Monday, Mar 13, 2017

Crisis: On Death, Sanders on Trump, Responsible Conservatism, On Sanders & New Party

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. The Dance of Death
2. Bernie Sanders on Trump and the Resistance: 'Despair Is Not
     an Option'

Restoring a Responsible ‘Conservatism’
4. Campaign Calls on Bernie Sanders to Lead a New Party

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, March 13, 2017.

Summary: This is an ordinary
crisis log with four items and four dotted links: Item 1 is about Chris Hedges' weekly column on Truthdig; item 2 is about an interview with Bernie Sanders (with a note by me on The Guardian); item 3 is about conservatism, but is a bit vague (no definition, for one thing); and item 4 is about an interview with someone who collaborated with Sanders, about whether Sanders should try to lead a third party. (I think he should, but I agree the question is difficult. And I think he should because both the Democrats and the Republicans have sold themselves to the bankers: They're too rich and too corrupt.)
March 13: As to the updating problem [1]: The Danish site is on time yesterday; and even the Dutch site now is on time for me. Where my site on stuck for others I have NO idea: It may be December 31, 2015. (They do want immediate payment if you are a week behind. They have been destroying my site now for over a year. And I completely distrust them, but also do not know whether they are doing it or some secret service is.)
1. The Dance of Death

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminant and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

I more or less agree but I like to note a few things.

First, about "[t]he ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build": I think - since 2012 - that they well may have decided that there are too many people in the world. I do not know this, but in practice it seems indeed as if they are trying to make the rich as rich as possible, and move the poor to an early death. (And I agree there are too many people on earth, and indeed think so since 1972, when the situation was far less bad than it is now.)

Second, I agree that "[i]ntelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education (..)" has been effectively killed, for the most part. But this is also a process that was started in the 1970ies, and has become worse and worse ever since. Also, it is not all education, but most education. Then again, it is almost all education if one leaves colleges and universities out of consideration. (And I have seen this steady regress to academic titles that are even open to those with an IQ of less than 100, if they have enough money, start in 1965 in Holland. I also am the only one known to me in Holland who protested ever since.)

Third, I agree that "[t]hose branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages". Not everywhere, indeed, but I saw the same happening to me since I fell ill 1979: There is no money for the chronically ill; there is no care of any kind for the chronically ill; and in fact I am supposed to be - by most medics and all psychiatrists - not ill but insane (a psychosomatizer for 38 years, with only A's on a B.A. philosophy and an M.A. psychology, who did it all without any lectures) and in fact I was never even regarded as ill by narkonazistic sadofascistic bureaucrats and terrorists who also are the inhuman norm in bureaucratic and political Holland. [2]

Fourth, I agree that the president of the USA is "a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House" - and I think that is also a very serious problem.
Then again, I also think Western civilization is falling apart for quite a while now, and since the 1970ies, so it is not just Trump, but goes far beyond him. Then again, having an irresponsible madman as the most powerful man on earth seems THE recipe for a major disaster.

Now we move back for a look at other empires that collapsed:

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus.

Hm. I know a fair amount of history but I don't know this, indeed because it seems to me somewhat subtly mistaken in three ways:

The first is that - to the best of my historical and political knowledge - "world empires" do not collapse in the course of days, weeks, months or years. The actual collapse may
take as short as that, but in order to collapse a "world empire" must have been falling apart for a rather a long time before, often indeed for several hundreds of years. Read for example Gibbon's very brilliant "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire": It took several hundreds of years for the Western Roman Empire to fall to pieces.

The second is that "Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus" were indeed (probably) all four mad (and I did read Suetonius) but they were also emperors of Rome long before the real collapse (which took place - after a long decline - somewhere in the 5th Century AD).

And the third is that it is not necessary that "the end of empire" is marked by "psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants". Indeed the leaders may be fairly honest and fairly competent men, who just cannot still the tide of collapse (and the collapse normally long precedes their rule).

Then there is this om the collapses of empires:

The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.

I think this is more or less correct, but it describes the end rather than the decades or hundred or even several hundreds of years of decay leading up to that end. And the decay tends to be caused by (i) strong external enemies and wars; (ii) many mistaken decisions in law and economics (that tend to support the few rich, while doing nothing for the many poor); and (iii) natural causes, like a collapsing ecosystem, the scarcity of important economic goods, or changes of climate.

