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Nederlog

Jan 9, 2017
Crisis: Fear, "Russian Hacking", Trump's Tweets, Billionaires, American Crisis
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction   

1.
When Fear Comes
2. The Real Purpose of the U.S. Government’s Report on Alleged
     Hacking by Russia

3.
Trump’s Tweets Are a New Form of Governing by Edict
4.
New Resource Exposes 'Corporate Chieftains' Filling Trump
     Cabinet

5. California Floods, America Burns, Irony Explodes
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of January 9, 2017.

This is a
crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about Chris Hedges' weekly column on Truthdig. This time it is about Solzhenitsyn and Niebuhr. I mostly agree, but not quite (in part because my father and grandfather were special, and not normal). Item 2 is also by Chris Hedges, and gives his ideas about the real purpose of the continued insistence that "the Russians hacked the American elections" (and again I mostly agree); item 3 is about an article by Robert Reich that is partially mistaken (in my opinion); item 4 is about the many very rich billionaires Trump nominated to his cabinet and is quite good; and item 5 is about an article that may be better in intentions than in fact (for I think it is a bit exaggerated).

1. When Fear Comes

The
first item is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn in “The Gulag Archipelago,” his profound meditation on the nature of oppression and resistance in the Soviet gulags, tells the story of a man who was among prisoners being moved in the spring of 1947. The former front-line soldier, whose name is lost to history, suddenly disarmed and killed the two guards. He announced to his fellow prisoners that they were free.

“But the prisoners were overwhelmed with horror; no one followed his lead, and they all sat down right there and waited for a new convoy,” Solzhenitsyn writes. The prisoner attempted in vain to shame them. “And then he took up the rifles (thirty-two cartridges, ‘thirty one for them!’) and left alone. He killed and wounded several pursuers and with his thirty-second cartridge he shot himself. The entire Archipelago might well have collapsed if all the former front-liners had behaved as he did.”

The more despotic a regime becomes, the more it creates a climate of fear that transforms into terror. At the same time, it invests tremendous energy and resources in censorship and propaganda to maintain the fiction of the just and free state.

In fact, this whole article is a reflection on Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his ideas. And the story about the "former front-line soldier, whose name is lost to history" is a good one, and it shows - I think: Solzhenitsyn and Hedges may disagree - that there is a fundamental difference between the many and the few, which manifests itself in several ways, one of which is that the many do not individually resist terror, while the few do.

My own reasons for thinking so are my family background and my own history. I will not discuss my own history here, but do want to point out the following facts about my direct family and the murders of more than 100,000 Dutch Jews between 1940 and 1945, who were murdered with the cooperation of the chiefs of the Jewish Council, David Cohen and Abraham Asscher, both of whom were very rich, and both of whom were promised that they would not die and their families would be allowed to keep their riches. Both promises were kept by the SS. [1]

The more than 100,000 Dutch Jews who were murdered (!!), together formed more than 1% of the Dutch population between 1940 and 1945. It is possible that there were as many Dutchmen who resisted the Nazis, but even if that is true (which I very much doubt, because the Dutch Communist Party was the only big group who went into the resistance, and that counted no more than around 10,000 members in 1940), and even if quite a few Jews were hidden and kept in hiding, the vast majority of the ("racial" [2]) Jews was arrested and murdered.

As to my direct family: Both of my parents were in the communist resistance in WW II; both my father and his father were arrested in June of 1941, and condemned by collaborating Dutch judges [3] as "political terrorists" to concentration camp imprisonments, which my father survived (3 years, 9 months and 15 days), whereas my grandfather, who also was a communist, was murdered.

There may be some Dutchmen who had a more active family in the resistance, but I do not know of them. I also do not know of any long term member of the Dutch Communist Party who was knighted as my father was, briefly before he died in 1980, but he was [4]. Finally, I do not know whether my father or grandfather would have done as the "former front-line soldier, whose name is lost to history", but they might have (although they did not), because they both were real individuals, and meanwhile, at 66, I believe few human beings who survive in their society survive also with that individual independence, indeed in any society I know of. [5]

Here is what happens normally to those who resist their state and their society for moral/ethical reasons:

Those who steadfastly defy the state will, if history is any guide, be decapitated one by one. A forlorn hope that the state will ignore us if we comply will cripple many who have already been condemned. “Universal innocence,” Solzhenitsyn writes, “also gave rise to the universal failure to act. Maybe they won’t take you? Maybe it will all blow over.”

