Saturday, Feb 4, 2017

Crisis: Trump & Wall Street, Power Elite, "Sociopathy", Militarized USA, Carlin On Bullshit

Sections                                                                     crisis index

‘Spectacular Betrayal’ as Trump Rolls Back Wall Street

2. Many from the Washington Power Elite Are United in Their
     Dismay About Trump's White House

Analyzing the Mindset of President Trump: Does Antisocial
     Personality Disorder Fit?

Trump’s Vision of a Militarized America
5. George Carlin On Bullshit

This is a Nederlog of Satur
day, February 4, 2017.

Summary: This is a crisis log with 5 files and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is a fine article - except for 10 Tweets, which I decided to wholly skip because I am not an idiot who communicates at a maximum of 140 characters - about a vast increase in the probability of another crisis; item 2 is an interesting article about "the Washington Power Elite" (although it is vague about who they are); item 3 is about another attempt to diagnose Trump with the DSM, which this time is mostly rejected by this psychologist; item 4 is about a decent article about a vastly militarized America (that - therefore - probably will go to war); and item 5 is a bit by George Carlin, because I like him a lot, and the present bit, on bullshit, seems to be almost wholly literally true (and the bullshit is produced and spread by everyone, including "the people").
As for today (February 4, 2017): I have changed my site on February 1, 2017 to make it easier that it might be read, because it now happened for most of last year that both of my sites are not uploaded properly:

On it may be days, weeks or months behind to show the proper last date and the proper last files (in the last 4 years always on the date it was that day) and of course it was yesterday already not uploading; on it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was!!!) but it was OK yesterday; and indeed I am sick of being systematically made unreadable and therefore changed the site to allow most readers of reading it more easily.

For more explanations, see
here - and no: with two different sites in two different countries with two different providers, where this has been happening for a year (and not over 20 and over 12 years before) now I'm absolutely certain that this happens and that it's not due to me.
1. ‘Spectacular Betrayal’ as Trump Rolls Back Wall Street Regulations

The first item today is by Deirdre Fulton on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:

President Donald Trump is handing the U.S. economy "back over to Wall Street" on Friday, with a regulatory rollback that critics say could put consumers and the financial system at risk

According to the Wall Street Journal, Trump signed executive orders Friday "establish[ing] a framework for scaling back the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law" and rolling back an Obama-era regulation requiring advisers on retirement accounts to work in the best interests of their clients. That rule was set to go into effect in April.

Trump signed the orders after meeting with bank CEOs.

"The Wall Street bankers against whom Trump ran are making policy now," said Robert Weissman, president of watchdog group Public Citizen.

Yes indeed: Quite so, and there are two aspects about this decision that need some comments.

First, I entirely agree this will (and not merely "could") "
put consumers and the financial system at risk". I expected another crisis ever since 2009, after it had become clear that Obama was just another Clintonesque fraud with nice stories for his voters, but very much less nice decisions that helped - especially - the mega-rich bankers who financially (also) supported them, and this decision makes this far more likely.

And second, a mere questions that I do not know the answer to: How will this influence Trump's voters? (I really do not know: There are over 60 million of them, and while I think there will remain a core of Trump supporters very probably till the end (impeach- ment, removal of nuclear war), I have no good idea about how large this is.)

Then there is this, that extends the above:

"The worst job-destroying economic crisis since the Great Depression was directly caused by deregulation and regulatory failure," he said. "Now the president who ran on a jobs-creation platform announces that he aims to slash the modest measures put in place to prevent a recurrence of the crisis. If Trump succeeds in rolling back Dodd-Frank rules he will rush the country straightforward into another job-killing financial crisis. This may be the most spectacular betrayal yet by the president of his voters, as he shunts aside their concerns and pushes forward the agenda of his cronies and the well-connected."

Yes indeed (and his few rich "cronies and the well-connected" will get a whole lot richer, unlike anybody else who is not very rich already).

Here is some more on the financial background:

Bloomberg described the orders as "the most aggressive steps yet by Trump to loosen regulations in the financial services industry and come after he has sought to stock his administration with veterans of the industry in key positions."

In addition to Cohn, Trump's cabinet includes Goldman alums Steven Mnuchin, the nominee for treasury secretary, and chief strategist Steve Bannon, who worked at the institution in the 1980s. Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton, Trump's pick to run the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), also has ties to Goldman Sachs.