Then there is this, which is unfortunately just one sentence:

The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them.

Probably yes, but I am more concerned with the "homo bureaucraticus":

I think both politicians and bureacrats tend to be of a lower - intellectual and moral - level than those whom they rule and that surround them: By far the most politicians I have seen in the last 50+ years were frauds, liars and deceivers who pretended to work "for the community" but in fact worked for themselves or - at best - their own parties, while their factual collaborators, the bureaucrats, tend to be lazier, more stupid, and more powerful than anyone who works for themselves or in an industry.

But this is just in passing. I may return to the special human characters that tend to be politicians and bureaucrats later. Here I continue with Chris Hedges, who says this about many of Trump's appointees:

The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed.

I think the last statement may well be correct, though it seems as if e.g. Bannon, and possibly more, may have a political plan that is quite radical and quite far reaching. And I also think Trump and Bannon are out to radically change the USA, and make it far more according to their - rightist, authoritarian, profit-oriented, pro-rich - ideals than it constitutionally can be.

And this is from the ending:

The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion.

I fear this may well be correct, though I insist that the "state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion" has been produced by stupidity and ignorance on large parts of the voters, by systematic false and misleading propaganda in the mainstream media, and
by an altogether failing education of nearly everyone, both by their parents and by their schools and universities, that are very much worse than they were in the previous century, before circa 1970.

And this is a recommended article.

2. Bernie Sanders on Trump and the Resistance: 'Despair Is Not an Option'

The second item is by Ed Pilkington on AlterNet and originally on The Guardian:

Let me start this by saying something on The Guardian and Pilkington.

I lived in England for a while in the early 1970ies, and lived with a radical, leftist, extremely intelligent woman who much preferred The Guardian over any other paper (also without mistaking it for a very leftist paper, as she herself was). So I was inclined to like it when I seriously started reading it again in 2013, and indeed I did.

But by 2015 this liking had much subsided, and especially because of two extremely radical changes that were effected then (at the end of the editorship of Alan Rusbridger): The whole paper was - without giving any noticing - turned to be made uncopyable by ordinary readers, as if its writers deserve the right of 72 years of personal property in their writings, and they started to include at least half and quite often considerably more of totally sick spying Javascript programs in each of their articles.

Since then The Guardian is mostly dead for me (and if you want to read something like a paper that is at least more readable and more honest than The Guarian try the Off-Guardian).

As to Ed Pilkington: I do not very well know who he is, but he is one of the people around whose personal interests and personal riches the present Renewed And Restyled Guardian turns: The Guardian exists to keep The Guardian and its journalists rich, and anything that goes against this - like real journalism - is severely frowned upon, by The Guardian and its journalists.

I also think one of Pilkington's ends as a journalist who interviewed Bernie Sanders was to depict him as somewhat of a loony and a utopian, which seems to accord with the present chief editors' values, but I merely mention this in passing since I lack both the space and sufficient interest in Pilkington to investigate this further.

Anyway... after these introductory remarks on The Guardian, this is from near the beginning:

“These are very scary times for the people of the United States, and … for the whole world. We have a president who is a pathological liar. Trump lies all of the time.” And Sanders believes the lying is not accidental: “He lies in order to undermine the foundations of American democracy.” Take his “wild attacks against the media, that virtually everything the mainstream media says is a lie.” Or Trump’s denigration of one of George W Bush’s judicial appointees as a “so-called judge”, and his false claims that up to 5 million people voted illegally in the election. Such statements, which Sanders calls “delusional”, are meant to lead to only one conclusion, he says: “that the only person in America who stands for the American people, who is telling the truth, the only person who gets it right, is the president of the United States, Donald Trump. That is unprecedented in American history.”

I think that is mostly correct, and indeed would strengthen this (as a psychologist) by noting that (1) Trump really is delusional - and by this I mean what the Wikipedia says about delusions:

A delusion is a belief that is held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary. As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception.

Delusions typically occur in the context of neurological or psychiatric
disease, although they are not tied to any particular disorder and have been found to occur in the context of many pathological states (both physical and mental).
And also that (2) the underlying reason for Trump's extremely frequent delusionary statements is that he is mentally ill: He has megalomania, known among psychiatrists as "grandiose narcissism". (And since tomorrow it is a year ago that I agreed to that diagnosis, I did have a year to think about it: I believe I am - alas, alas, for it is extremely bad for the most powerful man on earth to be mad - quite correct.)