“The majority sit quietly and dare to hope,” he writes. “Since you aren’t guilty, then how can they arrest you? It’s a mistake!
Yes - but as I said, only a few have the individuality, the independence, and the courage to resist a dictatorial state, and indeed few Dutchmen did, in WW II, whereas the vast majority of the Dutchmen avoided resisting the dictatorial state that murdered their fellow Dutchmen for being of the wrong race or for resisting the Nazis.

Also, this is not typical for the Dutch: it is the same everywhere. Then there is this in the article:
Resisting despotism is often a lonely act. It is carried out by those endowed with what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr calls “sublime madness.” Rebels will be persecuted, imprisoned or forced to become hunted outcasts, much as Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are now. A public example will be made of anyone who defies the state. The punishment of those singled out for attack will be used to send a warning to all who are inclined to dissent.
No, I reject the imputation of a "sublime madness" to my father and grandfather. They were individuals; they were independent; they were very courageous, and these three characteristics made them fairly rare, but they were definitely not mad. (I know very little of Niebuhr (<-Wikipedia), in part because I am not at all a Christian, but he was an American of German descent, and while I like some of his ideas, I should add that Niebuhr did not have to resist a German Nazist dictatorship because he lived in the USA. [6])

But I agree that Manning, Assange and Snowden acted like heroes, and I insist that they are some of the few, and not of the many [7], and I also agree that those who stand out as protestors risk being made "
public example[s]" of by the power and the cruelty of the state.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
The machinery of the security and surveillance state, the use of special terrorism laws and the stripping of civil liberties become ubiquitous. The lofty rhetoric of liberty and the reality of the chains readied for the public creates magic realism. Reality and the language describing reality are soon antipodal. The pseudo-democracy is populated with pseudo-legislators, pseudo-courts, pseudo-journalists, pseudo- intellectuals and pseudo-citizens. Nothing is as it is presented.
I think that the USA (and Europe) by now ceased being real democracies and have effectively ceased to be so on 9/11/01, although it took some time to eventuate. But yes, meanwhile the USA (and Europe) are much more like "security and surveillance states" than like real democracies (where it is impossible that the secret services plunder everyone from all his privacies and where it is also impossible that the secret services are mostly unknown while being funded with billions from the tax money).

Also, I agree that - meanwhile - we are living in pseudo-democracies that are effectively led by the very few [8], mostly for the benefits and interests of the rich, and I also agree that the majorities of the legislators, the courts, the journalists, the intellectuals and indeed also the citizens are best described as pseudos, simply because the lives they lead and the choices they make are based on very many conscious, half conscious and unconscious lies and conformisms of these very people. [9]

Finally, while Hedges doesn't say so at all, I like to make the point here that Chris Hedges is one of the journalists who will run enormous risks as soon as Trump is president.

2. The Real Purpose of the U.S. Government’s Report on Alleged Hacking by Russia

The second item is also by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Some thoughts on “Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election,” the newly released declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

1. The primary purpose of the declassified report, which offers no evidence to support its assertions that Russia hacked the U.S. presidential election campaign, is to discredit Donald Trump. I am not saying there was no Russian hack of John Podesta’s emails. I am saying we have yet to see any tangible proof to back up the accusation. This charge—Sen. John McCain has likened the alleged effort by Russia to an act of war—is the first salvo in what will be a relentless campaign by the Republican and Democratic establishment, along with its corporatist allies and the mass media, to destroy the credibility of the president-elect and prepare the way for impeachment.

I agree that the declassified report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence does not contain any "evidence to support its assertions that Russia hacked the U.S. presidential election campaign", but I have to add that I somewhat doubt that "the Republican and Democratic establishment" (etc.) are out "to destroy the credibility of the president-elect and prepare the way for impeachment".

In fact, Chris Hedges may be right and indeed these establishments may also have a good reason, namely that they think - as I do, and as many psychologists and psychiatrists do - that Donald Trump is a madman, but I have seen little evidence that these establishments think so, whereas Trump is very firmly for the rich, which (I think) should make him look attractive to
"the Republican and Democratic establishment".

We go to the second point:

2. The second task of the report is to bolster the McCarthyist smear campaign against independent media, including Truthdig, as witting or unwitting agents of the Russian government. The demise of the English programming of Al-Jazeera and TeleSur, along with the collapse of the nation’s public broadcasting, designed to give a voice to those not beholden to corporate or party interests, leaves RT America and Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! as the only two electronic outlets with a national reach that are willing to give a platform to critics of corporate power and imperialism such as Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Ralph Nader, Medea Benjamin, Cornel West, Kshama Sawant, myself and others.
(..)
After the corporate state shuts down RT, it will go after Democracy Now! and the handful of progressive sites, including this one, that give these dissidents space. The goal is censorship.

