [1]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: It does not work correctly, and indeed fails now in the same ways as xs4all: You seem to be systematically denied all news abput updatings. And I think now this happens intentionally on both my sites, for this did not happen for 20 years on the one, nor for 12 years on the other. (10.xi.2016)

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.

1. Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit

The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

The parallels between the U.K.’s shocking approval of the Brexit referendum in June and the U.S.’ even more shocking election of Donald Trump as president last night are overwhelming.

I do not know, and these "parallels" are (at best) analogies, which tend to be partial. But OK: Here are two that I can see.

First, the confident plans of leading politicians and political parties were unexpectedly voted out by a (small) majority [4] of the voting population. And second, those voted in, it turns out, were the rich deceivers, profiteers, and degenerates whose associates have grown extremely rich by thirtyfive years of systematic enrichings of the already rich by the rich.

There are more, but these seem the most important. A shorter form is that one group of deceiving political elites who had the power for eight years was shifted aside by another even worse group of deceiving political elites.

Here is more Glenn Greenwald:

The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully  condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

Yes indeed, although I would probably have formulated this differently. But yes: Since Reagan won the elections, the rich elites have been in power and ruled for themselves, and only themselves, for 35 years continuously, indeed quite independently of whether a Republican or a Democrat was elected: Both were for the rich, although they differed on details.

Next, we arrive a three points Glenn Greenwald singles out. Here is the first:

Beyond the Brexit analysis, there are three new points from last night’s results that I want to emphasize, as they are unique to the 2016 U.S. election and, more importantly, illustrate the elite pathologies that led to all of this:

1. Democrats have already begun flailing around trying to blame anyone and everyone they can find — everyone except themselves — for last night’s crushing defeat of their party.

You know the drearily predictable list of their scapegoats:
Russia, WikiLeaks, James Comey, Jill Stein, Bernie Bros, The Media, news outlets (including, perhaps especially, The Intercept) that sinned by reporting negatively on Hillary Clinton.

Yes, but (i) these are the present elites of the Democratic Party, which (ii) for the moment consist of Clintonites. I don't think that will last long, because it seems likely that both the present elites and the Clintonites will rapidly disappear or at least loose a lot of influence and power.

Then there is this, which is quite justified (in my opinion):
Far more significant is what this shows about the mentality of the Democratic Party. Just think about who they nominated: someone who — when she wasn’t dining with Saudi monarchs and being feted in Davos by tyrants who gave million-dollar checks — spent the last several years piggishly running around to Wall Street banks and major corporations cashing in with $250,000 fees for 45-minute secret speeches even though she had already become unimaginably rich with book advances while her husband already made tens of millions playing these same games.
Yes, indeed. Both Clintons were massively corrupt, and indeed made their millions by massive corruptions of the stated kind (that I indeed construe as conscious payments by the rich for services done by these politicians for the rich).

But then again I'd also argue that the elites of both dominant American parties are and have been grossly corrupt, and indeed the same is probably true of most Senators and member of Congress.

Here is Greenwald's second point:

2. That racism, misogyny, and xenophobia are pervasive in all sectors of America is indisputable from even a casual glance at its history, both distant and recent.

There are reasons why all presidents until 2008 were white and all 45 elected presidents have been men. There can be no doubt that those pathologies played a substantial role in last night’s outcome. But that fact answers very few questions and begs many critical ones.

Yes, possibly Trump owes his election to his "racism, misogyny, and xenophobia" (I don't know, but these certainly were strongly in evidence) and these are important, but it remains to be seen how these are translated into Republican policies.

Here is the third and last point of Glenn Greenwald:

3. Over the last six decades, and particularly over the last 15 years of the endless war on terror, both political parties have joined to construct a frightening and unprecedentedly invasive and destructive system of authoritarian power, accompanied by the unbridled authority vested in the executive branch to use it.

As a result, the president of the United States commands a vast nuclear arsenal that can destroy the planet many times over; the deadliest and most expensive military ever developed in human history; legal authorities that allow him to prosecute numerous secret wars at the same time, imprison people with no due process, and target people (including U.S. citizens) for assassination with no oversight; domestic law enforcement agencies that are constructed to appear and act as standing, para-militarized armies; a sprawling penal state that allows imprisonment far more easily than most Western countries; and a system of electronic surveillance purposely designed to be ubiquitous and limitless, including on U.S. soil.