Then there are no less than ten Tweets all signed "Alexis Goldstein (@alexisgoldstein) February 3, 2017". I am very sorry, but I find Tweets deliberate degenerate total stupifications of all rational discourse, and they are besides constant personal  advertisements for their signers (I got twenty times informed about the existence of Alexis Goldstein about whom I don't know shit, and since he is tweeting, I also do not want to know of him and his likes.)

I am very sorry but I skip all tweets, and will do the same elsewhere: I am not an idiot and I don't want to be treated as one by idiots: If you have to say something rational and decent you can e-mail it or write it as html, and if you don't want to do that, I don't want to review you since your chosen mode of communication (Twitter) does not allow rational and decent communications. Period.

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

In a separate statement after Trump signed the orders, Donner declared: "Wall Street titan Goldman Sachs seems to be taking over financial regulation in the United States, trying to make it easier for them and other big banks like Wells Fargo to steal from their customers and destabilize the economy. That is a betrayal of the promises Trump made to stand up to Wall Street. If they succeed it will have painful consequences."

Yes indeed. As to the last two statements: Yes, of course Trump betrayed his promises "to stand up to Wall Street". And the last statement indeed depends on the approvals of the Senate and the House - but these will very probably arrive, at this early stage of Trump's presidency, who is governing with an enormous Republican majority.

This is a recommended article (but I strongly dislike tweets in what is presented as decent journalism: Tweets are intentionally simplified Newspeak [1]).

2. Many from the Washington Power Elite Are United in Their Dismay About Trump's White House

The second item is by Jefferson Morley on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

From the center-right apparatchiks who reigned in the Reagan-Bush era to the center-left bureaucrats who rose in the Obama-Clinton years to the apolitical functionaries of the civil service and the U.S. military, the Washington policy class is turning on embattled president Donald Trump and his chief policy adviser Steve Bannon.

The massive women’s marches across the country nearly two weeks ago signaled the emergence of a broad-based popular and liberal opposition to Trump’s minority presidency. Now the Washington power elite is on the march—not in the streets of the capital, but in the suites of power.

I'm not talking about right-wing intellectuals appalled by Trump. I'm referring to the people whom sociologist C. Wrights Mills dubbed “the Power Elite.” Washington journalists usually call them the Establishment. Whatever the label, they have wielded power in Washington for decades. In the 34 years I have covered Washington politics, they have never been so united in their dismay about the man occupying the Oval Office.
I say - which I do because I did not know this, and also I don't quite know whether to believe this.

As to the second point: I have read nearly everything C. Wright Mills (<-Wikipedia) wrote and I think he was a very admirable sociologist (with whom I also don't always agree, but let that be), who also had the fairly rare distinction - for "a scientist" - that he could write really well, but Mills died in early 1962, and I am rather unsure what Morley means (especially at present) with the terms "the Power Elite" and "the Establishment".

To be sure, Morley probably has better ideas than I have, and I don't distrust him:

It is just that I know both terms for over 50 years now; that I always was at least a bit hazy who were meant; and also that there simply is a lot about the inner workings of the American government, the secret services, and the military that simply have been intentionally kept secret, which makes me a bit wary when two vague terms are introduced in explanation.

And I do suppose Morley means something, and talked with some persons that he believes belong to the present Establishment/Power Elitee.

Here is some more:
The opposition to Trump is spilling across partisan and ideological boundaries as the realization grows that the awesome power of the U.S. government, its mass surveillance and law enforcement agencies and its nuclear arsenal, is now controlled by a band of amateur renegades who are out to dismantle the American state.
I doubt whether "the Establishment/Power Elite" - whoever they are precisely, which Morley does not say - would agree to describing Trump's cabinet - of millionaires, billionaires and ex-generals - as "a band of amateur renegades", but that is an aside.

Here is some more, and this seems mostly correct:

What is unprecedented is Trump's radicalism. Whereas previous GOP presidents paid tribute to Ronald Reagan’s resolute opposition to communism, the Trump White House is controlled by Bannon, a man who is frank about his Leninist mode of thinking.

“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too,” Bannon told historian Ron Radosh. “I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment."

Bannon is fast consolidating power as the government's de facto chief executive while Trump settles into the more ceremonial role as the reality TV president.

Yes indeed, though it is very early days in Trump's presidency and Trump is very difficult to predict (though he is mostly following a neofascistic program).

