Tuesday, Feb 14, 2017

Crisis: Dystopia, "Civil Rights Groups", Trump & China, Trump & Loglines, Michael Hudson

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Five Faces Of Dystopia
2. Civil Rights Groups, Funded by Telecoms, Back Donald Trump’s
     Plan to Kill Net Neutrality

Is Trump Headed for War With China?
4. Donald Trump Simplistically—and Dangerously—Sees the World
     as One Big Reality Show

5. Michael Hudson on the Orwellian Turn in Contemporary

This is a Nederlog of Tues
day, February 14, 2017.

Summary: This file is a crisis log with 5 files and 5 dotted links: Item 1 is a fine article on dystopia, that compares Donald Trump with some famous persons; item 2 is
about internet neutrality (that seems to be soon finished by Trump); item 3 is about an article about Trump and China that did not start well, but is decent; item 4 is about an article that points out Trump's slogans are much like the "high concepts" and "loglines" that are used to bait audiences (and I more or less halfly agree); and item 5 is not a text, but is a video with a fine interview with a prominent economist, who happens to
think quite similarly about economics as I do.
As for today (February 14, 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 it was this morning correct (but do they "update" my site every fourth or fifth day now?!); on it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was!!!) but was correct this morning; and indeed I am sick of being system- atically made unreadable and therefore changed the site to allow most readers to find 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 for over 20 and over 12 years before) now I'm absolutely certain that this happens and that it's not due to me.

Incidentally, if you reached February 1, 2017 on one of my sites you are in the new set-up and from there you can find the latest Nederlog, and all others from there.
1. Five Faces Of Dystopia

The first item today is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Based on reliable news sources, his biographer, and his own writings, the most powerful man of his era has been referred to as an "egomaniac" and "narcissist," possessing a "big mouth" with an "impulsive style," unable to differentiate between truth and falsehood, preferring emotion over facts, focused on national greatness and law & order, fearful of "foreignization," prone to coarseness and put-downs in speeches, and fond of "mantralike phrases" filled with "accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future."
He sounds very familar indeed. But here is a catch:

The man described above is Adolf Hitler. All of the descriptions were attributed to the Nazi leader: some of it by news media in the 1930s, some of it by modern historian and biographer Volker Ullrich, some of it by Hitler himself in "Mein Kampf." Eerily familiar to the present day.
I say - and I admit I was tricked as well, for I did think of Trump, in spite of the fact that I have read several biographies of Hitler and know a lot about fascism. Then again,
Paul Buchheit is simply correct in saying both Hitler and Trump may be described in quite similar terms - although I think there are also considerable dissimilarities.

Then there is this, that points out a considerable similarity between Reagan and Trump:

Ronald Reagan said, "Government is the problem." Donald Trump said, "Good people don't go into government."

There are other similarities, many of them reported by historian William E. Leuchtenburg, author of "The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton." Says Leuchtenburg, "No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed." A Reagan presidential aide remarked, "He made decisions like an ancient king...passively letting his subjects serve him, selecting only those morsels of public policy that were especially tasty." 
Through the 1980s, Reagan's staff "protected him by severely restricting situations where he might blurt out a fantasy" while "keeping the press at shouting distance or beyond." Yet he "alarmed members of his staff by flying into a rage if the press reported that he had changed his position on an issue, even when he undoubtedly had." More similarities to the present day.
Yes, I agree. (Again there are dissimilarities as well, but this is not a long article.)
Here is yet another similarity, this time between Stalin's attitudes to nature, and Trump's attitudes to nature

"We cannot expect charity from nature," said Stalin. "We must tear it from her." 

Donald Trump has shown the same disdain for the earth with  statements like "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." His new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is an obfuscating climate change denier whose company, Exxon, has been linked to the great majority of other climate change deniers.
I agree that this is a similarity while there also are quite a few dissimilarities, but Trump's quoted statement is both totally crazy (mad, insane) and involves incredible
disdain for all climate scientists and biologists who have charted global warming, and
who have insisted, very correctly, that global warming is not politics but a real and a very important fact.