I completely agree: I think Trump and his cabinet are authoritarian, anti-democratic, anti-Constitutional, and very probably quite dictatorial, or at least they would like to be (and here there are frightening parallels with Hitler, who was democratically elected [10] and very soon after became dictator, and remained so for twelve years).

Whether Trump and his cabinet will succeed depends a lot on the American institutions, but the signs of these institutions are not good.

The third point I skip (it's about NATO). Here is the fourth point, that again seems quite right:

4. The final task of the report is to give the Democratic Party plausible cover for the catastrophic election defeat it suffered.
(..)
The Democratic Party leadership cannot face, and certainly cannot publicly admit, that its callous betrayal of the working and middle class triggered a nationwide revolt that resulted in the election of Trump. It has been pounded since President Barack Obama took office, losing 68 seats in the House, 12 seats in the Senate and 10 governorships. It lost more than 1,000 elected positions between 2008 and 2012 nationwide. Since 2010, Republicans have replaced 900 Democratic state legislators. If this was a real party, the entire leadership would be sacked. But it is not a real party. It is the shell of a party propped up by corporate money and hyperventilating media.

Yes indeed - and please note that all these losses happened under Obama (who served the rich, like Bush Jr and like Bill Clinton did, but who pretended to want otherwise).

Then again, while I more or less agree that the Democratic Party (like the Republican Party) is not "a real party", I also insist that this is all the USA has (next to parties that may be more "real" but that will never be elected on a federal level) and indeed also that it has these mostly non-real political parties for a long time now. (Also, as long as there is "corporate money" while part of the mainstream media are supporting the Democratic Party, I think it may last quite some time longer, even if the few intelligent will have turned away since a long time. [11])

Finally, here is Hedges' expectation for 2017:

Welcome to our annus horribilis.

I think this is a very reasonable estimate.

3. Trump’s Tweets Are a New Form of Governing by Edict

The
third item is by Robert Reich on his site:
This starts as follows:

Trump’s tweets are a new form of governing by edict. They’re “tweedicts.”

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer says “Whatever he tweets, he is going to drive the news.”

That’s the problem. In driving the news, Trump’s tweedicts gain the power of  implied threats – that he’ll, for example, sanction a particular company (Ford, General Motors, Carrier, or Boeing); unilaterally alter foreign policy (recognize Taiwan, encourage Israel to expand on the West Bank, not back NATO against Russian aggression); unleash his angry followers on a particular critic  (a local union leader in Michigan, a teenage girl in New Hampshire, a TV news host); cause customers or readers to boycott a media outlet (CNN, the Arizona Republican, Saturday Night Live, the cast of Hamilton); or impose high political costs on Republican members of Congress (for pursuing an investigation against Russia, gutting an ethics office).

Hm. First, what is an "edict"? The Wikipedia gives this answer (and that is also all it gives, next to a list of edicts from 273 BC to 1856 AD):

An edict is an announcement of a law, often associated with monarchism. Possibly the Pope and various micronational leaders are currently the only persons who still issue edicts.

I don't think Trump's mostly crazy and mostly lying tweets are edicts: I agree they are both crazy and mostly lying, but since they are also limited to the - totally crazy, possibly intentionally stupid and stupifying [12] - limit of 140 characters, I think not much can be really said in them that would announce a law, nor do I think that is Trump's intent.

And I think Trump's intent with his continued tweets and also with his continued rallies, is to have an easily manipulated and easily available army of his followers, that can be directed to do part of the things Trump desires to be done (whether or not they are legal or Constitutional, which are two things Trump by and large does not care for).

Trump doesn't tweet to announce his edicts: he tweets because he wants his commands, desires and fantasies to be known by his supporters.

And there is also this bit:

The United States is supposed to be a government of laws, not of edicts. Yet Trump’s tweets are gaining power even though they aren’t legislation. They aren’t executive orders (which can be reviewed and overturned by courts). They aren’t even the statements of a president using his “bully pulpit” to make a general point, because they single out particular companies and people.

They are arbitrary and capricious, reflecting the daily whims of Donald Trump.

I agree that the "United States is supposed to be a government of laws" [13], but the laws are not very fair and also are not fairly exercised. And I disagreed already that
Trump's tweets are edicts: They are commands, desires and fantasies that the president-elect himself "believes are true" (which according to his proud journalistic followers "therefore" are true).