Then there is this about Sanders:

Sanders occupies an exalted pedestal in American politics today. In 2016 he won 23 primary and caucus races to Clinton’s 34, notching up 13 million votes. Given the odds stacked against him – Clinton’s establishment firepower; the skewed weighting of the “superdelegates” that tipped the primaries in her direction by reserving 15% of the votes for the party establishment; and the cynical efforts of the party machine through the Democratic national convention to undermine Sanders’ campaign by casting aspersions on his leadership abilities and religious beliefs, as revealed in the Russian-hacked WikiLeaks emails – that was no mean achievement.

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

Sanders’ sanguine response was rooted in his familiar critique of modern capitalism – that it has left the US, alongside the UK and other major democracies, vulnerable to rightwing assault. This is how he connects Trump with Brexit, and in turn with the jitters gripping continental Europe ahead of elections in France and Germany – common manifestations all, he believes, of the ravages of globalization.

“One of the reasons for Brexit, for Trump’s victory, for the rise of ultra-nationalist rightwing candidates all over Europe, is the fact that the global economy has been very good for large multinational corporations, has in many ways been a positive thing for well-educated people, but there are millions of people in this country and all over the world who have been left behind.”

I think that is quite correct: Modern capitalism has grown extremely right wing; it is driven by just one norm that also destroys all other norms: maximum profits for the multinational corporations; and the multinational corporations are helped and supported by the great majority of modern "academics" and "intellectuals", who help and support it for money: As long as they are better off than the poor, they will support the rich.

3. Restoring a Responsible ‘Conservatism’

The third item is by Graham E. Fuller on Consortiumnews:

This comes with a subtitle:

As much as “liberal” has become a dirty word in U.S. politics, the word “conservative” has been ripped from all its honorable traditions and redefined as a dangerous form of radicalism, says ex-CIA official Graham E. Fuller.

Yes, that seems correct, although I think there are several distinct causes involved, next to a degree of fashion.

The article starts as follows:

What is it about the U.S. that makes it virtually the only country in the world where a political Left scarcely exists? We have a center Right — the Democratic Party. And we have a far Right — the Republican Party. In fact, just invoking the L-word “Liberal” can inflict quick political death. Yes, we’re safe from the Left here in America.

Having such a stunted political spectrum is bad enough in itself. Still worse is the utter corruption of the word conservative. U.S. society has allowed the Republican Party to hijack the word, distort it and redefine it to its own ends, against its real meaning.

Isn’t it time for progressives to stop bashing their heads against the “liberalism” wall? Even the Democratic Party machine itself has barred the gates against progressive Democratic candidates. At this point, we need a rethink.

Hm. I agree there is hardly any - real, reasoned, intelligent - Left in the USA. There are of course a few (Chomsky and Nader are the most well-known, I think), but by and large this is correct.

But I don't quite agree that words have a "real meaning", though the issue is fairly complicated, and we might settle for something like "the real meaning of a word is indicated by its definition in good and well-known dictionaries". This will also change,
and it probably will not reflect quite a few uses that its users allow it to have, but it
makes some sense.

Unfortunately, Fuller does not give any dictionary definitions of either "liberal" or "conservative", and indeed no definitions whatsoever. What he does give is this:

Indeed, it’s the Republicans who are False Conservatives. They place the interests of the corporate world, profit and the welfare of a minority above all else. Their agenda is clear: generating ever more corporate business, clearing more land for “development,” installing more robots to make production more efficient — this is a conservative agenda?

Actually it sounds like a very aggressive revolutionary approach to reshaping our entire earthly domicile in economic terms. It risks all in the name of production and profit. What true conservative could buy into that?

I agree that the Republicans "place the interests of the corporate world, profit and the welfare of a minority above all else" (and the "minority" = "the rich"). Then again, I would much rather have some reasonable dictionary definition of "conservative" than rely on Fuller's - unstated - associations with that term.