Here is the last simlarity, this time between Donald Trump and Warren Harding:

Historian Kevin Kruse might be providing some insight into Donald Trump's mind in his summation of Warren G. Harding, considered by many to be the worst president: "He felt woefully under-qualified for the job... so he surrounded himself with old friends... who themselves were unqualified for the jobs they held and many of them corrupt."
I agree again, and this is a recommended article: It isn't subtle; there are many dissimilarities as well between Trump and the four similar politicians he is above
compared with, but I like it.

2. Civil Rights Groups, Funded by Telecoms, Back Donald Trump’s Plan to Kill Net Neutrality

The second item is by Lee Fang on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Leading civil rights groups who for many years have been heavily bankrolled by the telecom industry are signaling their support for Donald Trump’s promised rollback of the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, which prevent internet service providers from prioritizing some content providers over others.

The Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission established net neutrality by reclassifying high-speed internet as a regulated phone-like telecommunications service, as opposed to a mostly unregulated information service. The re-classification was cheered by advocates for a free and open internet.

But now Trump’s new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a former Verizon attorney, is pushing to repeal the net neutrality reform by rolling back that re-classification — and he’s getting help not only from a legion of telecom lobbyists, but from civil rights groups.

I say.

Here is a question: How much of a "civil rights group" is a "civil rights group" that is "heavily bankrolled by the telecom industry"? And before you try answering that - admittedly difficult (and not very clear) - question, how about the following question: How honest do you think telecom industry's CEOs are in their interests in "civil rights groups"? That may be also a difficult question because I grant that quite a few of
these - often exceedingly rich - CEOs are honestly interested in civil rights. (Tim Cook, for example, that is Apple's CEO, is a homosexual, and he very probably knows that until 1973 - when Cook was 12 - homosexuality was a ground for pronouncing someone as not sane, according to the majority of the psychiatrists who made up the American Psychiatric Association. [1])

Here is a final question on the subjects of "civil rights groups" that are being "heavily bankrolled by the telecom industry": What do you think is more important to a CEO of
a telecom industry: The profits his corporation makes or the moral principles that the CEO has (or professes to have)?

I think that question is fairly easily answered in a plausible way: The profits of the corporation are far more important than the moral principles of the CEO (in almost any case, I hasten to add: there are a few exceptions).

Therefore, it seems to me that the investments that CEOs of rich corporations make (with corporate money) into "civil rights groups" will tend towards "We support you,
but then you also have to support us, in some cases at least".

And I think that conclusion is probably correct; I think that is what we are seeing; and I would personally not feel comfortable with a "civil rights group" that is "heavily bankrolled by the telecom industry" or indeed by any corporate industry. [2]

There is considerably more in the article that I skip, but here are two quite relevant facts:

None of the civil rights groups that signed the joint letter responded to a request for comment.

It’s not the first time civil rights group have engaged in lobbying debates seemingly unrelated to their core missions, but in favor of their corporate donors.
And indeed I am not amazed at all by either fact, and I more or less explained why above.

Finally, here a the net neutraility activists:

Net neutrality activists are crying foul.

“Net neutrality is based on a communications law that guarantees vital nondiscrimination rights,” said Jessica J. González, the deputy director and senior counsel of Free Press. “This joint statement may seem innocuous but it actually endangers the communications rights that have empowered people of color to tell our own stories, organize for racial justice and earn a living online.”

“The Congress that tried to destroy net neutrality once would only weaken it with legislation that fails to adequately protect those it is meant to serve,” says Malkia Cyril, the executive director of the Center for Media Justice. She noted that the civil rights groups that signed the letter are now calling for putting the future of the internet “into the hands of a GOP Congress that just appointed white supremacist Jeff Sessions to be attorney general.”

I agree with them. (And I fear net neutrality will be removed under Trump.)