Finally, I agree they are "arbitrary and capricious", but it seems to me that this may be mostly due to the inclusion of many of Trump's personal irritations with people who had the guts to publicly disagree with him. I believe that they are considerably less arbitrary and capricious as far as Trump's neofascistic program is concerned.

4. New Resource Exposes 'Corporate Chieftains' Filling Trump Cabinet

The
fourth item is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

For those who want to keep tabs on the corporate influences President-elect Donald Trump's uber-wealthy and "horrifying" cabinet picks will be bringing with them, advocacy organization Public Citizen just unveiled a new resource.

Trump, whose own conflicts of interest continue to mount, "ran against corruption, cronyism, and insider dealmaking," said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, on Friday. Yet, he "is handing control of the government over to corporate chieftains."

Yes indeed - and these "corporate chieftains" all excel in "corruption, cronyism, and insider dealmaking", and Trump seems to have deceived his voters very much (although a considerable part of his voters may be too stupid or too ignorant to see this, alas).

Then there is this:

"Many of the nominees have connections with corporations whose profit-driven interests are directly at odds with the federal agencies Trump has selected them to lead," a press statement announcing the resource states.

Yes indeed, and in fact I think that was the point of many of Trump's nominees: The Republicans hate government, for government may keep them from exploiting the poor as much as they like, and Trump selected those billionaires (especially) who will destroy most of the government in the fields they were nominated for. And I think this was quite conscious, though indeed never clarified.

Here is the future for the USA as seen by the president of Public Citizen:

Trump's corporate Cabinet nominees have staggering conflicts of interest, and if confirmed will drive forward policies to advance the interests of Big Business, not the American people," Weissman added. "We're facing the prospect of a government literally of the Exxons, by the Goldman Sachses, and for the Kochs."

I quite agree (and this is also a reason for me to disbelieve part of what Reich said in the previous item: Trump is very much for Goldman Sachs, the Kochs and the Exxons, and his policies are mostly quite Republican).

And this is a recommended article.

5. California Floods, America Burns, Irony Explodes

The
fifth item of today is by Mark Morford on Common Dreams and originally on the San Francisco Chronicle:

This starts as follows:

The bloated orange president-elect is in love with dumb-thug Russians, tweets about himself in the third person and is readying his murder of conspiracy-minded billionaire-idiots to lead the nation into the darkest, most  shamelessly corrupt period in our short history, all undertaken with a sexual predator’s shrug and an engraved gold pinky ring that spells out #-l-o-s-e-r.

Meanwhile, the 7th-largest economy in the world is, as I write these words, about to undergo truly biblical flooding – and not the helpful kind – following a half-decade of being parched to the bone, thanks to weather extremes wrought, unstoppably, of climate change.

Cars are going driverless, homes are going Big Brother, women are being slammed back to 1950, immigrants are in mourning, Democrats are going underground and stunned Millennials are moving back in with their wary parents as the planet records yet another year as the hottest on human record, shuddering and sighing and girding for much – and with Trump, we do mean much – worse to come.

I think these are mostly exaggerated words by a journalist who set out to shock his readers. I think he is right about the dangers Trump promises, but apart from that it is mostly exaggeration.

Then there is this:

Turns out social media is the new WMD. Turns out you really can dumb down the world’s most powerful nation into a terrible reality TV show, a truly stunning moral and intellectual insult occurring right now at the highest levels of democratic power – exactly the kind of corrosive villainy to which America, quite naively, thought it was immune, but which will be made grotesquely official on January 20th, also known as The Day Democracy Soiled Itself.

There is no real solution, you see. There is no immediate remedy to the fact that we are about to be overtaken by a horde of scorched-earth nutball extremists who make G.W. Bush’s crew look like squirt guns at an AK-47 convention. Trump’s GOP is easily the most hardcore band of extremist white-male sociopaths the nation has seen since the Civil War. Is that an exaggeration? It isn’t.

Hm. I more or less agree with two points.

The first is that "you really can dumb down the world’s most powerful nation into a terrible reality TV show" - but then again I know that for a long time now, while it really is bullshit to insist that (until Trump won the elections) the USA had anything like "the highest levels of democratic power".

The second is that "Trump’s GOP is easily the most hardcore band of extremist white-male sociopaths the nation has seen since the Civil War": That is more or less correct, but I don't think that all or most of Trump's cabinet are "extremist white-male sociopaths", whereas I do think all of Trump's cabinet are pro rich, anti democracy, anti equality, anti liberal, and indeed more or less neofascists as defined by me, and I also think that is far more important than their being "sociopaths" [14].

