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Nederlog

 Nov 29, 2016

Crisis: Noam Chomsky, Trump & Times, Democratic Party, Annie Machon
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Introduction

1.
Noam Chomsky: ‘Most Predictable Aspect of Trump I
     Unpredictability’—It’s ‘Very Dangerous’ (Video)

2. Trumping The Times
3. The Democratic Party Lost Its Soul. It’s Time to Win It
     Back.

4The West’s Shift Toward Repression
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, November 29, 2016.

A.
This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links and it consists (mostly) of some further deliberations on the meanings of Trump's election as president of the USA:

Item 1 is a very good interview with Noam Chomsky on Al Jazeera: You are strongly adviced to watch it; item 2 is on an article by Todd Gittlin, which ends with my own tentative explanation about the decrease of the importance of truth (and I recall that the University of Amsterdam was officially and publicly opened in 1978 by a professor who insisted that "Everybody knows that truth does not exist" (implying my father was a liar about the concentration camps he survived, and Irwin was quite right in doubting the Holocaust - but nobody except me and a few others drew these obvious conclusions); item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich that seems fairly naive to me; and item 4 is about an article by Annie Machon who correctly says all of the West us shifting towards
repression (and surveillance, and the rich, and massive corruption, and the military).

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days. And it still does (on 11 - 17.xi.2016). 18.xi. was correct as
was 19.xi. 20.xi again was a stinking mess, as was 21.xi and 22.xi. It was correct on 25.xi. And horrible on 26.xi and 27.xi.

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: This worked correctly on 11 and 12 xi.2016, but not the day before nor on 13.xi.2016. It was OK on 14.xi.2016 and on 15.xi.2016. But not on 16 and 17.xi.
18.xi. was correct as were 19, 20, 21 and 22.xi. This also was
correct on
25, 26 and 27.xi.

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. (And this is not "automatic": it changes from day to day.)

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. Noam Chomsky: ‘Most Predictable Aspect of Trump Is Unpredictability’—It’s ‘Very Dangerous’ (Video)

The first item today is a video of 25 minutes by Al Jazeera that consists of some 20 minutes of interview with Noam Chomsky:

It so happens that I do not often put up videos of 25 minutes. [3] But this is an exception: The above links to Youtube and is a good and interesting interview with Noam Chomsky, who never gets interviewed at this length on the American media.

This is a good interview with several interesting points, one of which is that Chomsky says (literally) that in his opinion, Trump is an "
ignorant, thin-skinned megalomaniac", which happens to be very close - verbally, at least - to my opinion about Trump.

Incidentally, the reason I inserted "verbally, at least" is that I do not know in what more or less precise sense Chomsky uses "megalomaniac". Then again, one of my reasons to start using "megalomaniac" for "grandiose narcissist" - for which see here and here - is that I believe the former term is much better understood by most people than the latter - somewhat artificial - term.

In any case, here is the definition of "megalomania" that was still in Wikipedia in March of 2016, since when they removed it, which was an unwise decision:
Megalomania is a psychopathological condition characterized by fantasies of power, relevance, omnipotence, and by inflated self-esteem. Historically it was used as a name for narcissistic personality disorder prior to the latter's first use by Heinz Kohut in 1968, and is used today as a non-clinical equivalent.
I strongly advice you to watch the interview. It starts soon after the beginning,
and it takes most of the 25 minutes given to it, but there is one pause in the middle in which the interviewer spends some 3 or 4 minutes arguing - by himself, with statistics and facts - that Trump's winning was (in his opinion) not due to "it's the economy, stupid!". It is not bad, but it also is typically unprovable, for it consists of statements about the ideas of over 120 million Americans absolutely no one knows or interviewed.

But Chomsky's contributions are fine, and I agree with nearly all of them.
2. Trumping The Times

The second item is by Todd Gitlin (<- Wikipedia) on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

We have plunged into an emergency, and one reason is that journalists who are supposed to supply a picture of the world failed to do so. Not the only reason, but one reason, which is enough to prompt serious rumination.

Yes, indeed. Todd Gitlin happens to be a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, but he is right in the above quotation. The following is a bit less clear:

I wrote last week about journalists searching their souls, trying to figure out what they did wrong in this appalling campaign. Like the rest of us — nobody deserves a free pass in an endangered world — they’re obliged to think deeply about what to do better. Is it too impossibly high-minded and do-goody to insist that their reason for being is to offer the American people what they need to know in order to better choose their course? If that is in fact their mission, they have failed abjectly.

The two reasons this is a bit less clear are that (i) I think it is quite clear why most journalists in the mainstream media [4] failed: They were far too much concerned with spreading propaganda, lies, deceptions, half-truths or plain baloney, and (ii) I do not think it is the duty of journalists to help others "to better choose their course": it is their duty to write the truth and to critically reflect on claims of truth. [5]

But in fact quite a few have given up on truth, which is one reason why the Oxford Dictionaries selected"post-truth" as "word of the year". This is from the Wikipedia item "Post-truth politics":

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of "secondary" importance.