Then there is this:

The Trump/Bannon White House rejects the authority of the federal courts. They are hostile to our ideals of a free press and the First Amendment. And they are imbued with a racial chauvinism and anti-Semitism that are increasingly prideful. As pundit Yonatan Zunger notes on Medium, “Their omission of Jews from the statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day was deliberate and is not regretted."

Again: Yes - and I agree Trump c.s. "reject the authority of the federal courts", and "are hostile to our ideals of a free press and the First Amendment", and this also will probably not change - but is is still very early days for Trump.

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

The traditional mandarins are not just offended by Trump’s cavalier treatment of the CIA and Pentagon in his first week in office or the callous, pointless and chaotically implemented immigration order. They are disturbed by his systematic contempt for the standard procedures of governance followed by every Democratic and Republican administration since the passage of the National Security Act of 1947.

These procedures include the vetting of executive orders, nominal respect for judicial authority, consultation with relevant Cabinet secretaries, and notification of congressional leaders. Trump’s team respects none of these norms.

Yes, this sounds quite credible, though it would have been nice to know more about whom Morley thinks do belong to the present "Establishment/Power Elite".

This is a recommended article.

3. Analyzing the Mindset of President Trump: Does Antisocial Personality Disorder Fit?

The third item is by Katherine Van Wormer on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Because so many of his executive actions and remarks on Twitter and in interviews seem rash, commentators, including psychiatrists and psychologists are raising questions about the stability of President Donald J. Trump’s mind. Reportedly, there is a good fit with Trump’s personality characteristics and the DSM-5’s (Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Characteristics of this trait include a desire for unwarranted admiration, obsession with one’s own success and accomplishments, and a sense of entitlement.  Certainly, these traits can be said to apply, even just based on Trump’s speeches alone. 
Yes, indeed - and I am a psychologist (who did study 6 years to get his M.A.) and I have said already, indeed first in March 2016, that I agree with the majorities of psychologists and psychiatrists who say that Trump has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (which I prefer to write in English - that is not and should not be psychiatrese - as megalomania).

I do not know anything about Katherine Van Wormer except that she is a Professor of Social Work at the University of Northern Iowa (plus the few things added to that under the article).

And it seems to me rather probable that she did not study psychiatry, while it also is not clear at all that she studied psychology. Given these unclarities, I am rather hesitant about the following:
But another, more serious diagnosis might also be worth a look. This is Antisocial Personality Disorder, a  diagnosis assigned to individuals who habitually violate the rights of others without remorse. Psychopathy is an earlier term that was used for the same personality traits.
What I am hesitant about are in fact two kinds of things:

The first is that anybody can get a copy of some DSM (we are at number 5 now) and can start leaving through it and may well decide that this diagnosis or that diagnosis might be rather fit for this person or for that person.

This is quite possible, and indeed anybody could do this, but I am rather skeptical if anybody does this - say: a historian, or a physicist, or a journalist, or a priest - simply because they generally do not know much or anything about either psychology or psychiatry, whereas some solid knowledge of these at least is a considerable help in diagnosing.

And the second problem I have is that I disagree with the current - DSM 5 - form of the "
Antisocial Personality Disorder" aka Sociopathy because this differs from Psychopathy (and therefore it is simply false to say that this was (bolding added) "an earlier term that was used for the same personality traits": No, it certainly was not - and see dr. Robert Hare (<-Wikipedia)), especially in making the main reasons for a psychiatric diagnosis mere deviance from current social norms, which is precisely what the Soviet psychiatrists did to lock up dissidents: "You are a dissident, therefore you are crazy, and therefore we are right in locking you up and 'treating' you".

So I simply disagree with sociopathic diagnosis, and not because I may not agree that something is or may be wrong with those diagnosed with it, but because the diagnosis itself is based on mistaken notions.

Here is Katherin Van Wormer's list of "
the DSM criteria" she uses - and in what follows I skipped all the texts she gives for these diagnosis, and only repeat the diagnoses (if you want the texts, click on the last dotted link):
Let us review the DSM criteria in light of our president’s actions and statements.

Disregard for others' needs or feelings

Persistent lying, stealing, using aliases, conning others
Recurring problems with the law
Repeated violation of the rights of others
Aggressive, often violent behavior
Disregard for the safety of self or others
Impulsive behavior
Consistently irresponsible
Lack of remorse for behavior
I have already indicated why I reject the diagnosis of sociopathic disorder (which only dates back to 1980 and the DSM-III). The problems I have with the above list (as a psychologist, who has read several DSMs, though indeed not fully), apart from my objections to the psychiatric diagnosis of "sociopathy" are again two:

First, it seems Van Wormer is using the DSM-IV, which significantly differed from both the DSM 5 and the DSM-III (in some good ways and some bad ways). And second, the above fat terms are not all of the diagnostic phrases that are used, nor is there a mentioning of additional criterions (such as that the above behaviors are also often seen before age 15).

