Prev-IndexNL-Next

Nederlog

Saturday, Jan 28, 2017
Crisis: On The Media, Torturing People, Chomsky, Gorbachev On War, On Trump
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1.
"The Media is the Opposition Party": Trump Adviser Steve
     Bannon Tells Press to "Keep Its Mouth Shut"

2. The President of the United States Explicitly Endorses Torture
     — a Crime Against Humanity

3.
Noam Chomsky: Explaining the 'Collapse' That Gave Us Donald
     Trump

4.
Mikhail Gorbachev: Appears 'The World Is Preparing for War'
5.
Trump the Man-Child
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, January 28, 2017. (I now started including the day of the week.)

Summary: This is a crisis log with 5 items and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interview by Amy Goodman about Steve Bannon (who thinks that "[t]he media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States."); item 2 is about Trump's explicit personal support for torturing people, which is a crime against humanity; item 3 is about a good interview with Noam Chomsky; item 4 is about a good article
on Gorbachev (who warns - correctly in my view - for war); while item 5 is about an article by Robert Paul Wolff about Trump, that I found so-so (and much less clear than
the list of points I quote from the DSM 5 about the narcissistic personality disorder, which I think Trump evidently has).
As for today (January 28, 2017): I have meanwhile attached a message to the openings of both of my sites which points out that for somehing like a year now both of my sites more or less systematically, but unpredictably, show the wrong date and the wrong files, indeed going so far back as 2015, and as if I did not write anything since then.

Today the Dutch site was wrong again (it didn't pass January 25 for me, and God knows where it stuck for you) but now the Danish site was right... (and I have been daily uploading my site for quite a few years now: not even that gets properly shown now, since about a year).

Somebody really wants you not to read my sites.

More about this later, probably in the weekend.
1. "The Media is the Opposition Party": Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Tells Press to "Keep Its Mouth Shut"

The first item today is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!:
This starts with the following introduction:
The battle between Donald Trump and the press escalated Thursday after one of Trump’s top advisers called the media the opposition party. In a rare interview with The New York Times, Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said, "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while." Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, added, "I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States." We speak to reporter Sarah Posner, who interviewed Bannon in July. In August, she wrote a headline-grabbing article for Mother Jones about Steve Bannon titled "How Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists."
I say. And I should add immediately that somebody who says
"I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States."
is talking extreme and pretentious bullshit, especially because he does not explain why the media "don't understand" the USA or Trump.

There is this about Steve Bannon (<-Wikipedia) in the article:
AMY GOODMAN: (...) Bannon is the former head of right-wing Breitbart Media, which frequently publishes racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and xenophobic news. While he rarely speaks to the media, Breitbart is now playing a key role in the new administration. According to reports, Bannon wrote part of Trump’s inuaugural speech and penned Trump’s executive orders on everything from expanding the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico to weakening the Affordable Care Act.
This means that Bannon has a great lot of power, right now. Here is Sarah Posner on Bannon:
SARAH POSNER: Well, this is an effort by the Trump administration to intimidate the media, first. And second, the comments are directed not just at the media, which I would predict is going to be not intimidated by Bannon, but it’s also directed at Bannon’s own audience at Breitbart News and the entire constellation of the alt-right, for which Bannon claimed that Breitbart is the platform. He told me in July that Breitbart is the platform for the alt-right.
I think that is all correct. There is also this:
SARAH POSNER: So, Bannon, when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention in July, like I said, he told me that Breitbart is the platform for the alt-right. He denied that the alt-right is a white nationalist movement, but he basically admitted that it’s an ethnonationalist movement, and he pointed to these far-right, authoritarian, populist movements in Europe that were the model for the alt-right. And he said that these nationalist movements were alive and well in the United States before President Trump became a candidate for president, that he did not create this movement. And Bannon actually credited somebody else with really spurring this movement, and that’s Jeff Sessions, who’s about to become Trump’s attorney general.
I suppose that is correct as well, and it is at least a little bit interesting that Trump's alt right secretary of state says that Trump's attorney general in fact created the alt right movement in the USA.

It does show you whence Trump comes.

2. The President of the United States Explicitly Endorses Torture — a Crime Against Humanity

The second item is by Alex Emmons on The Intercept:
This starts as follows:

Even George W. Bush called torture abhorrent.

“Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right, and we are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law,” he wrote on the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture in 2004.

Bush’s words were outrageously insincere and hypocritical, considering that his administration brutally tortured hundreds of captives in the war on terror, referring to it euphemistically as “enhanced interrogation.”