So in fact "post-truth" is itself a euphemism for emotion-based lies, falsehoods and bullshit, for that is what "post-truth" comes down to.

Here is one of the outcomes of "post-truth politics", according to Todd Gitlin:

Almost half of the voters have just chosen to be led by a profoundly disturbed ignoramus who refuses to understand he has obligations to Americans who are not members of his family. For journalists who persist in believing their leaders are chosen intelligently, the crisis is apparent and urgent. But the so-called learning curve is getting an appallingly sluggish start. Journalists who should know better are busy complaining about their lack of access to the bullshitter-in-chief, as if access were the golden road to truth and not, often at least, a shortcut over a cliff.

For me, journalists who complain "about their lack of access to the bullshitter-in-chief" are simply bullshitters or liars who invent excuses to continue their propaganda (which is much easier to write and bettter paid).
You do not need to speak to Trump in order to judge his actions, his lies and his propaganda, and if you say you do, as a journalist, you are lying.

The following is correct (I think):

For evidence, reader, please peruse the transcript of Trump’s on-again, off-again, back-on again meeting in a New York Times conference room last week. Read the whole thing. It’s not that long. Then consider The Times’ headline the next day: “Trump, in Interview, Moderates Views but Defies Conventions.” The le[ad]: “President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday tempered some of his most extreme campaign promises, dropping his vow to jail Hillary Clinton, expressing doubt about the value of torturing terrorism suspects and pledging to have an open mind about climate change.”

Nothing to worry about, then.

Other news organizations followed suit.
In fact, you can read my review of that interview (I think) here and this is my judgement on the transcript of the interview (from November 24, last):
As to the content of the interview: I found it mostly quite obsequious and complimentary to Trump, but then I must add that I do not expect much of the present NYT or indeed of the present The Guardian: Both are now good examples of the mainstream media, and the mainstream media are dishonest, though indeed it varies also with the subject and with the journalist.
Here is some more by Gittlin. I agree with most that is quoted next, but it seems many journalists and "journalists" (the fake article, that mostly propagandizes) do not:
When journalists sit down at a table with a man so fundamentally ignorant, self-seeking, unscrupulous and unreliable, a man who, when he doesn’t lie, characteristically emits bullshit — the now academically canonized term for propositions whose truth or falsity he doesn’t know or care to know — is it not evident that they must gird themselves at the first sign of flattery, to realize that his mission is to play them, to keep them off-balance?
Gittlin's article ends as follows:
How much more of this garbage must spew from Trump Tower before one of our crucial newspapers — one that Trump himself, in full-on ingratiation mode, termed “a world jewel” — calls a halt to tiptoeing around? I cannot help but think that this is more than a tactic to earn access; it is abject servility. It is, as Trump might put it, a show of pathetic weakness. At this late date, do the standard-bearers of “neither fear nor favor” fear that a shortfall in deference will inspire some Trump hack or Breitbart clone to denounce them as “biased”? Are they capable of embarrassment? Have they no shame?

I say. And Gittlin may be correct in his diagnosis of the New York Times as having engaged in "abject servility" to Trump in the transcript I reviewed.

There also is a somewhat different explanation. It is as follows, and I give it without being abled to judge it rationally:

It has struck me several times now that quite a lot of the strong opponents of Trump are in their fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties. (I do not know whether that is really correct, for one thing because older people got more time to acquire some fame, which again makes the more prone to be interviewed, but this is how it struck me.)

One rather reasonable explanation is that these are among the last persons who did get a good university education (compared to what I saw arising already in the early 1980ies in the University of Amsterdam, and in Holland, which was very much less demanding, and much easier to pass [6]).

Also, their university education still was in the traditions of science and truth - but quite a lot of that simply stopped for the most part in the 1990ies, with the rise and the strong academic popularity of postmodernism (in linguistics, in literature, in philosophy, in political science, in sociology, to name some seriously afflicted studies).

So one of my explanations for the rise of "post-truth politics" is that much of the academic education most people received from the late 1980ies or the 1990ies onwards was much less scientific, much more simple, and especially much less concerned with real truth and real facts than it was before the 1980ies.

I think I am quite right about my judgements on the university education that I got (which mostly happened in the shift between the genuinely academic tradition and the new tradition that got quite popular in the 1990ies). But I can't judge rationally whether it is a correct explanation for the servility of many journalists, for I lack a lot of information (that is probably simply unknown).

3.
The Democratic Party Lost Its Soul. It’s Time to Win It Back.

The third item is b
y Robert Reich on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Who will become the next chair of the Democratic National Committee? This leadership contest has significant implications for the future of American politics. The choice will help determine how the Democratic party responds to its extraordinary defeats in recent years, ending with the election of Donald Trump.