The article ends as follows:

Readers can form their own conclusions to what extent the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder applies to President Trump.  And one can only fear for the fate of America and for the world to the extent that even some of these personality characteristics apply.
I don't say "No" to this last bit, but if all you need to make a diagnosis is some leavings through some copy of some DSM to arrive at the conclusion that someone
who satisfies some of the symptoms of some of these diagnoses might cause "fear"
then diagnosing is a bit too simple for me to take seriously, as serious psychology.

4. Trump’s Vision of a Militarized America

The fourth item is by William Hartung on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch:
This starts as follows (and is recommended and well worth reading, and too long to properly abbreviate):

At over $600 billion a year and counting, the Pentagon already receives significantly more than its fair share of federal funds.  If President Donald Trump has his way, though, that will prove a sum for pikers and misers.  He and his team are now promising that spending on defense and homeland security will increase dramatically in the years to come, even as domestic programs are slashed and entire civilian agencies shuttered.

The new administration is reportedly considering a plan -- modeled on proposals from the military-industrial-complex-backed Heritage Foundation -- that would cut a staggering $10.5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade. The Departments of Energy, Commerce, Transportation, and State might see their budgets slashed to the bone; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized; and (though the money involved would amount to chicken feed) the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities would be eliminated altogether.  In the meantime, the ranks of the Army and Marines would be expanded, a huge naval buildup would be launched, and a new Star Wars-style missile defense system would be developed -- all at a combined cost of up to $1 trillion beyond the already munificent current Pentagon plans for that same decade.

Yes indeed - and you should realize that (i) the "spending on defense and homeland security will increase dramatically in the years to come" in considerable part because
spending on other ends is slashed or entirely cut; and that (ii) most of the taxes this is going to be paid with are from the non-rich (who hardly saw any rise in their real incomes since 1980); and that (iii) strong spending on military matters are generally a preparation for war.

And besides, the non-rich will loose "$10.5 trillion in federal spending over the next decade" (which will be reinvested in the Pentagon and the military and the secret services).

Here is one consequence:

One thing is already clear: this drastic tilt toward yet more Pentagon spending and away from investment in diplomacy abroad and civilian needs at home will only further militarize American society, accelerate inequality, and distort the country’s already highly questionable foreign policy.  After all, if your military is the only well-funded, well-stocked arm of the government, it’s obvious whom you’re going to turn to in any crisis.

And besides, one of the changes that Obama introduced is that now the American military may act legally on American soil against American civilians.

Here is some background:

President Trump won’t, of course, be starting from scratch in his urge to further elevate the military in foreign and domestic affairs.  He’s building on a process that’s already well under way.  In the Obama years, for instance, there were a record number of drone strikes, especially outside official U.S. war zones -- 10 times the number launched by the Bush administration.  Similarly, the Obama administration paved the way for various Trumpian urges by waging wars on multiple fronts and instituting a historic crackdown on whistleblowers in the military and the intelligence communities.  It also approved record levels of U.S. arms sales abroad, $278 billion worth of them, or more than double those of the Bush years.  (In Trumpian terms: jobs!)

Yes indeed (incidentally strongly supporting my notion that Obama, like Clinton, was a fraud, who worked for the rich while talking for the non-rich). Also, Obama introduced the warring president: He can attack with drones on countries that the USA is not at war with (and so can Trump now), for the president may do these things now.

Here is more background:

President Obama oversaw a sharp increase in the size of the U.S. Special Operations forces, sending them abroad to arm, train, and fight alongside militaries in 138 countries in 2016.  Think of this approach -- having a “lighter footprint” while expanding the number of conflicts the United States is involved in -- as a case of what I’ve called “politically sustainable warfare.” It seems cheaper, is far less visible, and involves fewer U.S. casualties than full-scale invasions and occupations.

Note that there are around 190 countries in the world (it differs a bit depending on how you count), and thay 138/190 = 73% (rounded): The US military is in 3 out of 4 countries in the world (sometimes with very large bases, sometimes with small bases, and also sometimes with hidden bases).