3. Is Trump Headed for War With China?

The third 
item is by Rajan Menon on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch:
This starts as follows:
Forget those “bad hombres down there” in Mexico that U.S. troops might take out. Ignore the way National Security Adviser Michael Flynn put Iran “on notice” and the new president insisted, that, when it comes to that country, “nothing is off the table.”  Instead, focus for a momenton something truly scary: the possibility that Donald Trump’s Washington might slide into an actual war with the planet’s rising superpower, China.  No kidding.  It could really happen.
Incidentally, Michael Flynn dismissed himself late yesterday night. And I agree - of course - that a war with China seems a very real possiblity with Donald Trump as president of the USA.

There is this on the former CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson (reacting to the Chinese building of islands):

Evidently, [Tillerson] wanted to communicate to the Chinese leadership in Beijing that the new administration was already irked beyond measure with them. So he added, “We’re going to have to send China’s leaders a clear signal: that, first, the island building stops and, second, your access to those islands is not going to be allowed.”  Functionally, that fell little short of being an announcement of a future act of war, since not allowing “access” to those islands would clearly involve military moves.
Yes, indeed. Here is some more:
In short, his administration has already drawn a red line -- but in the way a petulant child might with a crayon. During and after the campaign he made much of his determination to regain the respect he claims the U.S. has lost in the world, notably from adversaries like China.  The danger here is that, in dealing with that country, Trump could, as is typical, make it all about himself, all about “winning,” one of his most beloved words, and disaster might follow.
I agree - and indeed I think Trump's narcissism (<- a letter of three professors
of psychiatry to Obama) which motivates Trump's own enormous interests in His "winning" things is quite relevant here, as is his ignorance of most things other
than headlines.

Here is some on some Chinese reactions:
But China’s conduct in the South China Sea leaves little doubt about its determination to hold onto what it has and continue its activities.  The Chinese leadership has made this clear since Donald Trump’s election, and the state-run press has struck a similarly defiant note, drawing crude red lines of its own.  For example, the Global Times, a nationalist newspaper, mocked Trump’s pretensions and issued a doomsday warning: “The U.S. has no absolute power to dominate the South China Sea.  Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories.”
I say. But Rajan Menon is quite right that the biggest problem is Trump himself:
The bigger problem, however, will undoubtedly be his own narcissism and his obsession with winning, not to mention his inability to resist sending incendiary messages via Twitter.  Just try to imagine for a moment how a president who blows his stack during a getting-to-know- you phone call with the prime minister of Australia, a close ally, is likely to conduct himself in a confrontation with a country he’s labeled a prime adversary.
Yes indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
There has been lots of anxiety about the malign effects that Donald Trump’s temperament and beliefs could have domestically, and for good reason.  But in domestic politics, institutions and laws, civic organizations, the press, and public protests can serve, however imperfectly, as countervailing forces.  In international politics, crises can erupt suddenly and unfold rapidly --  and the checks on rash behavior by American presidents are much weaker.  They have considerable leeway to use military force (having repeatedly circumvented the War Powers Act).  They can manipulate public opinion from the Bully Pulpit and shape the flow of information. (Think back to the Iraq war.)  Congress typically rallies reflexively around the flag during international crises.  In such moments, citizens' criticism or mass protest invites charges of disloyalty.
Yes again. And this is a recommended article (though it started a bit simply).

Donald Trump Simplistically—and Dangerously—Sees the World as One Big Reality Show

The fourth
item is by Neal Gabler on
This starts as follows:

Anyone who has ever pitched a movie or television idea in Hollywood knows the tyranny of the “high concept.” It’s a staple of the entertainment world. A high concept is a simple, succinct, immediately comprehensible gimmick: Abraham Lincoln is a vampire hunter; the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and Jack Frost team up to defeat an evil villain; Superman and Batman face off as enemies; Pride and Prejudice is reimagined as a zombie war in 19th-century England; Lucifer comes to earth to consult with the LAPD. (By the way, these are all real movies or TV shows.)

In Hollywood, one-sentence descriptions like these are called “loglines.”
I say - and I admit that both terms are new to me, although the ideas are quite familiar: "Make it simple! Make it sensational! Keep it short!" (And here are links to Wikipedia: high concept and logline.)