You might think this overwhelming drubbing would cause the Democratic party to reorganize itself into a very different party from the one it’s become – which is essentially a giant fundraising machine, too often reflecting the goals and values of the moneyed interests that make up the bulk of its funding.

Don’t bet on it.

That - "Don’t bet on it" - seems a correct diagnosis: money = power (and lack of money = lack of power).

The following seems less relevant to me:

For one thing, many vested interests don’t want the Democratic party to change. Most of the money it raises ends up in the pockets of political consultants, pollsters, strategists, lawyers, advertising consultants and advertisers themselves, many of whom have become rich off the current arrangement. They naturally want to keep it.

Of course, they "want to keep it", but they or others who play similar roles will be there regardless of the policies that the Democrats subscribe to. And the following also seems less relevant to me:

For another, the Democratic party apparatus is ingrown and entrenched. Like any old bureaucracy, it only knows how to do what it has done for years.

The bureaucracy also is less important: What is important is the above point that money = power, and the implied points that the leading Democrats have - for many years, also: at least 25 now - been paid by the rich, worked for the rich (bankers, especially), propagandized for the rich, and indeed also have totally given up on any radical changes in the economy or the govern- ment (for that was instituted by Bill Clinton: See the - completely fraudulent, extremely dishonest - Third Way).

This is from near the end of the article:

So what we now have is a Democratic party that has been repudiated at the polls, headed by a Democratic National Committee that has become irrelevant at best, run part-time by a series of insider politicians. It has no deep or broad-based grass-roots, no capacity for mobilizing vast numbers of people to take any action other than donate money, no visibility between elections, no ongoing activism.
(...)
In other words, to become a credible force that wins elections and addresses what ails America, the Democratic party must no longer represent America’s ruling class. It must be the voice of the dispossessed – now the majority of Americans.

I am sorry, but this seems most like wishful thinking to me. It is true that the Democratic Party has "no deep or broad-based grass-roots, no capacity for mobilizing vast numbers of people to take any action other than donate money, no visibility between elections, no ongoing activism" - but why would it need to?

As I said, lack of money = lack of power, and the vast majority of the Americans lacks both. And both dominant political parties are now being paid by the very rich, and indeed have been so for quite a long time.

This - it seems to me - makes it extremely hard to change, indeed in considerable part because the very rich know very well that they will not be benefitted by "
broad-based grass-roots".

And while this is not as I would like to see it, this seems to be the fact. Then again, I do not know enough about the Democratic Party to provide some numerical precision.

4. The West’s Shift Toward Repression

The fourth and last item today is by Annie Machon (<- Wikipedia) on Consortiumnews (and there is some more on Annie Machon here):

This is from near the beginning (and a considerable part of this article is mostly a repeat of what any regular reader of Nederlog knows for several years now - and see the crisis index if you are interested):

If you work in finance anywhere in the world and you see irregularities, it is apparently your legal duty to report them through appropriate channels and then count the dollars as they flow in as reward. Such is the power of globalization, or at least the U.S. self-appointed role as the global hegemon. 

However, if you happen to work inside the U.S. government, its intelligence agencies or its military, under the terms of the U.S. Constitution, it would appear that you also have a solemn duty under oath to report illegalities that violate the Constitution by going through the officially designated channels and hoping that reform is the result.

I think the first paragraph is a bit exaggerated, but the second is quite correct. Here is more on it:

[Thomas] Drake had gone through all the prescribed routes for such disclosures, up to and including a congressional committee.

Despite all this, Drake was abruptly snatched by the FBI in a violent dawn raid and threatened with 35 years in prison. He (under the terrifying American plea bargain system) accepted a misdemeanor conviction to escape the horrors of federal charges, the resulting loss of all his civic rights and a potential 35 years in prison.  He still, of course, lost his job, his impeccable professional reputation, and his whole way of life.

Here is more on Thomas Drake (<-Wikipedia) and also on William Binney (<-Wikipedia):

He was part of a NSA group that also included William Binney, the NSA’s former Technical Director, and his fellow whistleblowers Kirk Wiebe, Ed Loumis and Diane Roark. These brave people had developed an electronic mass-surveillance program called Thin Thread that could zero in on those people who were genuinely of security interest and worth targeting, a program which would have been relatively cheap, costing only $1.4 million and would have been consistent with the terms of the Constitution. According to Binney, it could potentially have stopped 9/11 and all the attendant horrors..

Instead, it appears that bureaucratic backs were scratched and political favors called in by the incoming neoconservative government of George W Bush in 2000, and another program called Trail Blazer was developed, to the tune of $1.2 billion – and which spied on everyone across America (as well as the rest of the world) and thereby broke, at the very least, the terms of the Constitution.