Then there is this - and the State Department (<-Wikipedia) "is the United States federal executive department that advises the President and leads the country in foreign policy issues" as Wikipedia has it:

The Pentagon’s budget is today more than 12 times as large as the State Department’s, a disparity sure to grow in the years to come.  As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted some years ago, there are more military personnel stationed on one aircraft carrier task force than trained diplomats in the U.S. Foreign Service.  And keep in mind that the United States currently has 10 active aircraft carriers, which themselves will be just a small part of the Trump administration’s proposed 350-ship Navy.

Incidentally, another name for the Pentagon (<-Wikipedia) - "the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense" - is the war department.

Then there is this about the secret spies ("intelligence community" is far too complimentary a term for these thieves of the privacies of billions - I am sorry,
but this is what they are, and what they also get paid for very well):

Even the intelligence community is likely to be further militarized in the Trump years.  While he was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Advisor Michael Flynn tried to increase its influence at the expense of the CIA.  Expect him to attempt to seize control of the nation’s intelligence apparatus and put it in service to his own distorted view of the world. From failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union to allowing itself to be used to put forward misleading information about Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. Intelligence Community has hardly covered itself in glory.

Hm. I agree Flynn seems much like the Trumpian false pick for the job, but I also observe that the secret spies not only spy in secret, but also are supposed to lie for the government and to provide all manner of grossly misleading information to the media.

And in any case, they succeeded - very probably: I must guess but my guess is  supported by Snowden's materials - in compiling dossiers on anyone and everyone who has an internet-computer or a cellphone, even if these dossiers are mostly unread by human eyes.

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

In the years to come, expect the Cheney model of intelligence manufacturing to be replicated, especially by Flynn, whose extreme views include a belief that Islam is not a real religion, that Iran is the “linchpin” of a global anti-American coalition of enemies extending from Cuba and Venezuela to North Korea, China, and Russia, and that Islamic “Sharia law” is actually being imposed in parts of our country.  Flynn’s views on Islam would have been beyond the pale for a top adviser in any prior administration.  Now, however, he’s positioned to regularly press his views on Donald Trump, who doesn’t read and seems inclined to believe the last person he talks to.

Yes, and judged by the above Flynn does seem pretty mad, as indeed Trump is.
And there is a lot more in the article, which is strongly recommended.

5. George Carlin On Bullshit

The fifth item today is by George Carlin, whom I like a lot ever since discovering him in 2009 (for then I got fast internet, which displayed videos), although he died in 2008.

In fact, while I think he is also quite funny, he excelled at presenting the truth in such a way that people laughed about it. The following bit is a fine example:

And I should perhaps add that this is on Youtube with the title "George Carlin: Politicians can't be honest" but - while politicians are mentioned and indeed thus diagnosed - it really is about bullshit, and indeed it starts out thus:

"You know whenever you are exposed to advertizing in this country, you realize allover again that America's leading industry is still the manufacture, distribution, packaging and marketing of bullshit."

Yes indeed! The video takes 7 minutes and is warmly recommended, and almost everything Carlin says is - often bitterly - true. If you want some background, see my On some of the roots of the crisis that ends as follows:

One result (..) is this:

"I fear we live in a world in which war and racism are ubiquitous, in which the powers of government mobilization and legitimization are powerful and increasing, in which a sense of personal responsibility is increasingly attenuated by specialization and bureaucratization, and in which peer-group exerts tremendous pressures on behavior and sets moral norms. In such a world, I fear, modern governments that wish to commit mass murder will seldom fail in their efforts for being unable to induce "ordinary men" to become their "willing executioners." " (Christopher R. Browning, "Ordinary men", p. 222-3)

[1] am sorry, but I think this is a firm decision:

If you Twitter, your Tweets will not be reproduced here, and not because I necessarily believe they are idiotic (although that is my usual diagnosis, but not always), but because I do believe that those who use Twitter decided themselves that their wisdoms, insights, intelligence, knowledge, morality, philosophy and verbal abilities all can be rendered in 140 characters maximal, and can be send around to hundreds, thousands or tenthousands with two indications of their enormously important (possibly totally anonymous) selfies at the end.

The limitations you consent to are the limitations of Newspeak, and I am not collaborating with that deliberate attack on all rationality and all intelligence.

Tweets and Twitter are out for me, just as Google, Amazone, Microsoft, Bing, Yahoo and cellphones.

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