Finally, here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

What does it mean? For progressives and those with a functioning intelligence, it means a dramatic ideological whiplash. We are no longer building toward the obvious positives we once knew; we are now slammed back to trying to prevent their planned destruction.

Yes, that seems fair - and see point 4 above for the enormous losses of the Democratic Party after eight years of Obama + Hillary Clinton.

But by and large this article sounds a bit too exaggerated to me to recommend it.

---------------------------------
Notes
[1] I am merely summarizing here a bit of national Dutch history not very many Dutchmen know, just as they don't know that (former) alderman and social democrat Rob Oudkerk is a grandson of David Cohen, (former) alderman and present leader of the social democratic party Lodewijk Asscher is a great-grandson of Abraham Asscher, and it seems that Job Cohen either is a grandson or a nephew of David Cohen (but this I don't know, simply because these family connections are hardly ever mentioned in Holland: You may help to murder over 100,000 Jews, but as soon as the war has passed all of that is as if it didn't happen and wasn't important, for most - non-Jewish - Dutchmen).

[2] The term "racial" is quoted and put between quotes, because (1) the Jews are not a race (though Himmler etc. said they were), and (2) many of the nominal Jews who were arrested and murdered also had given up the Jewish faith. (In fact, I have known quite a number of Jews of my parents' age, but most were atheists and either communists or socialists.)

[3] Nearly all Dutch judges collaborated with the Germans, as did the complete Supreme Court of Holland, except their president (who was a Jew, who was very soon
dismissed).

[4] I am stating the facts as I know them, and I know of no Dutch communist who was knighted before my father was (in 1980), and in fact of no Dutch communist who was knighted until after the Dutch communist party had ceased to be (in 1991). A very few Dutch communists got medals after the war for bravery, but these were not knighthoods. (I think all of this was quite intentional, which is also the reason that my
father may have been knighted by mistake. But again I do not know this.)

[5] I think my parents and my grandfather were - also simply from their being communists - in the order of 1 in a 1000 or less. And I know they were considerably more intelligent than most (all with IQs over 130) and I believe they were special, although I know that 99% of Dutchmen pretend that no one is any different from anyone else. (I don't think any of these 99% had communist members of the resistance among their forbears.)

Finally, I think quite a few more are born with individuality and independence than succeed in retaining these as adults, and those who loose it generally loose it because "the majority" does not like people who differ from them: See groups and groupthinking.

[6] These are simply the facts. And yes, in view of the fact that there were few who resisted the Nazis, I think those who did often were special in courage or in intelligence. It is quite possible that Niebuhr was special in that sense, but I do not know, and he was an American.

[7] Again I insist that there are always (in any non-selected, large enough population) people who are special, in several senses: Special in courage, special in intelligence, and indeed also in the opposite ways: special in cowardice and special in stupidity. (And there are many more ways in which people may be special, in a positive or negative sense.)

[8] In fact, most countries are being led by groups of between 50 and 250 men and women: These have direct power or own a great amount of money, and everybody else either doesn't have direct power and usually also not a great amount of money.

[9] Yes indeed: The great majority of the men and women I have met in my 66 years were dishonest and mostly posturing. My parents were not and neither was I, but then again none of us earned more than a minimal income (and for my father and myself, at least, this was not because we were not intelligent or not courageous, but simply because we were not normal like almost everybody else).

[10] Again these are the mere facts, as is the general implication: Democracies may cease to be democracies because the people in majority cease being democrats.

[11] And again a basic fact: As long as an institution - however corrupt, however false - is being supported with considerable amounts of money and with considerable support from the media, it probably will continue to exist.

[12] I think myself it is impossible to say most complicated things (and nearly all things are complicated) within 140 characters (some 28 words), and since I consider that very obvious, I think Twitter may have been quite intentional in limiting what could be said using it to 140 characters maximally. (But I don't know and admit that I despise both Facebook and Twitter.)

[13] I take it that "government of laws" is an English translation of the German (and Dutch) phrase "Rechtsstaat", which may also be translated as "state of law". And I think it is a pity that English needs three fairly vague words to translate a single German (or Dutch) word, that also is clearer than the English translations.

[14] And besides, I dislike the psychiatric term "sociopath" for these may be simply people who disagree with the norms of their society (and they may be quite right, without being crazy, mad or insane in any sense). (The more correct term for a form of madness is "psychopath", but psychiatrists have generally found that less convenient for their purposes than "sociopath".)

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