I lived over six and a half decades, and I don't think "the last six decades" is correct (although indeed I also am not at all fond of presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford - and I can recall all of these, while they were presidents).

And I date the organized rise of the political right as dating back either to Lewis  Powell's letter of 1971, or to Ronald Reagan's presidency that started in 1981, and of these two dates I rather strongly favor the second (for he got real power: Powell only wanted the Rightists to organize, but had little power himself).

Then again, all of the last paragraph is quite true and indeed also very dangerous, because all of this indeed was and is extremely authoritarian, quite rightist, and totally anti-democratic from (I quote) "legal authorities that allow him to prosecute numerous secret wars at the same time" all downward to the end of the paragraph.

And I think that is the main lesson: Trump has won, but Trump is an exponent of an authoritarian, anti-democratic, anti-Constitutional power grasp that both major parties in the USA have been indulging in since 1981 - for Clinton and Obama were more like regular Republicans than regular Democrats, whereas the Republicans since Reagan have moved farther and farther towards the right.

2. Donald Trump Will Be President. This is What We Do Next.

The second item is by Jon Schwarz on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

You’re terrified. I’m terrified too.

It’s not hyperbole to say the United States, and in fact the world, will need some luck to get out of this one alive.
I selected this because I wrote almost precisely the same second sentence (in Dutch). More precisely, with president Donald Trump I give at most 50/50 that there will not be a nuclear war in the next four years.

And Jon Schwarz also draws lessons from the Trumpian presidency. Here is the first:
We can start by sharing whatever educated guesses we have about what we should do for the next few decades. Here are mine.

1. If you can, make politics one of the centers of your life.

Politics is absolutely a matter of life and death. Treat it like it is.

Twenty years ago U.S. elites had so successfully depoliticized America that simply caring about politics was like having a super-weird hobby.
No, I don't think so at all and I have quite good reasons, that start from the fact that both of my parents were in the communist resistance against Nazism in WW II (as in fact only few Dutchmen were), and more or less consequently were doing politics all their lives, as their main occupation.

I do not criticize my parents for their choices (they certainly mostly go back to their being genuine members of the resistance in WW II, which were also rare, noble and courageous choices) but I did not have their experiences, and I chose at age 20, indeed also after a lot of reading and refuting Marx [5], for science rather than politics.

Indeed, this is the rational choice if you are interested in truly understanding the real world, for all
politics is not first and foremost interested in truth but in power; all politics is ideological rather than scientific; and nearly all politics is, for that and other reasons, almost certainly deeply mistaken, at least intellectually, and probably also morally.

There is considerably more I could say, but the brief of it is: If you are interested in having rational and probable opinions, choose for science rather than for politics. [6]

Here is the second point of Jon Schwarz:

2. White liberals must step up right now in the right way.

If there’s going to be any political force that can resist Trump and build a livable future, it will be led by African Americans, Latinos, and young people from all backgrounds.

The role for older, richer white liberals will be important but painfully different from what they’re used to. They’ll have to support other people’s priorities, put up money for things they don’t control and use all of their social power to protect Muslims, immigrants, and every threatened minority.

No. This is also a political decision with little rational foundation. (Also, I do not know what would make "African Americans, Latinos, and young people" so very special in understanding what is true: For me, it doesn't matter what race or gender you have, but it makes a lot of difference how much you have learned about the real facts, how much you know of real science and how intelligent you are.)

Here is the third point by Jon Schwarz:

3. We need a story.

The core belief of the technocrats who run the Democratic Party is that people rationally evaluate facts and then make decisions.

In reality, humans all have an emotional, internally consistent story running inside them all the time about the world and their place in it – and if they encounter any “facts” that contradict this story, the facts just bounce right off. Ironically, this is demonstrated by how Democratic technocrats emotionally reject all the evidence for this.