But in his first week as president, Donald Trump won’t stop telling the world that he approves of torture, thumbing his nose at a basic international norm of legality and decency.

What is entirely unprecedented is his willingness to use the word “torture” — a crime by definition — while openly defending it.

Yes indeed. Then again, I think I should add that I agree that Bush Jr. was very much a hypocrite, while I am not certain about Trump, except that I think - as a psychologist,  with lots of experience with some insane persons - that he is not sane and that he reads no books and looks a lot of TV. I would tend to suppose that Trump knows torture is a crime, but I do not know.

And there is this (and Mattis does know that torture is a crime):

Trump conceded on Friday that he will defer to his defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis, who holds a contrary opinion. But in doing so, he reiterated his personal support for torture.

Mattis “has stated publicly that he does not necessarily believe in torture or waterboarding or however you want to define it — enhanced interrogation I guess would be a word that a lot of — words that a lot of people would like to use,” Trump said at a joint press conference with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. “I don’t necessarily agree, but I would tell you that he will override because I’m giving him that power.”

Trump continued: “I happen to feel that it does work. I’ve been open about that for a long period of time. But I am going with our leaders. And we’re going to — we’re going to win with or without, but I do disagree.”

I say. Here is the law (in the USA):

Multiple federal laws establish “torture” as a punishable crime. The 1996 War Crimes Act punishes any “grave breach” of the Geneva conventions, including “torture.” The 1994 U.S. anti-torture statute says that someone who “commits or attempts to commit torture” can be punished by a 20-year prison sentence. And the UN Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. ratified in 1994, says “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever … may be invoked as a justification of torture.” The charter for the International Criminal Court calls it a “crime against humanity” when conducted on civilians, and a “war crime” in the context of war.

And I should also add here that there is a considerable difference between words and acts, and that there is much more torturing than is admitted by politicians. Then again, torturing is illegal.

3. Noam Chomsky: Explaining the 'Collapse' That Gave Us Donald Trump

The third item is by Noam Chomsky, Kenneth Palmer and Richard Yarrow on AlterNet and originally on Chomsky.Info:
This is from near the beginning (and the "Chomsky:"s are put in by me for clarity and do not occur in the article):
Chomsky: (...) what’s happening in Europe and the United States has certain similarities. It fundamentally traces back, I think, to the new liberal programs of the past generation which have just cast a huge number of people to the side. These programs have improved corporate profit, kept wages stagnant, and highly concentrated wealth and power. They’ve undermined democracy. People have no faith or trust in institutions in Europe—it’s actually worse than [in the United States]. Decisions are basically made in Brussels; people can elect whoever they like, but [the EU elections] have almost no implications for policy.
I agree on "neo-liberalism" (a propaganda term) and on the fact that this has been going on and growing stronger and stronger since the 1970ies. But I do not think that the Brexit parallel (if it is indeed a parallel) explains much about Trump, while I really do not know whether "it’s actually worse" in Europe (where I live) than in the United States.

Then there is this on the effects of a strong increase in deaths in the USA due to opioids and alcohol:
How would you say that change in mortality rates has been affecting American culture or society?

Chomsky:  It’s the other way around, I think: the changes in American culture and society have led to the mortality rates. This is a sector of exactly the kind of people I was describing, mostly white and mostly male, in the sort of working age period of their lives, who are apparently suffering from depression, loss of face, lack of sense of any self-worth, and turning to drugs and alcoholism. Something similar happened in Russia during the market reforms of the 1990s. There was a huge increase in the death rate, and probably millions of people died. And a lot of it was the same sense that “everything’s falling apart, we have nothing, I’ll just drink myself to death.”

I think Chomsky is wholly right on this. Then there is this on the - great - consequences of the lack of an organized labor movement in the USA:

Chomsky:  It would be quite different if, say, there was an organized labor movement, which could mobilize people. In the 1930s the situation was objectively far worse, but there was a sense of hopefulness. I am old enough to remember—there was militant labor action, CIO organizing, left-wing parties, and a relatively sympathetic administration, and so somehow we were going to get out of this. And now people don’t have that. It’s a striking difference.

Again I wholly agree. Then there is this about Steven Pinker (with whom I disagree - and see here):

Psychologist Steven Pinker argues that over time we’ve been able to use reason and the “better angels of our nature” to make improvements in reducing violence. Would you agree with his analysis?