Then there is this:

Republicans tend to believe that war is heroic, glorious, “our finest fighting men,” pride of the nation, anything to keep our nation safe, huge budget expenditures at the cost of almost everything else. Here’s what founding father James Madison had to say about it:

“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes … known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

I agree with Madison and observe that the USA has been in constant war since briefly after 9/11, that is, for some 16 years. I also observe that the freedoms of everyone - not just the Americans - have, in fact at least, almost completely disappeared:

Everyone - living anywhere - has his own entry somewhere in the NSA's, the CIA's or the FBI's secret files that chart everybody, and presumably take down everything that can be found about anyone (mails, phonecalls, personal sites - anything). Apart from nuclear war, I do not know of anything that more harms almost everyone than the present state of affairs.

But I will leave that topic, which also is not treated by Fuller, and continue with this bit:

President Calvin Coolidge before the Great Depression famously said, “The chief business of the American people is business.” Republicans have even since managed to persuade faux Democrats to adopt this position. (Remember Bill Clinton — it’s the economy stupid!) But prioritizing the health of the economy gets the priorities wrong: for a genuine conservative the first priority is the health and welfare of our communities and our people.

Now, there is undeniably a relationship between the health of the economy and the general welfare, but they are not one and the same thing at all. Human welfare must be the end goal; a healthy economy, however interpreted, represents the means and says nothing of equitable distribution.)
Hm. Fuller gets a bit clearer by his specification that "for a genuine conservative the first priority is the health and welfare of our communities and our people", but not much, for "the health and welfare of our communities and our people" also is quite vague.

Then again, I - more or less - agree with his last statement above: "
Human welfare must be the end goal; a healthy economy, however interpreted, represents the means" and not the end.

This is the last bit I'll quote and it is from the ending:

It is unconscionable — and incomprehensible — that conservatism today has come to stand for profit, the welfare of the military-security- industrial complex, and the massive corruption of our political order through their “political contributions.” Or that Republicanism should celebrate conservatism by throwing away social safety nets and sowing religious and ethnic fears.

Actually, I think it is quite comprehensible (to me, at least) "that conservatism today has come to stand for profit, the welfare of the military-security-industrial complex, and the massive corruption of our political order through their “political contributions.”"

For I have been - more or less - following politics for over 50 years now, and I have seen most political terms "change meanings" - at least in people's heads and in journalist's writings, and those two much more so than in dictionaries - quite often, and sometimes also quite radically.

And while I do not know how "conservative" will be understood in ten or twentyfive years (if these are given to humanity, which I insert mostly because of Trump), but
I am quite sure the term will be there as long as there are humans more or less like
ourselves, and it probably will be more in the direction of Fuller's ideas than in the direction of the present politicians.

4. Campaign Calls on Bernie Sanders to Lead a New Party

The fourth and last item today is by Paul Jay of The Real News Network, who interviews Nick Brana, who assisted Bernie Sanders while he tried to win the presidential nomination. There also is an introduction from other news: 

First the introduction:

PAUL JAY: Now, there’s a new initiative: to create a new party and recruit Bernie Sanders to be the head of that party. Well, Bernie got asked about this on Meet the Press, and here’s his response.

CHUCK TODD: Let me ask you a question. Some of your former staffers, including Nick Brana, have a Draft Bernie for a People’s Party Movement. Essentially, they want to start a new political party. In the statement it said, “Despite Bernie Sanders’ monumental endeavor to bring people into the Democratic Party, people are leaving it by the millions. The collective efforts to reform the party cannot stem the tide of people who are going Independent, let alone expand the Democratic base.” What do you say to those efforts?

I don't know that "people are leaving [the Democratic Party] by the millions", but I am quite willing to believe it, and indeed have given up the Democratic Party myself.
It clearly - and in fact since Bill Clinton - has been the alternative rightish party that still speaks sometimes with a leftish (or better: "leftish") mouth, but which serves the rich, and is in the hands of the rich, who serve themselves and the rich.

Here is Sanders' reply, which is a bit evasive:

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, I say two things. Right now, we are in a pivotal moment in American history. We have a president who is delusional in many respects, a pathological liar, somebody who is trying to–

CHUCK TODD: Strong words, can you–

BERNIE SANDERS: Those are strong words.

CHUCK TODD: Can you work with a pathological liar?

BERNIE SANDERS: Well, it makes life very difficult, not just for me, and I don’t mean… you know, I know it sounds… it is very harsh. But I think that’s the truth. When somebody goes before you and the American people and says, “Three to five million people voted illegally in the last election.” Nobody believes that. There is not the scintilla of evidence. What would you call that remark? It’s a lie. It’s a delusion.