No. First of all emotional stories are either not consistent or else are in major disagreements with palpable facts. Second, everybody has at least one and probably several ideologies [7], simply because these are essentially stories which are easy to get and for that reason alone (apart from many others) is probably false and certainly one-sided.

What "we need" is more factually correct explanations. (But I agree only a minority is interested and capable.)

4. We don’t need a third party, we just need a party.

When and where are the next Democratic and Republican Party meetings in your neighborhood? You don’t know, because neither the Democrats nor Republicans are political parties in the historical sense. Mostly they just demand we send them money and then yell at us about voting every few years.

While it has almost passed out of Americans’ living memory, parties used to have regular, local meetings where everyone got together, yammered about politics for a while, and then drank beer. Elections were the culmination of what parties did, not the starting point.

I might have agreed if this had been formulated differently, like so: "We don't need a third "party", we need real political parties, rather than committees of and for the rich". Then again, while I might have agreed with that, I also doubt this is possible in the USA, and indeed it has not been shown there since the 1920s or so.

5. We need non-corporate media.

Corporation television funded by corporate ads will never, ever hold political charlatans accountable. That’s not part of their business model.

The core problem is that accurate news isn’t profitable. It never has been and it never will be. Newspapers made it seem like it could be for about 30 years after World War II, but that was an illusion: The news just piggybacked on what people cared about more, like sports and classified ads. As soon as technology made it possible to deliver it all separately, the news business collapsed.

Fortunately, there’s a patriotic solution: public funding.

Yes and no. That is, non-corporate media are very much needed, but I do not know how to get them. And also, I think Schwarz is wrong about the paper media, which were carried by their advertisements. But since these have moved to the internet, it seems paper media may be dying out.

As to Schwarz's solution: Yes indeed - except that it will not happen under Trump, indeed except for such public funding as so far has kept Common Dreams, Truthdig, Mother Jones, ProPublica and some others alive and writing.

Here is the sixth point of Jon Schwarz, that he misnumerated:

7. Be not downhearted.

Don’t give up. As bone-chilling as this moment is, it also proves that no one’s in charge and just about everything in America’s up for grabs.
Hm. You shouldn't give up because you never should give up, until you are mortally ill, at least. But the reason is - I am sorry - poor: Trump will be in charge in a little over two months time, and the rich grabbed nearly everything they could grab.

 3. Thomas Frank: ‘Donald Trump Is Moving to the White House, and Liberals Put Him There’

The third item is by Alexander Reed Kelly on Truthdig:

This is from an article by Kelly, but I will quote only from Thomas Frank. Here is the first bit:

Start at the top. Why, oh why, did it have to be Hillary Clinton? Yes, she has an impressive resume; yes, she worked hard on the campaign trail. But she was exactly the wrong candidate for this angry, populist moment. An insider when the country was screaming for an outsider. A technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine.

She was the Democratic candidate because it was her turn and because a Clinton victory would have moved every Democrat in Washington up a notch. Whether or not she would win was always a secondary matter, something that was taken for granted. Had winning been the party’s number one concern, several more suitable candidates were ready to go.
No, that is mostly baloney.

First, only 55.7% of the people eligible to vote in fact voted. Indeed that is considerably less than in 2008, when 62.2% of the people voted. And second, Clinton polled a little more than Trump (200,000 votes to be precise) but she lost in the Electoral College. Third, the main reason why the Democrats lost is that key Democratic voters did not bother to vote. (And this may be due to the fact that they had to vote for Clinton, but then again, with nearly 45% of the eligible voters not voting I do not know this was a very important reason.)

Here is the second bit:
If Trump is a fascist, as liberals often said, Democrats should have put in their strongest player to stop him, not a party hack they’d chosen because it was her turn. Choosing her indicated either that Democrats didn’t mean what they said about Trump’s riskiness, that their opportunism took precedence over the country’s well-being, or maybe both.
No, that is also mostly baloney. In fact, Trump is a neofascist [2] but that is an aside: The reasons this is mostly baloney are above: Nearly 45% of the eligible voters did not vote, and Clinton only narrowly lost.