There’s something to that, but the story that he presents is pretty shaky. I mean, ninety-five percent, roughly, of human history is in hunter-gatherer societies. He claims that they were very violent and brutal, but the specialists on the topic don’t agree with him. There’s work by some of the leading people who work on indigenous societies—Brian Ferguson, Douglas Fry, Stephen Cory—they just claim [that Pinker’s notion about hunter-gatherers is] completely false. The large-scale killings are pretty much associated with the origin of cities and the state system. (...)
So Europe had centuries of murders and internal wars, but not after 1945 because the next one’s the end. I don’t think that shows anything about the better angels of our nature. In fact, most of the wars since 1945 have been exported, and if you take a look at the way Pinker handles these, he mostly blames the victims. The wars, he says, are in Southeast Asia and Muslim areas. I mean, is that because of the Iraqis and the Vietnamese?
I agree with Chomsky.

And here is the last bit that I'll quote from this interview, namely Chomsky on the two leading issues of the time in which we live - that are hardly ever discussed in the media:

What do you think is the most important issue in international politics that is not being adequately discussed today?

Well, there are two huge issues, neither of them being adequately discussed. One is an increasing and very serious threat of possible nuclear war, especially at the Russian border. The other’s an environmental catastrophe, which is coming at us very fast, and there’s nothing much being done about it. These are issues of species survival, really, beyond anything that’s ever been written about in human history.
I totally agree (and am quite pessimistic, myself). This is a recommended article.
4. Mikhail Gorbachev: Appears 'The World Is Preparing for War'

The fourth item is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has warned that it appears "as if the world is preparing for war."

Writing in an op-ed published Thursday at TIME magazine, Gorbachev, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in ending the Cold War, writes that the most pressing problem facing the world is "the militarization of politics and the new arms race."

State budgets, he continues, claim austerity to sacrifice social spending, but easily back funding for weapons of war. At the same time, he writes of the buildup on Russia's borders: "NATO and Russian forces and weapons" are now in close proximity "as if to shoot point-blank."
Yes indeed: I agree. There is also this on past agreements:

While he and President Ronald Reagan agreed in 1985 "that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," now, "the nuclear threat once again seems real," with "advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex [...] rubbing their hands." And that, he declares, is absolutely the wrong direction to solve the world's ills. Instead, war of any kind must be abolished, he writes:

In modern world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war—not poverty, nor the environment, migration, population growth, or shortages of resources.

He called on the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution—which should be put forth by U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin—that restates that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. "

I do not think that wars can be outlawed (and they never have been), but I agree that
starting a nuclear war is utter madness, because it almost certainly will destroy the earth. Then again, I agree with Gorbachev that there are plenty of
"advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex [...] rubbing their hands."

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

More recently, in 2016, he said, "The window to a nuclear weapon-free world…is being shut and sealed right before our eyes."

"As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a danger that someday they will be used as a result either of accident or technical failure or of evil intent of man, an insane person or terrorist," Gorbachev said.

Trump, however, out of step with most of the world, used Twitter to call for an expanded U.S. nuclear arsenal—a fact that contributed to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists this week moving its symbolic Doomsday Clock closer to midnight.

Yes indeed. And as I have said before, I think Trump may start a nuclear war. This is a recommended article.

  5. Trump the Man-Child

The fifth and last item today is by Robert Paul Wolff (<-Wikipedia) on his site:
This has the following in the beginning (and I undid the all capitals title):
Today I shall engage in some speculation about Trump the man, about what makes him tick, and how we might use our conclusions to influence him and even, perhaps, to damage his ability to harm this country and the world.  My observations will be psychological, not political.  Now, we litigated here some while ago the appropriateness of using medical terms drawn from psychoanalysis to describe Trump, and we agreed that doing so was unwarranted since I am not a trained analyst and neither I nor anyone reading this blog has the sort of clinical access to Trump on which a medical diagnosis could be based.  But as I noted then, and will repeat now, people have been sizing up other people at least since the start of recorded history and in all likelihood for 100,000 years before that.  All of us form judgments about people every day, based on our experience and observations, and I do not intend to refrain from doing so simply because I am unable to offer clinical justification for my judgments.
I completely agree with the latter part of this, but not quite with the former part.

Since I am a psychologist, I can say immediately that clinical psychology and psychiatry are the only "sciences" [1] known to me that do not permit applying the science except under extremely irrealistic conditions, since in fact they only permit it to trained psychiatrists who (i) know the person and (ii) have his or her permission to diagnose the person.