Yet Bill Binney was still subjected to an FBI SWAT team raid – he was dragged out of the shower early one morning at gunpoint. All this is well documented in an excellent film “A Good American” and I recommend watching it.

Yes, that is mostly correct (and has been documented in much more detail in Nederlogs since 2013). Then there is this, which seems to me to confuse two issues:

President Dwight Eisenhower, in his valedictory speech in 1961, warned of the subversive interests of the “military-industrial” complex.  That seems so quaint now as we face a steroid-pumped, globalized military surveillance industry that will do anything to protect its interests. So, rather than holding the powerful and well-connected accountable for fleecing and spying on the American people, it is the principled whistleblowers who are crushed — “pour encourager les autres.

The two issues Annie Machon seems to confuse are (i) an accurate diagnosis of the forces that rule the USA (which is what Eisenhower tried to give) and (ii) the present - enormous - size of the "military surveillance industry". Here is more
on
the military-industrial complex (<-Wikipedia)

The military–industrial complex (MIC) is an informal alliance between a nation's military and the defense industry which supplies it, seen together as a vested interest which influences
public policy.
(..)
In a U.S. context, the trope is sometimes extended to military–industrial–congressional complex (MICC), adding the U.S. Congress to form a three-sided relationship termed an iron triangle. These relationships include political contributions, political approval for military spending, lobbying to support bureaucracies, and oversight of the industry; or more broadly to include the entire network of contracts and flows of money and resources among individuals as well as corporations and institutions of the defense contractors, private military contractors, The Pentagon, the Congress and executive branch.

There is a lot more in the Wikipedia-item and it seems to me - still - a quite good analysis of some of the main forces that rule the USA.

Annie Machon is British, and here is some on the recent turn to neofascism - see [2] for my meaning - that Great Britain made, with parliamentary support, that indeed were mirrored (to an extent) by Norway and Germany:

In the U.K., a country where the intelligence agencies have for the last 17 years been illegally prostituting themselves to advance the interests of a foreign country (the U.S.), this is simply unacceptable. Especially as the U.K. has just made into law the Investigatory Powers Act (2016), which legalizes all this previously illegal activity and indeed expands the hacking powers of the state. (This law was enacted over expert advice.)

More worryingly, the ultra-liberal Norway, which blazed a calm and humanist trail in its response to the murderous white-supremacist terrorist attacks of Anders Breivik five years ago, has now proposed a draconian surveillance law.

And Germany – a country horrified by revelations made by Snowden in 2013 which stirred memories of the surveillance powers of the Gestapo and the Stasi last century – has also just expanded the surveillance authority of its intelligence agencies.

I don't know whether I agree with everything (I think not), but let that be.

Annie Machon is more or less right in saying, as her title does, that "the West" is shifting towards repression - or at least its governments are, and its military is, and its secret services are, and its police is.

Why are they? The simplest answer is the one I gave in item 3: Money = power, and the rich have learned from Lewis Powell Jr. (<- Wikipedia) that they should invest some more money in buying politicians and political parties, and that if they do, they will get their investments back ten-fold or a hundred-fold.

They did, and since in fact they needed to corrupt only a few, the very rich were extremely successful. [7]

--------------------------
Notes
[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).

[2]
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.

Also, I am rather certain that most (not: all) of those who style themselved as "neoliberals" in fact are neofascists as defined (even though they probably do not like the term).

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]
Why not? There are two general reasons. The first is that I read much faster than people can talk, while written materials tend to be better formulated than spoken material. And the second is that I just - still - don't like TV: I don't have one since 1970, because I think most programs are stupid and there is far too much advertising and propaganda on it. The main reason is the first.

[4]
Note that this is explicitly about the mainstream media.

[5] The reason that I reject
that it should be a journalist's end to help non-journalists "to better choose their course" is mostly that two persons may be both completely convinced that something is true (which it very well may be) without having any agreement on what is the best course for themselves or their country. I agree that you generally need to know at least part of the truth to successfully plot your course, but what your course will be depends not only on what you think or know to be true, but also on your values.

[6] I am sorry, but I think I am completely right about this: It is very much easier to attend a university: In 1965 you had to take written and oral examnations in 14 or 16 different subjects, including at least three foreign languages; by 1975 these were reduced to 6, with just one foreign language;
and by the 1990ies all university studies were halved in time, more than halved in difficulty, and were made much more expensive.

This is what happened in Holland, and something rather similar happened in most Western countries (in fact all I know, except for Finland).
 
[7] In fact, here is a hidden reference to Aristotle's opinions, who was quite dismissive of democracy, which he saw as an inbetween stage between some kind of aristocracy, that he favored, and some kind of tyranny. The USA may have arrived at the stage of tyranny, although I grant that is as yet uncertain.

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