Here is the third bit:
With the same arguments repeated over and over, two or three times a day, with nuance and contrary views all deleted, the act of opening the newspaper started to feel like tuning in to a Cold War propaganda station. Here’s what it consisted of:

• Hillary was virtually without flaws. She was a peerless leader clad in saintly white, a super-lawyer, a caring benefactor of women and children, a warrior for social justice.
• Her scandals weren’t real.
• The economy was doing well / America was already great.
• Working-class people weren’t supporting Trump.
• And if they were, it was only because they were botched humans. Racism was the only conceivable reason for lining up with the Republican candidate.

I am sorry, but this is also baloney, for it treats most voters as if they were blind unthinking idiots. Possibly many were, but then Frank should have said that, rather than list the obvious idiocies and inanities that were in mainstream media.

And here is the fourth bit:

How did the journalists’ crusade fail? The fourth estate came together in an unprecedented professional consensus. They chose insulting the other side over trying to understand what motivated them. They transformed opinion writing into a vehicle for high moral boasting. What could possibly have gone wrong with such an approach?

Again I am sorry, but this is more baloney.

First of all, there are at least two groups of journalists: Those who work for the mainstream media, and those who don't. I read both daily, and I much dislike the former, whereas I more or less like the latter, indeed also in case I don't agree, simply because there arguments tend to be better.

And second, the first group (which is much larger) failed because they desired to fail: They desired to reflect the interests of the rich or the government, and they did so, indeed to the extent that many who did not belong to these - small, well-paid, quite corrupt - class of propagandists insisted that these were not real journalists anymore, but only shorthand writers who directly published the propaganda they got from the government or the rich without doing any investigative journalism to test its truth. [8]

4. Revenge of the ‘Deplorables’

The fourth item is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The people Hillary Clinton derided as a “basket of deplorables” have spoken. They have voted out of the pain of their economic misfortune, which Clinton’s branch of the Democratic Party helped engender.

What you have is a defeat of elitism. Clinton’s arrogance was on full display with the revelation of her speeches cozying up to Goldman Sachs—the bank that caused this misery more than any other—and the irony of this is not lost on the people who are hurting and can’t pay their bills. This is a victory for a neofascist populism—scapegoating immigrants and Muslims—and if Bernie Sanders had been the Democrats’ candidate, I feel confident he would have won. We were denied the opportunity of a confrontation between a progressive populist, represented by Sanders, and a neofascist populist.

Hm. Yes and no, but I must start with no: It was not a "basket of deplorables" that elected Trump, firstly because about as many voted for Clinton (in fact: 200,000 more than for Trump), while such analyses as I have read of the kinds of voters strongly suggested that both were mostly supported (apart from blacks and hispanics) in roughly equal fashion by all groups. [9]

Second, I agree with Scheer that Trump is a neofascist populist [2] (and he also is insane, and I am a psychologist) and also that Bernie Sanders would probably have won, if the election had been between Sanders and Trump - but Sanders was outmanoeuvred, quite dishonorably also, by Hillary Clinton and her associates.

Then there is this:

[Hillary Clinton is] terminally tone-deaf.

So too were the mainstream media, which treated the wreckage of the Great Recession as a minor inconvenience, ignoring the deep suffering of the many millions who lost their homes, savings and jobs. The candidate of Goldman Sachs was defeated, unfortunately by a billionaire exemplar of everything that’s evil in late-stage capitalism, who will now worsen instead of fix the system. Thanks to the arrogance of the Democratic Party leadership that stifled the Sanders revolution, we are entering a very dangerous period with a Trump presidency, and this will be a time to see whether our system of checks and balances functions as our Founding Fathers intended.

Yes, I agree mostly with this - although I do insist that I am one of the very few who has consistently said ever since 2008 that the world I am in living in is in deep crisis, and the crisis is firstly (but not only) economical:

The few rich enormously increased their riches over the past 35 years, and they did so at the costs of the many poor, and quite deliberately, while they were helped by the mainstream media, and by enormous amounts of propaganda, lies and deceptions that these - very consciously - spread.

Also, it is my guess that the Trump presidency will show that the "system of checks and balances functions [of] our Founding Fathers" does not work anymore (with a much radicalized Republican Party that now have the power over everything, and also can fill SCOTUS as they like). I hope I am mistaken, but I fear I am not.