In fact, I think myself that is total crap, especially about Trump, and I agree with Wolff for the reasons he gave. Besides, those who still have moral problems about "diagnosing" Trump, should be satisfied - I think, at least - by not using the term "diagnosis" but the term "personal or professional opinion".

Here is Wolff's personal opinion on Trump (in part):
The first thing we must understand is that Trump is not a normal person whose actions fall within the customary parameters of adult behavior. (...)
One:  Trump lies about things that are common knowledge to the people he is talking to.  He tweets that Meryl Streep is a failure as an actress, for God’s sake.  This has been so widely commented on that I need not cite examples.  Two:  Trump is obsessed with issues of size.  He exaggerates the size of his hands, the size of his genitalia, the size of his fortune, the size of the buildings that bear his name, the size of his election victory, the size of the crowds he draws for his speeches.  Three:  Trump uses language in primitive ways that reveal an almost complete lack of thought or knowledge behind them.  One example that struck me especially powerfully was his bizarre claim, in referring to his speeches, that “I have the best words.”   Think about that for a moment.  What can he possibly have meant by that?  Four:  Trump makes claims that are absurd and immediately refutable, apparently simply because at the moment he is making them it feels good to make them.
I mostly agree, but I have some remarks.

First about size: My own guess is that this is in fact a derivation of Trump's fundamentally insane opinion that He Is The Greatest In Everything That Counts
(and much less concerned with size, though this may be mentioned, than He is with
His Supposed Gigantic Greatness).

Second about Trump's "
almost complete lack of thought or knowledge": I do not think Trump is stupid. He is neither the genius he thinks he is, nor is he brilliant or bright, and he also doesn't know a lot, but he is - let me put it this way - more intelligent than his very bad and very repetitive language might suggest to some academics.

And third, about Trump's very many evidently false claims: I probably agree that Trump's main motive for making them may very well be that (boldings deleted) "
at the moment he is making them it feels good to make them".

But the main point about Trump is not his motive for making them, but his absolute manic insistence that he is right, Right, RIGHT in whatever he says and that those who disagree with anything he says are disrespecting him, harming him, denying him and opposing him.

Then there is this:
First, it seems obvious to me that Trump’s mental processes are extremely psychologically primitive.  They are the thought processes of a child of three or four or five.
I disagree. Chronologically, Trump is 70. I am not able to say what his psychological age might be, except that it is definitely not that of "a child of three or four or five".

Then again, Wolff may have had some point (though not the one he literally makes) about Trump's emotional life, that I agree is odd, but that is part of his madness (and the link is to a letter by three professors of psychiatry to Obama of late November 2016).

I think it is simply is a mistake to underrate Trump because of his simple-minded language (that may be in part intentional, and he just may not be gifted linguistically) or because of his lack of sanity.

As to Trump's sanity, there is this:
The terms “narcissist” and “sociopath” have been used a good deal to describe Trump, and I think they are useful shorthand ways of summarizing our observations and intuitions about him.  Countless observers have written about Trump’s need to exercise dominance over those around him, about his bullying, his cruelty, hid need to humiliate those who have opposed him.  To an extraordinary extent, Trump seems not actually to be able to grasp and employ the notion of other people.  As an old friend observed to me, he treats his children as extensions of himself and his wives as possessions.
It seems to me that Wolff forgot or did not know that “narcissist” and “sociopath” are actual terms in the DSM 5 [2], which means that they have some standing with psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, that goes considerably further than for other possibly quite adequate psychological terms that do not have a similar standing in the DSM 5. [3]

Also, while there are quite a few persons who are to some extent narcissists (and in fact the great majority of persons have some love for themselves), there is again a difference between mere narcissists, of which there are quite a few, and indeed especially among politicians and CEOs, and pathological narcissists, like Trump.

What I am saying (and what many other psychologists and psychiatrists have been saying) is that Trump does not just have a bit more self-love than others, or a bit more
pride or self-reliance than others, but that his need for admiration is altogether excessive and pathological, which is indeed why the term "grandiose narcissist" applies to him, in psychiatry and according to the DSM 5, although I prefer myself "megalomaniac" in English.

I agree with the fourth point (Trump has a striking lack of empathy) but then I also think I should repeat the definition that moved me, in March of 2016, to decide that
Trump is a pathological narcissist, because he satisfies 9 out of 9 criterions, at least in my opinion, which is based on videos of Trump that I saw:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM - 5, Cluster B) for "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" by The American Psychiatric Association (APA)

Here, according to The APA, are the 9 criteria for "Narcissistic Personality Disorder". If an individual has 5 out of the 9 they have a confirmed diagnosis of this illness. Many individuals have "traits" of narcissism but only about 1% of the population has clinical NPD.