But second of all, to answer your question, I think what we need to do right now is focusing on bringing the American people together around a Progressive agenda. American people want to raise the minimum wage. They want to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. They want the wealthiest people in this country to start paying their fair share of taxes. They want the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee healthcare to all people as a right.

This is evasive because Sanders doesn't answer Todd's question. And while I more or less agree that large chunks of the "American people" want the things Sanders attributes to them, I don't think they will reach these things with the present Democratic Party and its present leadership: Essentially, these have been sold to the banks.

And here is Nick Brana, who says the same thing (I think):

NICK BRANA: But most telling to me, Paul, is something that was never on the table in the first place. And that’s the… it’s something that we all espoused and agreed upon on Bernie’s campaign, and that’s the idea that the politicians themselves, not necessarily the DNC being hooked onto corporate money, that’s certainly true, but the politicians, Democratic politicians themselves being hooked on the corporate lobbyist and Wall Street billionaire money. And that was never even contested in the party, you know? And that to me… for it not to be even on the table, you know, tells me that the party is really not going to be the institution through which we can effect Progressive change.

I think that is correct. Here is more Brana, who now sounds a little less certain:

But, that kind of effort, to build a third party that can overtake actually a major party, has never succeeded, that route to doing it. And so by that I mean, when a party tries to build itself up from nothing, from scratch, up into a party that can challenge the major parties, successfully, we just saw that’s what has never worked successfully.

We just saw in the general election the two most despised candidates going against each other. 82% of people told the New York Times they were disgusted with the election, and with the way it had unfolded, and yet still the Green Party and the Libertarian Party couldn’t break 5%. They couldn’t get the minor party status.

And so that tells you how effective those systems are at really keeping the third parties down.

But that last part is misleading for a reason Jay correctly mentions:

PAUL JAY: I think part of the reason for that is then – and far more even now – the media simply marginalizes the person. Because the media is so part of the State, and they only want the two parties, and it’s one of the reasons the Green Party doesn’t break through, because the media simply will not let the Green Party have a platform. They’ll never let them be in a debate, and so on.

I think that is correct. There is considerably more in the interview, but it doesn't get much further than this, that seems to amount to:

There is a considerable part of the American population that has had it with both the Democrats and the Republicans, and who would support a third party, but a third party, to be successful, needs the support of the mainstream media, that do not want a third party.

I think that is more or less correct. And this is a recommended article.


[1] The updating problem now plagues me since the end of 2015, since when both of my sites do not update properly anymore (while both did it for 20 and for 12 years without any problem). I commented on it here: Updating the site (which ends: "I am very sorry, but this seems the way things are going: If you are not a rich CEO of a multi-national corporation, you are not fully human, and you better forget about any rights you once had") doesn't work anymore, not on time, but on some arbitrary date.

This last reference is also a bit out of date, since I changed it on February 1, 2017. Here is a link explaining that:
Explanations of the renewal of my site. This is still an experiment. (And I can't do much else, and what I do costs me a considerable amount of work, that would be completely unnecessary if my providers did what I pay them to do.)

More later.

[2] You may of course disagree, but unless you have been intentionally kept out of sleep for 7 years (when the police told you: "We only come when the bodies are lying dead on the floor, for all Amsterdammers are bastards" resp. refused to do anything against illegal drugsdealers, also not after murder threats, also not after the dealers were arrested with 2 kilos of heroine and 1 kilo of cocaine (probably by mistake), also not after they had tried to gas me (literally), all because these drugsdealers were - it seems - the personal friends of Mayor Van Thijn, who wished to allow them full terrorist powers), and you also were ill all the time while this happened, I don't think you are the one to correct me for my opinions. O and yes: I have also been called "a dirty fascist" for ten years in the University of Amsterdam because I was not a Marxist. (While both my father and his father were in the communist resistance, were arrested, were convicted to concentration camp punishment , as "political terrorists", where my grandfather was murdered.)

Finally, Mayor van Thijn and some others are those who are most responsible for the turnover since 1988 of around 600 billion euros worth of illegal drugs from Holland, so I do think I have something to complain about. (I do not know how much he pocketed himself, but I take it he is extremely rich.)

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