Here is an application:
Donald Trump’s presidential victory has been ascribed to all sorts of sociological phenomena, but there is also, I think, a cultural one that largely has been overlooked. Trump was the first high-concept presidential candidate, and now he is conducting the first high-concept presidency. That matters, not only in how one gets elected but in how one governs.
Yes and no. As I said, both terms are new for me but the ideas are not, and Trump was definitely not "the first high-concept presidential candidate". In fact, I think most American presidents got elected on a few quite general and easily comprehensible ideas (and not on any thorough understanding of the majority of voters on their policies).

But I agree Trump seems to be first American president who thinks in loglines,
and indeed not because other presidents (such as Bush Jr. and Obama) did not try to
to use loglines, but because the internet is now quite comprehensive, because Trump was already a TV-star (unlike all other presidents), and because Trump not only uses
loglines, but he seems to think in terms of loglines (because the president reads no or hardly any books, looks a lot at TV, doesn't know much, and seems to express himself preferably in no more than 140 Twitter-characters).

Here is an explanation of the Trump phenomenon in terms of "high concepts" and "loglines":

The biggest lesson Trump learned from all this was that grabbing attention was paramount and that it didn’t make a whit of difference how you grabbed it: blasting angry, idiotic tweets; leering over women; mocking the handicapped; insulting opponents; threatening to put Hillary Clinton in jail; and just plain inventing “facts” — lots and lots and lots of invented “facts.”
Yes and no again: Yes he did all of this, and he was elected president. And no, he could not do these things because of "high concepts" or "loglines", but because he was very much helped by the mainstream media, who also hardly criticized him.

And this was again not because of his "loglines" - simple, sensational, short phrases - but because the mainstream media have been mostly corrupted and do not do proper journalism anymore (for Trump's "
leering over women; mocking the handi- capped; insulting opponents; threatening to put Hillary Clinton in jail; and just plain inventing “facts”" were only "admitted" because the media chose to mostly not criticize these sick notions).

This is the end of this article:
Trump began his campaign this way, almost as if he were pitching a film or TV series to the American people: Build a wall. Ban Muslims. Repeal Obamacare. Level ISIS. Stare down China. And, of course, Make America Great Again. These weren’t campaign promises or even campaign slogans. They were loglines.
Again yes and no: They were loglines but clearly they were also campaign slogans.
Indeed, I do not see much difference between most campaign slogans and loglines,
except indeed that the latter term tends to be typically used to summarize TV programs and to bait audiences by their brief descriptions.

But this is an interesting article that is recommended.

5. Michael Hudson on the Orwellian Turn in Contemporary Economics

The fifth and last item today is not a text but a video and is an interview by Sharmini Peries of the Real Net with economist Michael Hudson:

This is here because Michael Hudson (<- Wikipedia) is a well-known economist who has quite similar ideas about ecomomics as I have (it is not a real science, for example) and because he formulates well.

I liked it rather a lot, and reproduce it here and now because of these reasons, and because I saw it yesterday for the first time, although it is from November 2016. It will not take more than slightly over 15 minutes of your time.

[1] In fact, this is one of many reasons why I can't take psychiatry seriously:
I am completely heterosexual, but I decided already when I was 16 - in 1966, when there was considerably more discrimination of homosexuals than there is now (in Holland and the USA) - that homosexuality is very probably genetical, simply because I could not believe that people would let themselves be discriminated as homosexuals were about a matter of taste or learned preference.

[2] In fact, I go considerably further myself: Civil rights activism ought to be done by ordinary people, who also have to get their money from private donations by private
individuals. These private individuals may be CEOs of big corporations, but they should not pay as CEOs of corporations, simply because this might be - and is, it turns out - quite corrupting.
(And in case you say: But private individuals will not finance civil rights as much as corporate CEOs do, my reply is (i) Bernie Sanders proved differently and (ii) if ordinary people are not sufficiently interested in civil rights activism, including paying what is required for that, then civil rights are dead.)

It seems to me therefore more correct to (at least) put "civil rights group" between quotes, if it is in fact - as the phrase was - "
heavily bankrolled" by some corporate industry. 

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