"Summary : A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believe that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people (or institutions)
4. Requires excessive admiration
5. Has a sense of entitlement
6. Is interpersonally exploitative
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes."
And I think this list of symptoms of the Narcissistic Personality Disorder simply is a lot better than what Wolff had to offer (for it is far more specific and detailed).

Finally, there is this in the article:
There are growing evidences that Trump’s White House is chaos, that staffers are deeply unsettled by the lack of ordinary routine work.  It seems clear, and terrifying, that Steve Bannon has great influence over Trump.  But on the evidence we have seen thus far, Trump seems to be completely overwhelmed by the job of President, flailing about for quick, symbolic actions that cannot in act be effectuated [the confusion surrounding payment for The Wall is a case in point.]
Perhaps. But this may well be straightened out, and Trump is in as president for just a week now, so quite a few problems there are may be starting problems.

And in any case, I think myself that Trump is mad simply because he shows all the criterions for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but I don't think he is stupid (though
he is neither a genius nor brilliant) and I also think he is not a three-to-five-year old.

---------------------------------
Notes
[1] In fact, I think most of psychology I know (which is a good lot) is not a real science; nearly all of clinical psychology is not a real science; and also psychiatry is not a real science, where I understand by "a real science", sciences like physics or chemistry, with strongly formalized disciplines and very many strongly verified results.

You may disagree, but I finished an excellent M.A. in psychology, and this is what I think (and yes, I also know a fair amount of physics).

Finally, while I don't think these "sciences" are real sciences like physics and chemistry, they also are among the best speculations, hypotheses and theories about the human mind that we have, and they are - to greatly varying extent, is also true - sometimes useful, both in practice and in theory.

[2] This note is about the DSMs (<-Wikipedia) = the Dagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and the next note is about terms that do (not) occur in it.

There are now DSMs since 1952, and all I will do here is quote the third paragraph of the Wikipedia on them (without eight note numbers):
While the DSM has been praised for standardizing psychiatric diagnostic categories and criteria, it has also generated controversy and criticism. Critics, including the National Institute of Mental Health, argue that the DSM represents an unscientific and subjective system. There are ongoing issues concerning the validity and reliability of the diagnostic categories; the reliance on superficial symptoms; the use of artificial dividing lines between categories and from "normality"; possible cultural bias; and medicalization of human distress. The publication of the DSM, with tightly guarded copyrights, now makes APA over $5 million a year, historically totaling over $100 million.
I agree with all the criticisms (and those who want to read my long and fundamental criticism of psychiatry-as-is should read this: DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis" (This is 371 Kb but is quite good, I think.)

Incidentally about validity and reliability: Psychiatry-as-is is still almost completely invalid (in the statistical sense), and no one knows how to test the validity of psychiatric concepts (which are about obscure processes in hardly understood human brains).

It gets confused (especially by psychiatrists) with reliability (which is the agreement between psychiatrists on the diagnoses they make, which incidentally is almost wholly
independent of their validities), which in turn is very much lower in many cases than it should be: Many psychiatric diagnoses are so vague that psychiatrists widely disagree on who to diagnose with it, while almost none of the diagnoses that psychiatrists do make (I think all except Alzheimer, and possibly some relating to sexual diseases like syphilis) has a known validity.

[3]
This note is about the terms that do and do not occur in the DSM 5 (and/or other DSMs):

There are now over 400 "recognized psychiatric disorders", whereas there were around 50 in 1952. (This is here mostly to start you thinking, e.g. about questions like this "Who grew more mad: 7 billion persons or a few hundreds of psychiatrists who composed the DSMs?").

There are many psychological terms in English that do not occur (anymore) in the latest DSM; many psychiatric terms that do occur there which were better replaced by English terms; and as I said in [2] hardly any psychiatric term has a known validity.

Then again "Narcissistic Personality Disorder" is in the DSM 5; it is defined in terms of 9 criterions, of which 5 are enough to warrant the diagnosis (of a psychiatric disorder) and Trump - quite obviously, also, in my opinion - shows all 9 criterions.

Incidentally...there are 126 distinct possibilities of taking 5 out of 9 things, which makes for pretty vague diagnosing (in case of 5). For more see here:
The dangerous nonsense of the x out of y diagnostic schema. (And there is but 1 possibility of selecting 9 out of 9.)

       home - index - summaries - mail