There is more in the article.

5. Here It Comes: Trump's 100-Day Plan to "Make America Great Again"

The fifth and last item is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams [10]:

This starts as follows:

At the end of October in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump laid out what his campaign called a "100-day plan to Make America Great Again."

The plan (pdf) came on top of multiple promises Trump made on the campaign trail about what he would do on his "first day in office." Taken together, these vows represent a right-wing agenda that includes:

  • removing "more than two million criminal illegal immigrants from the country;"
  • canceling "every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum, and order issued by President Obama;"
  • suspending immigration "from terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur;"
  • repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act;
  • allowing the Keystone XL pipeline to move forward;
  • lifting restrictions on fossil fuel production;
  • selecting a Supreme Court nominee in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia;
  • canceling "billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs";
  • establishing "a requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated;" and
  • ending federal funding for sanctuary cities.

Yes, indeed: That seems a fair indication of Trump's first 100 days. But Trump may try to do more, for a reason John Nichols formulated:

Make no mistake, Trump now leads the Republican Party. And that party has in recent years developed an approach to power. When it does not control the executive branch, the GOP obstructs the Democrat who is in charge. When it has the executive and legislative branches in its grip, the GOP acts. Quickly.

Yes, indeed - which means they have been acting anti-democratically for quite a few years. Here is more to the same effect:

Ryan himself said Wednesday in the wake of Trump's win: "Now...we will lead a unified Republican government," and talked of working together toward Republican priorities.

"The opportunity is now here, and the opportunity is to go big and go bold," Ryan said.

Yes, indeed.

[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 have 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).

I am saying this not because I want to offend but because I want to explain, and my own explanatory definition of neofascism is this:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.

And this is fascism as I defined it:
Fascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with centralized authority and a dictator, that suppresses the opposition through propaganda, censorship and terror, that propounds an ethics founded on discipline, virility, and collectivism, that has a politics that is totalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-equality, and anti-Marxist, that is also authoritarian, rightwing and nationalistic, and often racist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy, b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
See the following if you are interested: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions. (This lists 22 definitions of the term "fascism", and critically reflects on them.)

[3] I know a whole lot about philosophy of science and logic, and I agree there is a distinction between values and facts. Also, most interpretations tend
to be based on assumptions of both values and facts, and for this reason I often add "to me" when (in part) statements of value are involved.

[4] In fact, Hillary Clinton pulled some 200,000 votes more than Donald Trump, but she lost in the Electoral College. (This has happened before.) And in Great Britain it was a small difference as well.

[5] I had read Marx since I was 14, indeed because both of my parents were communists, and because they had some eight or so books by Marx, Engels and Lenin. And I had read considerably more by Marx (and by Marxists) between age 15 and 20, while I was quite correct about the main things that split me from Marx: (i) the transformation problem in economics (see Steedman); (ii) dialectics in Marx and (especially) Engels; and (iii) the totalitarianism of the communist party my parents were members of.

In brief: My choices at age 20 were quite well reasoned, quite well informed, and quite rational.

[6] Yes, indeed. And especially if this is an important choice (as it will be for a rather small minority only, I am rather certain).

[7] Yes, indeed. In fact, in my own theory of ideologies most groups have some ideology, while almost everybody is a member of many groups (nearly alli of which also indulge in their own kinds of groupthinking).

[8] In fact, I agree that most so-called "journalists" who work for the mainstream media (TV or printed press) are no longer journalists but are in most cases (quite consciously also) propagandists (who tend to hide their own propaganda behind showing proponents of several views as if both were about equally valid, also if this is definitely false: Consider how Trump's extraordinarily many lies were covered by the mainstream media).

[9] Here I am stating the absolute truth to the best of my knowledge, and like to remark that - in spite of looking for it - I have not found many adequate analyses of voters' behaviors and motives (while I read rather a lot of extremely shoddy arguments that jumped to conclusions without much or any rational foundations).

[10] And I like to say that I am pleased to say that Common Dreams still exists, for - as I have said repeatedly before - by and large they are the best alternative media I know.

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